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Synopsis

The Buddhist monk Tanxu surmounted extraordinary obstacles--poverty wars famine and foreign occupation--to become one of the most prominent monks in China founding numerous temples and schools and attracting crowds of students and disciples wherever he went. Now in Heart of Buddha Heart of China James Carter draws on untapped archival materials to provide a book that is part travelogue part history and part biography of this remarkable man. This revealing biography shows a Chinese man neither an intellectual nor a peasant trying to reconcile his desire for a bold and activist Chinese nationalism with his own belief in China's cultural and social traditions especially Buddhism. As it follows Tanxu's extraordinary life the book also illuminates the pivotal events in China's modern history showing how one individual experienced the fall of China's last empire its descent into occupation and civil war and its eventual birth as modern nation. Indeed Tanxu lived in a time of almost constant warfare--from the Sino-Japanese War of 1895 to the Boxer Uprising the Russo-Japanese War the Japanese occupation and World War II. He and his followers were robbed by river pirates and waylaid by bandits on the road. Caught in the struggle between nationalist and communist forces Tanxu finally sought refuge in the British colony of Hong Kong. At the time of his death at the age of 89 he was revered as "Master Tanxu" one of Hong Kong's leading religious figures. Capturing all this in a magnificent portrait Carter gives first-person immediacy to one of the most turbulent periods in Chinese history.

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