Random House, Inc.
It was 1994 when Xinran, a journalist and the author of The Good Women of China, received a telephone call asking her to travel four hours to meet an oddly dressed woman who had just crossed the border from Tibet into China. Xinran made the trip and met the woman, called Shu Wen, who recounted the story of her thirty-year odyssey in the vast landscape of Tibet.
Shu Wen and her husband had been married for only a few months in the 1950s when he joined the Chinese army and was sent to Tibet for the purpose of unification of the two countries. Shortly after he left she was notified that he had been killed, although no details were given. Determined to find the truth, Shu Wen joined a militia unit going to the Tibetan north, where she soon was separated from the regiment. Without supplies and knowledge of the language, she wandered, trying to find her way until, on the brink of death, she was rescued by a family of nomads under whose protection she moved from place to place with the seasons and eventually came to discover the details of her husband’s death.
In the haunting Sky Burial, Xinran has recreated Shu Wen’s journey, writing beautifully and simply of the silence and the emptiness in which Shu Wen was enveloped. The book is an extraordinary portrait of a woman and a land, each at the mercy of fate and politics. It is an unforgettable, ultimately uplifting tale of love loss, loyalty, and survival.
Baker & Taylor
In 1958, notified that her husband, a doctor in the Chinese army has been killed in action in Tibet, Shu Wen joins the army, determined to go to Tibet to uncover the truth, only to find herself alone in Tibet, embarking on a thirty-year nomadic odyssey in a novel based on a true story.
Blackwell North Amer
In the early 1960s a rumour circulated through China that one of its soldiers in Tibet had been brutally fed to vultures. Xinran was a little girl: the tale frightened and fascinated her. She knew nothing about the Tibetan custom of 'Sky Burial' - indeed few Chinese at the time knew or understood such rituals. But thirty years later, Xinran met a Chinese woman who could tell her the astonishing story that lay behind the legend. Her name was Shu Wen and she had spent most of her adult life lost on the Tibetan plateau.
In 1958, Wen was twenty-six. She and her husband Kejun were young medical students, fired with the hope and enthusiasm of the early Communist years. It was this idealism that led Kejun to join the army as a doctor. But, only a few months after her marriage, Wen heard that her husband had been killed in action in Tibet. Refusing to believe the news, she too joined up as a doctor and set out for Tibet in search of him. She entered a landscape that nothing had prepared her for - the silence, the altitude, the emptiness were terrifying. But Wen's determination to find Kejun drove her on. It would drive her when she became separated from her regiment, and when she was lost in the mountains of north Tibet. It would drive her through long years of wandering in an alien and confusing culture. Thirty years later it would lead her to discover the truth about what happened to her husband... When finally Wen returned to China, she found a country transformed beyond recognition by the Cultural Revolution and the Deng Xiaoping. But she, too, was transformed: in China she had always striven towards a material goal; in Tibet she had learned new spirituality.
In this book, Xinran recreates Shu Wen's journey in a story of love, loss, loyalty and survival.
In 1958, notified that her young husband, a doctor in the Chinese army has been killed in action in Tibet, Shu Wen joins the army, determined to go to Tibet to uncover the truth, only to find herself alone in Tibet, embarking on a thirty-year nomadic odyssey that brings her back to a new China, transformed by the Cultural Revolution, in a poignant novel based on a true story. 20,000 first printing.