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Tracking Bodhidharma: A Journey to the Heart of Chinese Culture Hardcover – May 8, 2012
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Top Customer Reviews
I couldn't have been more wrong.
Tracking Bodhidharma is Andy Ferguson's delightful story about how he traveled throughout China to learn about the legendary founder of Zen, Bodhidharma. The book's subtitle, A Journey to the Heart of Chinese Culture, plays a large role in the the story, as much of the book examines modern China. Ferguson, also the author of Zen's Chinese Ancestors, weaves a fascinating tale about contemporary Communist China, Chinese Buddhism recovering from the ravages of the Cultural Revolution, Emperor Wu, and of course, Bodhidharma.
Ferguson writes with a true storyteller's voice, and as the author of Zen's Chinese Heritage and a fluent Chinese speaker, he has the chops to write about China. As a practitioner of Buddhism for many decades and a frequent visitor to China, rest assured that Ferguson is fully qualified to write this book.
Like few Zen titles, Tracking Bodhidharma is addictive; I tore through its 350 pages in three or four days. For someone who knows very little about China, other than Taoism and Chan, I was fascinated to learn about modern China. Since much of the book follows Ferguson as he visits temples and other holy Buddhist sites, it's both fast-paced and extremely informative.
My favorite parts of the book concentrate on Emperor Wu, who appears as little more than a side note in Zen history. Wu's influence on Chinese, and almost all East Asian, Buddhism was vast; on average he built 10 temples per year.Read more ›
The the first of two other key figures who are woven into this history is Daoxuan, Chinese Zen's foremost historian and the biographer of Bodhidharma; of his writings Ferguson makes extensive use, for they are the most reliable and lease "mythologizing" accounts of Bodhidharma's life. The other main historical personage in this book is Emperor Wu. Inevitably, religion and philosophy has a political dimension. This book traces the development of Zen in China as a political movement. Furthermore, it analyzes more modern history in the East in the light of this early politicization of Zen.
Finally, the book looks at influence of Zen in the arts: poetry, fine art, and prose. The contributions of Zen in the arts cannot be understated. Since the late 18th Century, Eastern art has been influential in the West as well. So this again provides a historical perspective that is necessary to understanding the encounter of the two cultures.
For those with little experience or knowledge of Zen or Buddhism in general, this book will provide an invaluable entryway. For those with deeper experience and knowledge, this book will provide a new perspective -- perhaps more grounded in history, and less mythological or ethereal. Highly recommended for any with a historical interest in Zen or Buddhism in general. Those with an interest in the history of Buddhism in the West might also want to check out Batchelor's excellent The Awakening of the West: The Encounter of Buddhism and Western Culture.
The other problem with the book is that there are attempts here and there at bringing in the theme of whether Buddhism in Japan had responsibility for the militarism that led to World War II.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Kinda road movie plus historical overview plus detective story. Interesting and informative, though sometimes monotonous.Published 7 months ago by Vlad
This is an excellent story of Bodhidharma's life in China told in context of the author's journey in China to find relevant temples. Read morePublished 8 months ago by RPA
Ferguson is a non-presumptuous, appreciative, non-dramatic traveler, following the ancient footprints of his Zen tradition across the mighty but often politicized landscape of... Read morePublished 13 months ago by Brian Griffith
A vain, horribly written story of a man chasing a ridiculous thesis.
Never mind that people far more qualified (and who clearly have better Chinese than he) have... Read more
Rarely does an author cut through the mist of confusion and ignorance as does Andy Ferguson in this book. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Peter Prasad
It's a somewhat pleasant overview of China and chinese buddhism through the author's lenses, but I was expecting more content on bodhidharma and the early Chan doctrine. Read morePublished 22 months ago by Amazon Customer
As I read this great book, I often felt that I was actually traveling around China with Andy. The book was worth reading from an historical point of view and also from the... Read morePublished 22 months ago by Kozen
A unique mixture of modern travelogue, historical detective mystery, and personal spiritual discomfort. A "cold case" 1500 years old told in first person. Read morePublished 23 months ago by William Branch