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Iron and Silk Paperback – October 12, 1987
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In 1982, Salzman flew off to teach English in Changsha, China. He writes of bureaucrats, students and Cultural Revolution survivors, stripping none of their complexity and humanity. He's gentle with their idiocies, saving his sharpest barbs for himself (it's his pants that split from zipper to waist whilst demonstrating martial arts in Canton). Though dribs of history and drabs of classical lore seep through, this is mostly a personal tale, noted by the Los Angeles Times for "the charmingly unpretentious manner in which it penetrates a China inaccessible to other foreigners."
From School Library Journal
YA This anecdotal record of a young man's encounter with the Chinese and their way of life offers unique insights to readers. Salzman had majored in Chinese literature at Yale, and his first job after graduation in 1982 was teaching English to students and teachers at Hunan Medical College in Changsha. He met this considerable challenge with sensitivity, humor, and imagination, and was quickly regarded with respect and affection. Salzman had studied martial arts since he was 13, and he continued his practice in Changsha, where one of China's foremost experts, Pan Qingfu, accepted him as a pupil. Readers will become aware of the many styles of the sport, and, incidentally, the real meaning of ``kung fu.'' The personalities encountered range from Salzman's students and teachers to calligraphers, peasants, fishermen, and bureaucrats. Each fascinating episode illuminates the way to a deeper understanding of Chinese culture and character. This book is also notable for its unusually attractive design: the handsome calligraphy on the binding and chapter headings was done by the author. Rita G. Keeler, St. John's School, Houston
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Library Binding edition.
Top customer reviews
If your interest for the martial arts is because you appreciate the performing arts, then this book will contribute to that appreciation.
And if you ever taught ESL or learned English as a second language, then you will easily relate to the students' struggles and the sometimes amusing irregularities of English grammar, pronunciation and idioms.
Iron and Silk is on my list of ten books I would take on a desert island. Salzman's writing style sparkles with enthusiasm and the energy of youth; a feeling of discovery for whatever is newly learned; and a view of everyday life experiences with a feel for adventure, a conversion of the mundane into the extraordinary. Salzman not only mastered wu-shu, but he also mastered the written language that emits sparks on every page. Even his daily meditations reverberate with intensity.
This is an ideal book for a young adult who lacks motivation or skills to move onward.
I also recommend the pre-quel to this book, "Lost In Place", Salzman's second autobiographical book, before or after this one. The two volumes go well together and provide a fascinating portrait of academic and martial growth. PERFECT for young people who are interested in martial arts as a lifelong pursuit, or anyone with an interest in Chinese culture & living in China to study.
During eight years managing foreign teachers in China, the concept of a "Karmic Magnet" was my only way to account for the wide range of experiences that each teacher encountered. On that basis, Mark Salzman has proven himself to be an extraordinary individual. I can only envy him his enlightenment and his experiences. My only caution would be that the China that Salzman experienced may well be vanishing.
Also having been to China on a kung tour I had seen the Chinese training vs American been to place mention in the book etc. Mark describe the Chinese people and place in the sAme way I experienced it and he loves the culture