Chinese GodsThursday, May 21st, 2009
I was a bit reluctant to read “Chinese Gods”. I never had much of a taste for the mystical, and the rows of whiskered statues staring in the temples fail to arouse in me more than a cautious curiosity. But when I received the latest publications of Blacksmith, the promise of a book that “makes sense” of China’s religions caught my eye, and I thought perhaps this was my chance to jump into it and cover a gap in my education.
You might be familiar by now with Blacksmith books of Hong Kong - the same Blacksmith that did the Asian edition of Apologies and other gems like King Hui and Business Republic. I am, and I have come to expect good surprises from them; many things can be said of their books, but surely not “hackneyed” or “banal”. Pete Spurrier, the man behind the company, is not afraid to go with first-time authors, and he seems to have a knack to find intriguing writers with original points of view. Jonathan Chamberlain is perhaps his best find.
Indeed, in terms of surprises, this book delivers from the preface. First, you discover it was actually written and self-published by Chamberlain 30 years ago, inspired by a series of painted glass figures he collected from local markets. It goes on to describe an unusual interview in Bangkok with British mystical writer John Blofeld, a reference in Asian religions, who agreed to give the book a prologue in articulo mortis. And then suddenly, before you realize it, you are swimming in the thick soup of China’s beliefs, following the author in his daring quest to make sense of all the Gods. Click to continue »