Yan Lianke’s most recent novel published in Hong Kong and Taiwan with beautiful woodcut illustrations. The Heart Sutra is the most mysterious and abstruse sutra in Chinese Buddhism. The novel takes figures from each of China’s five great religions – Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity, Catholicism, and Islam – who all gather together in a Beijing institution of higher education, where they undergo a full year of study and training. They eat together, live together, study together, and exercise together. The Taoist and a young nun in the Buddhist class fall in love, separate, and then reunite, while also describing how the minister, the imam, the priest, and the Buddhist and Taoist abbots experience spiritual struggle, pollution, and purification while pursuing their secular lives. The novel describes the interconnection and tension between the secular and the divine, to the point that the young Taoist monk is no longer male, and the young Buddhist nun is no longer female, though they have no choice but to marry and form a family. Moreover, Laozi, the Bodhisattva, the Virgin Mary, Jesus, and Allah all come to offer their congratulations at this non-familial marriage. Eventually, the heavenly deities descend into the secular world, whereupon the divine and the secular become intertwined as one.
- Kawade Shobo Shinsha Japan
- Editions Philippe Picquier France
- Grove Atlantic USA
- Text Australia
- City University of Hong Kong Press