December 14, 2014

Top 8: Asian Books EVR!

The Yellowmenace shares with you the 8 greatest Asian books of all time.

       translator - R. L. Wing
Illustrated I Ching - R.L. Wing
HAIKU Book Review: Illustrated I Ching
Shake 3 coins, 6 times
64 future outcomes
straight or broken lines
   My spiritual advisor regarding major life decisions for the past 15 years. I've tried several other versions of the I Ching, but this is the best. Eloquently concise the translation reverberates with subtext. Each hexagram is complimented with an ancient ink paintings which adds further depth & insight to each reading.
"An easily accessible yet powerfully enlightening tool that will help readers understand the I Ching's way of knowledge and grasp the principles behind the world's most ancient book."
   I placed this book at #1 because of length of time it has been in my life & the impact it has continually had upon my journey. This isn't a book that sits on the shelf gathering dust, the I Ching is an advisor, my spiritual compass in times of turmoil or indecision.

2) Dance, Dance, Dance
       author - Haruki Murakami
Dance, Dance, Dance (cover) - Haruki Muakami
HAIKU Book Review: Dance, Dance, Dance
Motel room Sheep Man
Our past spins us like laundry
Don't forget to dance
   I bought an English translation in Japan, read it every morning in a Korean park near my home with coffee & donuts while off from work. This was only my second Murakami, after Hardboiled Wonderland & Dance (x3) remains my favorite despite reading 3 more Murakami's.
"As he searches for a mysteriously vanished girlfriend, Haruki Murakami's protagonist plunges into a wind tunnel of sexual violence and metaphysical dread in which he collides with call girls; plays chaperone to a lovely teenage psychic; and receives cryptic instructions from a shabby but oracular Sheep Man." 
     Wandering lost through life, allowing for odd events or characters to lead you to even stranger circumstances is one of Murakami's constant themes. In this book, there's a sense of excitement & adventure to the encounters, as opposed to the usual morose resignation most of his protagonists carry through his stories. The plot has some more common thriller elements that help bridge all of the places & characters, give forward momentum to the story & balance out all the weirdness.

3) Ichi: The Killer (殺し屋1)
      writer & illustrator - Hideo Yamamoto
Ichi: The Killer (殺し屋1) - Hideo Yamamoto
 HAIKU Manga Review: Ichi: The Killer
Inflict or receive
Pleasure defined by our taste
Life's a bloody mess
   More twisted & vivid than the film, with a better ending too (& U know how good the film was). I'm adding a manga to this book list because of the quality of writing & the exquisite execution of such rare & difficult subject matter. It's an intoxicating ride that is impossible get off until you reach the destination, an unforgettable visual experience.
"Using Ichi as a tool, Jii-san plots to kill Anjou-gumi's leader and steal his money. With Anjou's death, their top yakuza, Kakihara, sets out to find the murderer. While Kakihara searches for Ichi, Ichi effortlessly kills off remaining members of the Anjou-gumi. This continuous cycle of killing and searching leads the two closer together revealing Ichi's psychological manipulation and Kakihara's obsession of pain and torture." 
   Can human life be boiled down to control over pleasure & pain? All iterations of lifestyle derive from where we fall on the continuum between pleasure & pain, control or submission. What is your ultimate joy, being controlled by someone who orders you to cause pain? Or does forcing someone to inflict pain on you actually give you pleasure? With these extremes, Yamamoto explores a warped world of revenge & manipulation in the Yakuza underworld.

4) Norwegian Wood
      author - Haruki Murakami
Norwegian Wood (cover) - Haruki Muakami
HAIKU Book Review: Norwegian Wood
Motel room Sheep Man
Our past spins us like laundry
Don't forget to dance
   I read this on my computer during a cold, lonely winter in Busan, Korea.. perfect. Murakami's most popular, traditional & accessible novel. He expertly encapsulates the horrendous gray plague of a young person taking his own life & how that echoes on through time in the lives of those who were close to him.
   "Toru, a quiet and preternaturally serious young college student in Tokyo, is devoted to Naoko, a beautiful and introspective young woman, but their mutual passion is marked by the tragic death of their best friend years before. Toru begins to adapt to campus life and the loneliness and isolation he faces there, but Naoko finds the pressures and responsibilities of life unbearable. As she retreats further into her own world, Toru finds himself reaching out to others and drawn to a fiercely independent and sexually liberated young woman."
   The movie disappointed me, mainly it was the character of Midori (Kiko Mizuhara - 水原 希子) being played down. Having seen Kiko act in some other projects, I can say with confidence that it was the director's fault for holding her back. In a book filled with sad, lost, depressed characters, Midori is the light, the ridiculous hope for a better tomorrow. By toning her down, the film was stuck on a single note of despair.  

4) Journey to the West
      compiler - Wu Cheng'en   translator - Anthony C. Yu
Journey to the West  - compiler - Wu Cheng'en   translator - Anthony C. Yu
HAIKU Book Review: Journey to the West
Our peerless talent
Training, rebellion, journey
We are Monkey Kings
   Rich with so many lasting images, like the best chase sequence ever, in which the Monkey continually transforms into several animals trying to allude a general from the Heavenly Kingdom, who transforms himself into the corresponding predator.

   The tale of Sun Wukong is a long, ancient epic, but can roughly be divide into 4 parts:
1. Becoming - From his birth out of a magic stone egg to rising as King of the Apes on the Mountain of Flower & Fruit
2. Training - Meeting his master & developing all the skills the Monkey is famous for
3. Heavenly Kingdom - Appointment to master of the royal stables in heaven to his stealing peaches & pills for immortality which resulted in a long battle with the generals in Heaven to his final capture & imprisonment.
4. Journey - Hundreds of years later, Wukong is finally given a conditional release. He's charged with protecting the monk Xuanzang on his quest to obtain the Buddhist sutras.  
   "The Journey to the West tells the story of the fourteen-year pilgrimage of the monk Xuanzang, one of China’s most famous religious heroes, and his three supernatural disciples, in search of Buddhist scriptures. Throughout the journey, the group  traverses a land riddled with a multitude of obstacles, both real and fantastical. An adventure rich with danger and excitement, this is the seminal work of the Chinese literary canon."
   It is an amazing tale, which has influence storytelling worldwide. It is extremely long though, so I would recommend the abridged version The Monkey & the Monk adapted by Anthony C. Yu 
Monkey & The Monk - Anthony C. Yu
The Monkey and the Monk: An Abridgment of The Journey to the West
Powerfully combining religious allegory with humor, fantasy, and satire, accounts of Xuanzang’s journey were passed down for a millennium before culminating in the sixteenth century with The Journey to the West.

6) Zen Flesh, Zen Bones
      compilers - Paul Reps & Nyogen Senzaki
Zen Flesh, Zen Bones - compilers - Paul Reps & Nyogen Senzaki
HAIKU Book Review: Zen Flesh, Zen Bones
Ungiveable gift
Seek, catch, tame; there is no bull
Answerless answers
   Filled with pithy Zen story puzzles, which will bend your mind like quantum spiritual yoga. Nothing is given away, save commentary offered by other masters, which can often be more perplexing than the original koan. Zen is the ultimate in 'no spoilers' philosophy. The exercise is in attempting to realize the lesson hidden within your own bones. The koan is the extra-dimensional map to that state of enlightenment.
   "The book consists of; 101 Zen Stories, a collection of tales that recount actual experiences of Chinese and Japanese Zen teachers over a period of more than five centuries; The Gateless Gate, the famous thirteenth century collection of Zen koans; Ten Bulls, a twelfth century commentary on the stages of awareness leading to enlightenment; and Centering, a 4,000 year-old teaching from India that some consider to be the roots of Zen."

7) Chronicles of the Tao 
       author - Ming Deng Dao
HAIKU Book Review: Chronicles of the Tao
Peak of Taoist way
Call to arms; Shanghaied
Kung-fu in mean streets
   With an effortless writing style the story flows by like a good movie. It's easy to visualize every moment & the plot is filled with action & purpose. It's like being on a guided safari through the last 200 years of Chinese history. I'm always shocked this book hasn't been adapted for the silver screen, yet.
   "An extraordinary spiritual odyssey of the making of the Taoist master Kwan Saihung. Born into a wealthy family in a remote province of China, Kwan defies his parents' wishes and enters into the rigorous and mysterious discipline of Taoist practice. Renamed "Little Butterfly" by his Taoist masters, he survives the upheaval of the Japanese occupation, and the later the Chinese Revolution, all the while becoming adept in the Taoist arts."

8) Tao te Ching 
       author - Lao Tzu    translator - Stephen Mitchell
Tao te Ching  - author Lao Tzu    translator Stephen Mitchell
HAIKU Book Review: Tao Te Ching
Untangle the knot
2 piece infinite puzzle
10 000 ways gate
   The Taoist bible, accredited to Lao Tzu, is overflowing with wisdom in 81 concise entries. Each lesson a brilliant gem to be appreciated & inspected over & over.
   "The classic manual on the art of living. In 81 short, poetic chapters, the book looks at the basic predicament of being alive and teaches how to work for the good with the effortless skill that comes from being in accord with the Tao, or the basic principle of the universe."
   Like many of the books in this list, you don't read the Tao Te Ching from page 1 to the end. Flip around & allow the passages to find you, meditate on those words & let doors open where you thought there were only walls.

   I hope you enjoyed my list.
Which books would be in your list? Tell me down in the comments

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