Barry Hughart · 652 pages
Rating: (1.5K votes)
“Of course there is a slight chance that somebody might want to give the Celestial Bookmaker a heart attack.”
“once there was a great king who gazed down from a tall tower upon a gardener who sang as he worked, and the king cried, ‘Ah, to have a life of no cares! If only I could be that gardener.’ And the voice of the August Personage of Jade reached out from Heaven and said, ‘It shall be so,’ and lo, the king was a gardener singing in the sun. In time the sun grew hot and the gardener stopped singing, and a fine dark cloud brought coolness and then drifted away, and it was hot again and much work remained, and the gardener cried, ‘Ah, to carry coolness wherever I go and have no cares! If only I could be that cloud.’ And the voice of the August Personage reached out from Heaven and said, ‘It shall be so,’ and lo, the gardener was a cloud drifting across the sky. And the wind blew and the sky grew cold, and the cloud would have liked to go behind the shelter of a hill, but it could only go where the wind took it, and no matter how hard it tried to go this way the wind took it that way, and above the cloud was the bright sun. ‘Ah, to fly through wind and be warm and have no cares! If only I could be the sun,’ cried the cloud, and the voice of the August Personage of Jade reached out from Heaven and said, ‘It shall be so,’ and lo, he was the sun. It was very grand to be the sun, and he delighted in the work of sending down rays to warm some things and burn others, but it was like wearing a suit made of fire and he began to bake like bread. Above him the cool stars that were gods were sparkling in safety and serenity and the sun cried, ‘Ah, to be divine and free from care! If only I could be a god.’ And the voice of the August Personage of Jade reached out from Heaven and said, ‘It shall be so,’ and lo, he was a god, and he was beginning his third century of combat with the Stone Monkey, which had just transformed itself into a monster a hundred thousand feet tall and was wielding a trident made from the triple peaks of Mount Hua, and when he wasn’t dodging blows he could see the peaceful green earth down below him, and the god cried, ‘Ah, if only I could be a man who was safe and secure and had no cares!’ And the voice of the August Personage of Jade reached out from Heaven and said, ‘It shall be so.’ And lo, he was a king who was gazing down from a tall tower upon a gardener who sang as he worked.”
“O great and mighty Master Li, pray impart to me the Secret of Wisdom!’ he bawled. A silly smile was sliding down the side of his face like a dripping watercolor, and his eyeballs resembled a pair of pink pigeon eggs that were gently bouncing in saucers of yellow won-ton soup. To my great credit I never batted an eyelash. ‘Take a large bowl,’ I said. ‘Fill it with equal measures of fact, fantasy, history, mythology, science, superstition, logic, and lunacy. Darken the mixture with bitter tears, brighten it with howls of laughter, toss in three thousand years of civilization, bellow kan pei—which means “dry cup”—and drink to the dregs.’ Procopius stared at me. ‘And I will be wise?’ he asked. ‘Better,’ I said. ‘You will be Chinese.’” Li”
“Miser Shen is preparing to spend the night with a goat.”
“I shall clasp my hands together and bow to the corners of the world.”
“Ginseng hunters refer to the plant as chang-diang shen, “the root of lightning,” because it is believed that it appears only on the spot where a small mountain spring has been dried up by a lightning bolt. After a life of three hundred years the green juice turns white and the plant acquires a soul. It is then able to take on human form, but it never becomes truly human because ginseng does not know the meaning of selfishness.”
“Immortality is only for the gods,” he whispered. “I wonder how they can stand it.”
“Master Li turned bright red while he scorched the air with the Sixty Sequential Sacrileges with which he had won the all-China Freestyle Blasphemy Competition in Hangchow three years in a row.”
“Maybe He'll get what he deserves. Maybe Not. Maybe I'll never find it in my heart to forgive him. And maybe there's nothing wrong with that,either. All those maybes swimming around my head make me think that "maybe" could just be another word for hope.”
“I made my choice. There is nothing you cannot do when you are no one.”
“ballerina lay toppled over on her vanity table. A can of hairspray lay on its side on top of her bed, and clothes were strewn all over the carpet. The room smelled moldy. Wondering if there was a wet towel in Kelsey’s closet, Rachel walked across the room and opened the door. “What are you doing in here?”
“Don’t let your heart get in the way of your head.”
“innovation is a very difficult thing in the real world”
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