Tulku by Peter Dickinson.
E. P. Dutton: New York, 1979.

Dickinson is not an easy author. All of his books seem to be different from each other, and his content tends to push readers to think differently than they usually do.

Tulku takes place in China and Tibet around the time of the Boxer Rebellion in which Christian missionaries were killed within China. The story starts at a mission in China which is destroyed. The leader's son, Theo, is smuggled out of the community and told to flee to another mission. He sees the devastation and meets Mrs. Jones, a British botanist, and her Chinese retinue, part of which are local bandits. In fleeing from these bandits, Theo, Mrs. Jones and Lung head through the mountains towards the Tibetan border. They are met by a monk, the Lama Amchi, who chases the bandits away and leads them to his monastery in Tibet.

The monastery is awaiting the arrival (through reincarnation) of their Tulku, spiritual leader. The Lama Amchi tells them he has seen signs that he will be among their traveling party. Will it be Theo, Lung, or the baby that Mrs. Jones is carrying?

The story is slow moving; I lost my focus several times. However, it is an interesting topic. It may seem strange to those who have had no exposure to Buddhism, but it does explore the religion and culture somewhat. Because I have some understanding of it, I wanted to read more. I particularly like the part where Theo is examining his beliefs and reactions to the life at the monastery. Certainly, the possibility of a British/Chinese Tulku is an odd twist. I also enjoyed the description of the trek and mountain existence.

Tulku is one of the most acclaimed of Dickinson's books. I can't say it's my favorite, but I did enjoy the reading of it anyway. I do think Dickinson is a master storyteller, and if you want different, you'll definitely get that from his books.

related-Tibet, Buddhism, botany

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