First published in April 2010, Each Leaf a Bodhi Tree: My 15 Years at Dunhuang (一叶一菩提——我在敦煌十五年), a memoir detailing how Buddhist grottos in northwestern China were saved from marauding Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution, has been formally banned from further publication and distribution in China. Reports the Global Times:
” A most cautionary example in the history of Dunhuang’s exploitation occurred when a 19th century Taoist priest named Wang Yuanlu, who after discovering thousands of ancient scrolls crammed in a small cave, sold them off to foreign adventurers, including British explorer Aurel Stein, French linguist and Sinologist Paul Pelliot and American art historian Langdon Warner. The scrolls were priceless translations attributed to the Buddhist monk Xuanzang, who traveled to India via the Silk Road in 629 AD to bring Buddhist scriptures to China.
Despite heads of the institutes suffering persecution for years, namely Chang Shuhong, the grottoes remained unscathed, according to 73-year-old Xiao Mo, a prestigious architectural scholar who spent 15 years in Dunhuang.
Xiao published “Each Leaf a Bodhi Tree: My Fifteen Years at Dunhuang” in April, which features Dunhuang during the Culture Revolution.
“I wanted to reflect on the truth and reveal a glorious act of humanity during a tragic period in history. Unfortunately, I was informed that the book was banned from being distributed, promoted or reprinted,” he told the Global Times yesterday. “I don’t understand why and am saddened.”
Managers from Wangfujing and Xinhua Bookstores in Beijing both commented that they received no official announcement of a ban on Xiao’s work. When asked as to why they have been off the shelves for two weeks, the managers explained they were simply “out of stock.”
According to the South China Morning Post (SCMP), author Xiao Mo (萧默) who worked at the Dunhuang Research Institute for Cultural Relics in Gansu from 1963 to 1978, seeks a publisher for the book—now available only in Chinese—in Hong Kong. Reports the SCMP:
“Early this month, Xiao was delighted to find out that his book, published in April, had almost sold out on online bookstores and requested a reprint from the publisher.
His publisher told him in e-mails on August 4 and 8 that the head of the publishing house was interrogated by officials of the Central Publicity Department as to why the book had been published and about the whole process of publishing. Some editors were forced to write self-criticisms. A few days later, they received the order from Gapp banning the reprint.
An editor at the publishing house confirmed the ban and said the order came in July after all 5,000 copies had been distributed.
“The feedback I received from readers was that the plot was very intriguing,” Xiao said. “I’m only focusing on positive humanity during the Cultural Revolution, when some grass-roots leaders tried their best to protect people with their power. “I tried very hard to avoid violence and even used my sense of humour. It’s a whole new angle and a breakthrough in covering the Cultural Revolution. I have no idea at all why it was banned.”