Gao Jianqun

Tongwan City

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Sixteen centuries ago, the last chieftain of the Huns sought to unite China by force. In Tongwan City, the warlord Helian Bobo orders an impregnable city built to be the capital of an empire that will finally unite China. Tongwancheng («unite all nations») or Tongwan City would be built with thick outer walls made white with clay and powdered rice, giving the city the appearance of a giant ship. Helian will stop at nothing to build his city and his empire, drafting 100,000 laborers to build his citadel. Tongwancheng might become Helian Bobo’s legacy, but what will it be enough to bring China under one ruler?

Meanwhile, another great man is quietly laying the groundwork for a nation. Kumarajiva is brought to the Chinese court to begin teaching the Chinese the precepts of Buddhism. He embarks on a career of teaching, and of translating the foundational sutras into Chinese. As his influence begins to spread and his fame grows, the seeds of a unified China are sown.

Twenty years ago, Gao Jianqun’s bestselling novel THE LAST HUN popularized ancient Chinese legend and renewed interest in the earliest periods of Chinese history and culture. In TONGWAN CITY, Gao returns to ancient China to relate an epic saga of murder and compassion in the grassland kingdom of the ancient Chinese frontier. Gao also tells a parallel story of Buddhism blooming in the center of Chinese life. Gao weaves into this tale seminal themes of Chinese history and culture: the connection between the Huns of northern China and their cousins who terrorized Europe in the fifth century, the Great Wall that was built to separate these nomad warriors from the Han Chinese, and the philosophy that ultimately united them.
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331 printed pages
Original publication
2013

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