It draws on and reinvents the traditional tale of The Cowherd and the Weaver Girl and other myths, poems and incidents from Chinese history. In the beginning of the novel, the village of Ku-fu is stricken by a plague which kills its silkworms and sends its children between the ages of eight and thirteen into a coma. Number Ten Ox, the narrator, is dispatched to find a wise man who can cure the children. In Peking , he finds Master Li Kao, a drunken scholar with a self-described "slight flaw in his character", who immediately identifies the cause of the plague as ku poison, an incurable poison inflicted on the village by two dishonest villagers trying to corner the silk crop. They begin by seeking it in the palace of the feared Ancestress. Still, these are all ineffective in curing the children.
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Bridge of Birds opens on a pastoral setting, a remote unicorn-shaped village in the peaceful valley of Cho in ancient China. Narrated by Yu Lu, also known as Number Ten Ox the tenth of his fathers sons and as strong as an ox , it begins with a promising silk season coming to an abrupt end.
Number Ten Ox volunteers to run to Peking to bring a wise man back to the village. Unfortunately, all of the cosmopolitan wise men laugh at Ox and his mere five thousand copper, all except a hung-over Master Li.
Poor Number Ten Ox. He has never met the likes of Master Li, former first place scholar among all the scholars in China a mere seventy-eight years ago. But he has a slight flaw in his character. You see, you know nothing whatsoever about men like Master Li… His voice trailed off, and he groped for the proper words. Then he decided that it would take several years to prepare me properly. He also seems to have read all the great tales, as his solutions sound suspiciously familiar.
One of the first chapters is how Master Li tricks a rich miser out of enough gold to finance their trip and gets Ox a night with the young concubine to boot. Their third or fourth adventure is an exceptional revenge on a selfish princess, and another one a bloody mess. Hughart is able to manage the delicate balance humorous violence requires, perhaps by invoking our earliest folk tales, such as the one where Bluebeard keeps bodies in a locked room, or the version of Little Red where the huntsman hacks open the wolf to free her and grandma.
Horrific, but so clearly symbolic, so clearly not real. Their adventures take them throughout China, and from one frying pan to another. If it lacks the R. Gentle humor abounds. Li prefers the three-toed-sloth, Ox a cloud. Later, a third company member adds another angle to their bucolic reincarnation.
The end was a lovely synthesis, satisfying both emotionally and in plotting, both immediate and symbolic. Barry Hughart clearly has a flaw in his character. The world needs more Master Li.
Bridge of Birds opens on a pastoral setting, a remote unicorn-shaped village in the peaceful valley of Cho in ancient China. Narrated by Yu Lu, also known as Number Ten Ox the tenth of his fathers sons and as strong as an ox , it begins with a promising silk season coming to an abrupt end. Number Ten Ox volunteers to run to Peking to bring a wise man back to the village. Unfortunately, all of the cosmopolitan wise men laugh at Ox and his mere five thousand copper, all except a hung-over Master Li. Poor Number Ten Ox.
Bridge of Birds
Background[ edit ] Hughart was born in Peoria, Illinois on March 13, His father, John Harding Page, served as a naval officer. His mother, Veronica Hughart , was an architect. After graduating from high school, he suffered from undiagnosed depression, which was classified at the time as schizophrenia , and was treated in the Kings County Psychiatric Ward. He intended to write seven novels about the adventures of Li Kao and Number Ten Ox, but his writing career was cut short due to issues with his publishers. Since his last published novel, Hughart has reportedly stopped writing. Romance of the Three Kingdoms and The Arabian Nights are two major works he also states as affecting his own writing.