Winner of the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction (2015), The Ten Thousand Things takes us on a journey across fated meetings, grand battles and riveting drama.
In the turbulent final years of the Yuan Dynasty, Wang Meng is a low-level bureaucrat employed by the government of Mongol conquerors established by the Kublai Khan. Though he wonders about his own complicity with this regime he prefers not to dwell on his official duties, choosing instead to live the life of the mind. Wang is an extraordinarily gifted artist and his paintings are at once delicate and confident; in them one can see the wind blowing through the trees, the water rushing through rocky valleys, the infinite expanse of China’s natural beauty.
But this is not a time for sitting still as Wang must soon travel through an empire in turmoil. In his wanderings he encounters master painters, a fierce female warrior known as the White Tigress who will recruit him as a military strategist, and an ugly young Buddhist monk who rises from beggary to extraordinary heights.
The Ten Thousand Things seamlessly fuses the epic and the intimate with the precision and depth that the real-life Wang Meng brought to his painting.
***PRAISE FOR THE TEN THOUSAND THINGS***
‘It has the sort of sensual prose that makes the reader purr with delight and is surely destined to be one of the books of the year.’ The Daily Mail
‘Spurling has mastered many aspects of Chinese history and legend.’ Times Literary Supplement
‘Told by Wang from the cell into which he has been thrust in his old age, the story of his career becomes an intelligent, graceful meditation on the difficulties of reconciling spiritual life with the material world.’ The Sunday Times
‘I’ve never read anything like it… great feats of scholarship and imagination have gone into making these people, so distant from us in space and time’ Literary Review
‘This intricately wrought study of medieval Chinese scholar-artists is wonderfully well imagined.’ The Spectator
‘It is ostensibly a historical novel, but Spurling has in fact written a love letter to Chinese art.’ New Statesman
This is a remarkable novel that deserves to be read slowly and savoured as one would a stunning landscape or a beautiful painting.’ Herald Scotland
‘Those who appreciate a subtle, thoughtful narrative, and are willing to engage with the kind of philosophical questions that are as relevant today as they were in 14th-century China, will relish every page of it.’ BBC History magazine
‘In this immersive tale of a landscape artist’s life, written with restrained lyricism, John Spurling has also given us an entertaining and insightful study about the art of nature, and the nature of art.’ Tan Twan Eng, author of The Garden of Evening Mists