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Watching the Tree: A Chinese Daughter Reflects on Happiness, Tradition, and Spiritual Wisdom

Adeline Yen Mah

543 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0767904109 / ISBN 13: 9780767904100
Published by Broadway, 2001
Used Condition: Good Hardcover
From Library House Internet Sales (Grand Rapids, OH, U.S.A.)

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Interweaves the author's personal reminiscences with meditations on traditional Chinese wisdom, philosophy, and faith, and offers reflections on topics from Buddhism and the "I Ching" to feng shui, medicine, food, and spiritual life. Former library book. Bookseller Inventory # 123477224

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Watching the Tree: A Chinese Daughter ...

Publisher: Broadway

Publication Date: 2001

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:Good

Dust Jacket Condition: Good

Book Type: Ex-Library

About this title


From the bestselling author of Falling Leaves, a remarkable book of wisdom and spirit.
Somewhere it is written that every Chinese wears a Confucian thinking cap, a Taoist robe, and Buddhist sandals. In Watching the Tree, Adeline Yen Mah brings together the many influences on her life as a child of the East and as a student and adult in the West. Conveying a wealth of insight and experience, Adeline illuminates major aspects of Chinese customs and culture while weaving in stories of personal struggle triumph throughout her life.

Taking a step beyond her previous book, Falling Leaves, a powerful memoir set against the backdrop of political and cultural upheaval in China, Adeline explores the centuries-old Chinese traditions and their legacy in modern-day China and the West. With Adeline’s provocative essays on Buddhism, the I Ching, Tao, Confucius, and their role in shaping Chinese thought, Watching the Tree inspires as it uplifts the soul, giving readers an unusual glimpse inside a culture that remains mysterious and often misunderstood.

In her sharp observations on Chinese food and medicine, yin and yang, Zen, and feng shui, Adeline enlightens readers with the mundane—an approach to healing an illness you might find at a Chinese grocery store—to the larger questions in life surrounding true happiness, health, and spirituality. Bridging the cultural divide between the East and West, these stories reveal the strength and peace of mind that comes from opening one’s heart and mind to the wisdom and experience of our combined histories.

For anyone looking for a clearer understanding of Chinese culture and for inspiring personal stories that embody a life lived in the wake of Chinese tradition, Watching the Tree opens the door into a world of calm reflection, knowledge, and spirituality.


Adeline Yen Mah scored a big hit with her autobiography Falling Leaves. Now she follows up by filling in some of the details of Chinese thought and culture that have been important in her life. Commenting on the language, philosophies, customs, and food of China, Mah fleshes out the Chinese mind. Short essays are arranged around chapter themes and incorporate episodes from Mah's life as well as colorful sayings and historical information. She is at her best when speaking from personal experience and expertise, as in her piece on Chinese food and nutrition. But she can also come off as didactic, and she tends to wander aimlessly from topic to topic. The reader often feels that in order to justify the value of Chinese culture to herself and others she has tried to pack in every interesting thing she knows, or has read, about Chinese civilization, but without a guiding narrative. For these tidbits, the wading is often worth it, though much of her historical information can be found in the same books where she found them. One wishes she had the style of a Jonathan Spence or the humor of a Lin Yutang to make the reading about such a fascinating culture an uncommon pleasure. --Brian Bruya

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