In This Review

Cousin Felix Meets the Buddha: And Other Encounters in China and Tibet
Cousin Felix Meets the Buddha: And Other Encounters in China and Tibet
By Lincoln Kaye
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003, 394 pp
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A popular practice of foreign correspondents upon finishing a tour is to write a book analyzing the big-picture developments in the country they are leaving. At the end of his China assignment for the Far Eastern Economic Review, Kaye went against that tradition by focusing instead on the personal and private encounters he and his Taiwanese wife had with an extraordinary cast of interesting and eccentric personalities. The title refers to a previously unknown distant relative who turns up for dinner and travels with the Kayes and their Tibetan lama friend to West China. Their adventures include meeting with a troop of itinerant actors, religious pilgrims, wandering farm hands, a police officer, and many others. Even while visiting standard tourist spots, such as Xian and the terra cotta warriors, they managed to have unlikely meetings, and Kaye is able to turn their visit to a Beijing hospice into a touching account of old revolutionaries preparing for death. The book reads more like a novel filled with fascinating characters than an attempt to explain current developments in China.