Wednesday, May 7, 2014 | 5:30 PM EDT - 5:30 PM EDT

, New York, NY

The Buddhist monk Tanxu surmounted extraordinary obstacles–poverty, wars, famine, and foreign occupation–to become one of the most prominent monks in China, founding numerous temples and schools, and attracting crowds of students and disciples wherever he went. Now, in Heart of Buddha, Heart of China: The Life of Tanxu, a Twentieth Century Monk, James Carter draws on untapped archival materials to provide a book that is part travelogue, part history, and part biography of this remarkable man.

This revealing biography shows a Chinese man, neither an intellectual nor a peasant, trying to reconcile his desire for a bold and activist Chinese nationalism with his own belief in China's cultural and social traditions, especially Buddhism. As it follows Tanxu's extraordinary life, the book also illuminates the pivotal events in China's modern history, showing how one individual experienced the fall of China's last empire, its descent into occupation and civil war, and its eventual birth as modern nation. Indeed, Tanxu lived in a time of almost constant warfare–from the Sino-Japanese War of 1895, to the Boxer Uprising, the Russo-Japanese War, the Japanese occupation, and World War II. He and his followers were robbed by river pirates, and waylaid by bandits on the road. Caught in the struggle between nationalist and communist forces, Tanxu finally sought refuge in the British colony of Hong Kong. At the time of his death, at the age of 89, he was revered as "Master Tanxu," one of Hong Kong's leading religious figures."

Capturing all this in a magnificent portrait, Carter gives first-person immediacy to one of the most turbulent periods in Chinese history.

James Carter discussed his book at a National Committee program in New York City on May 7, 2014.


James Carter is professor of history at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, and holds a Ph.D. in modern Chinese history from Yale University. His research focuses on how China’s foreign relations have played out in the lives of people living in China, especially in the 20th century. Heart of Buddha, Heart of China is his third book, and he is currently writing a book on the end of colonial Shanghai.

Politics & Foreign Relations

  • INTERVIEW | James Carter on the Life of Tanxu, a Twentieth Century Monk
  • Politics & Foreign Relations

    Recorded 5/6/2014