Iron & Silk

Iron & Silk

4.4 15
by Mark Salzman

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Salzman captures post-cultural revolution China through his adventures as a young American English teacher in China and his shifu-tudi (master-student) relationship with China's foremost martial arts teacher.  See more details below


Salzman captures post-cultural revolution China through his adventures as a young American English teacher in China and his shifu-tudi (master-student) relationship with China's foremost martial arts teacher.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This is a book full of China, full of wonder. Salzman taught English in Changsha, Hunan, for two years, studied Chinese boxing with a master, helped his Chinese friends, and perceived Chinese life with the writerly eye of a young Hemingway. Although, or because, he flies no political banner and takes no ideological stance, he gives us a bouquet of sketches which distill a range of Chinese people into essences and scenes we immediately understand and feel. Some scenes are sharply, unpretentiously funny; others start the tears to which China reduces (elevates?) her friends. For those who see ``China'' as an abstraction, whether as enemy, hope of the future, or market, this book is the cure. Read it and get your friends and patrons to read it too. A quiet classic, not to be pigeonholed as a China book. Charles W. Hayford, Ctr. for Far Eastern Studies, Univ. of Chicago
School Library Journal
YA This anecdotal record of a young man's encounter with the Chinese and their way of life offers unique insights to readers. Salzman had majored in Chinese literature at Yale, and his first job after graduation in 1982 was teaching English to students and teachers at Hunan Medical College in Changsha. He met this considerable challenge with sensitivity, humor, and imagination, and was quickly regarded with respect and affection. Salzman had studied martial arts since he was 13, and he continued his practice in Changsha, where one of China's foremost experts, Pan Qingfu, accepted him as a pupil. Readers will become aware of the many styles of the sport, and, incidentally, the real meaning of ``kung fu.'' The personalities encountered range from Salzman's students and teachers to calligraphers, peasants, fishermen, and bureaucrats. Each fascinating episode illuminates the way to a deeper understanding of Chinese culture and character. This book is also notable for its unusually attractive design: the handsome calligraphy on the binding and chapter headings was done by the author. Rita G. Keeler, St. John's School, Houston
From the Publisher

"The much-acclaimed adventures of a young master in China take the form of a series of lightly sketched-in episodes; almost without exception, they produce the gulp of feeling you might get from an unusually fine short story, and they reverberate long after you have put them down."

The New York Times

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Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Vintage Departures Series
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.22(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.58(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

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Iron & Silk 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
There were parts i didnt understand abiut chinese policy and communism but i found all the characters super interesting and thought provoking. Glad i didnt buy this in the nook only the hunger games is worth that amount of money ha ha
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is SOOOO GOOD!!! You should read it! It is informative and enjoyable! My favorite story is when he goes to the fisherman's house and plays his cello for the family! Everyone is so nice there!
RebeccaScaglione More than 1 year ago
Iron & Silk by Mark Salzman is Mark's story of his time in China while teaching English.  Mark spent 1982-1984 in Chang-sha, Hunan teaching at Hunan Medical College. During his time there, Mark learned many Chinese techniques, such as multiple martial art forms as well as calligraphy.  He tells his story in Iron & Silk through short vignettes of his experiences. The cover of this book suffers from 1980s Disease (having been published in 1986), and looks like it would fit in perfectly in the intro to Saved by the Bell, but please, don't judge this book by it's tacky cover!  After all, just think of what YOU looked like in the 80s! I really enjoyed reading about Mark's time in China.  He experienced many unique things and was taught by one of China's greatest boxers. One of my favorite stories was about a time when Mark took a crowded train and was stuck across from two Chinese men who were obviously inebriated.  The men had been released from "corrective labor" for having stabbed someone, which they openly explained to Mark.  One of the men began telling Mark how excited he was to get to go home and see his mother, going on and on about it.  After a minute or two of this, his friend hit him hard.  When the first friend questioned about why, the second pointed to Mark (obviously an American foreigner) and said, "Because he's from far away.  He can't see his mom at all.  He doesn't need to know how happy you are." That story totally surprised me, and probably shattered some assumptions Mark had about the men. Do you have a good assumption-shattering story to tell? Thanks for reading, Rebecca @ Love at First Book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mark Salzman did a very good job describing his stay in China. He recorded his interactions with his students, his teachers, his friends, and the local peasants. The experiences he described had a touch of reality and truth, but they lacked enthusiasm. In the book, Salzman met many people, but he did not go into detail with his relationship with whomever he encountered. The book is a collection of short stories, but none of the stories related to other stories too well. The book also lacks a conclusion, and there wasn¿t a good transition from the present to the past in the first couple of chapters. Salzman failed to build the climaxes in his story; therefore, most of the stories seem quite dull and plain. Erm¿we ran out of time¿so read it yourself.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The experience that Salzman has is very interesting. Since the novel is broken in to small short stories, it is easy to read and enjoy. Some of the wording that the author used is confusing, therefore we give a four star rating.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Salzman approached the Chinese culture with an open mind. He accepted the new lifestyles that he encountered. He experienced many incidents that helped him perceive the Chinese customs in a positive and negative way. By interacting with the Chinese people, Salzman also broadened their understanding of different cultures beside their own when he introduced his own culture into theirs.
Guest More than 1 year ago
We really enjoyed Iron & Silk because the story is realistic. Mark Salzman is successful in painting a genuine picture of Chinese culture and its people through his experiences and observations. It is an excellent book for people who are interested in learning Chinese culture, especially martial arts. The writing is also easy to understand. In addition to being genuine and comprehensible, the book is humorous, such as the part where Master Pan is learning English.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Every small chapter show the chinese policy to control the people, torture them especially the intellectuals. I was in the same situation like teacher Wu, the foreign company where I worked was in the situation like Mr Mark in Hong Kong foot, the mistreatment that the civilians suffered was the same in Suicide... All information and advance in the world were avoid to publish to chinese people. Only if you live like the fisherman, didn't need to go to school, you felt comfortable because the Party, the government didn't pay attention to you. Consequence of the system : terrify people > must to obey > easy to manage > VALUE, TALENT, ABILITY can't develop > objective of the communist party.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book shares the name of the movie starring the author about his endeavor to study Kung Fu from an authentic Chinese master but learns more than just Kung Fu along the way. His teacher has since emigrated to Ontario,Canada..
Guest More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved this book. It was writtin in a strange style of many short stories that together prove to be an interesting read for anyone who loves martial arts. His training is in great detail and the experiences he encouters are very interesting to read. Buy it now!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The reader is given a realistic picture of China in the late 80s. Mark was dashing, adventurous, and amusing, but he didn't seem to concentrate on his job: teaching English! Two years after his book came out, while teaching in a nearby Chinese city, I personally talked with two teachers from the place where he taught and they relayed to me the consensus that Mr. Salzman was the WORST teacher they had ever had there!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I recieved this book in the mail and finished it the very same day. The stories are amazing and if you are a lover of martial arts like I am then you will truly be amazed and appreciate this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was the best book that I have ever read. It is written as though Salzman was telling you the stories in person. It's an easy read and the collection of stories are incredible. If you want just a good book to read, this is the book to get.