Tongwan City: A Novel

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Sixteen centuries ago, the last chieftain of the Xiongnu sought to unite China by force. In Tongwan City, the warlord Helian Bobo orders an impregnable city to be built, becoming the capital of an empire that will finally unite China. Tongwancheng (unite all nations), or Tongwan City, would be built with thick outer walls made white with clay and powdered rice, giving the city the appearance of a giant ship. Helian will stop at nothing to build his city and his empire, drafting 100,000 Xiongnu to build his citadel. Tongwancheng might become Helian Bobo's legacy, but will it be enough to unite China under one ruler? Meanwhile, another great man is quietly laying the groundwork for a nation. Kumarajiva is brought to the Chinese court to begin teaching the precepts of Buddhism to the Chinese. He embarks on a career of teaching and translating the foundational sutras into Chinese. As his influence begins to spread and his fame grows, the seeds of a unified China are sown. Twenty years ago, Gao Jianqun's bestselling novel The Last Hun popularized ancient Chinese legend and renewed interest in the earliest periods of Chinese history and culture. In Tongwan City, Gao relates an epic saga of murder and compassion in the grassland kingdom of the ancient Chinese frontier, while telling a parallel story of knowledge blooming in the center of Chinese life. Gao weaves into this tale seminal themes of Chinese history and culture: the connection between the warlike Xiongnu and their cousins the Huns, the Great Wall that was built to separate the Xiongnu from the Han Chinese, and the philosophy that ultimately united them.