In ninth century China, a master teacher of painting and calligraphy hands his pupil a piece of bamboo containing a message for an embattled emperor. Wen, the pupil and hero of this historical and magical novel by veteran novelist Mark Frutkin, is given the bamboo and sent on an epic mission across mountains, rivers, and seasons. Along the way, Wen must complete art projects, test his valor, and learn and re-learn lessons drawn from the rich well of Buddhist thought.
A Message for the Emporer is filled with sensory details a listener may recognize from old fables and fairy tales. The performance, by Todd Haberkorn, is vivid and clear, and his accents for the Chinese characters are suggestions rather than exact replications.
This is a unique novel of old China, the traditional landscape of mountains and rivers without end, and life in an imperial city rife with plots, intrigues, culture, sensuality and wealth. Li Wen, a landscape painter of the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD), is on a journey to deliver a message to the Chinese Emperor. His teacher has instructed him to paint four landscapes, one for each season, during the year it will take him to travel across China to the Emperor’s Court where he is to present the paintings to the Emperor as a long-life gift. A series of gripping adventures befall Li Wen on his journey, including burial in an ancient tomb and a snowstorm that nearly ends his quest.