The Asia Society’s new site China File excerpts from Chinese Characters:
The “voluntary” insurance at the entrance had cost just two yuan, about thirty-five cents, but I had been fleeced all the way from Beijing and somehow this was the final straw. Why did everything have to be so crass and commercialized? I whined to myself. I knew the answers—all the nuanced reasons why so many religious sites in China had been reduced to a carnival—but was in too foul a mood to be rational. The view didn’t help either. Once one of Taoism’s holiest mountains, Mount Heng in Shanxi Province was a denuded wreck, seeming to consist of nothing but broken slate. I grumbled epitaphs as I climbed the steep trail wondering why I had bothered to come.
Then he appeared on the ridge above me, like something out of a Chinese kung fu thriller: a Taoist priest clad in a blue robe, white breeches, his hair up on his head in a bun.
Read the whole first chapter by Ian Johnson.