* The Portraits of Mastery YouTube channel from which the book is adapted has over 200,000 subscribers
A Taoist priest, a puppeteer, a spirit medium, and a builder of replica lightsabers – these are just a few of the masters profiled in this catalog of gifted workers from every corner of Taiwan. Read the stories of the men and women who have dedicated their lives to attaining mastery in their chosen occupation.
In nondescript buildings on unassuming streets, they quietly build their knowledge and hone their skills with single-minded purpose. They aren’t interested in fame or wealth, only the unending pursuit of perfection. They are the masters.
Some found their calling through religion, such as the Taoist priest, the ritual corpse exhumer, and the spirit medium who delivers messages from the gods while in a trance. Some work in the traditional arts carving name chops, performing puppetry, and crafting the ink used in calligraphy and ink painting. Others are more modern in outlook, such as the baseball umpire and the builder of replica lightsabers.
The stories of over 30 masters are told in these pages, delivering insight into what drives people to pursue the highest levels of attainment in their field. In many cases, they describe the confusion and youthful folly that preceded the dawning of clarity and purpose. Nearly all contain astonishing revelations concerning the execution of their crafts. The carver of name chops, for example, was once so highly in demand that he had to complete a hand-carved name chop every 90 seconds to fulfill all of his orders. On a lighter note, the builder of lightsabers demands that every customer complete a questionnaire to demonstrate that they are competent in the ways of the Force.
Developed from a web video series produced by Movingtaipei, Portraits of Mastery delivers readers into the homes and workshops of the masters who live among us, celebrating their crafts, and telling life stories as varied as the careers they pursue. This smorgasbord of human achievement is by turns humorous, surprising, edifying, and mysterious, but most of all readers will be left with a deep respect for the personal sacrifices made in the pursuit of perfection.