This is one of my very favorite fantasy novels, one of the few title that I actively collect in order to give away to friends who haven't read it yet. If there is a copy available here, grab it before I do!
The other books by Hughart are also quite good, though I think "Story of the Stone" isn't quite as good as "Bridge of Birds", and "Eight Skilled Gentlemen" isn't quite as good as "Story of the Stone".
"Lyrical" is the best term for this book. As a friend and Chinese scholar said to me, "it reads like people *think* classical Chinese literature should read."
This is the first and best of the three books by Hughart. The other two work, but the format is what makes the books what they are (a giant, Karmic circle) and the surprise of the first is never quite the same after that. The other two are still good reads, but nothing tops this one.