Monday, 7 March 2011

The Horse That Leaps Through Clouds

The horse that leaps through clouds, A Tale of Espionage, the Silk Road and the Rise of Modern China
By Eric Enno Tamm

Two epic journeys along the Silk Road, past and present, offer a riveting and cautionary tale about the breathtaking rise of China On July 6, 1906, Baron Gustaf Mannerheim boarded the midnight train from St. Petersburg, charged by Czar Nicholas ii to secretly collect intelligence on the Qing Dynasty's sweeping reforms that were radically transforming China. The last czarist agent in the so-called Great Game, Mannerheim chronicled almost every facet of China's modernization, from education reform and foreign investment to Tibet's struggle for independence. On July 6, 2006, writer Eric Enno Tamm boards that same train, intent on following in Mannerheim's footsteps. Initially banned from China, Tamm devises a cover and retraces Mannerheim's route across the Silk Road, discovering both eerie similarities and seismic differences between the Middle Kingdoms of today and a century ago. Along the way, Tamm offers piercing insights into China's past that raise troubling questions about its future. Can the Communist Party truly open China to the outside world yet keep Western ideas such as democracy and freedom at bay, just as Qing officials mistakenly believed? What can reform during the late Qing Dynasty teach us about the spectacular transformation of China today? "Study the past if you would divine the future," wrote Confucius. Tamm's quest turns out to be a cautionary tale.

"Following in the footsteps of Baron Carl Gustav Mannerheim, the last Tsarist spy in the so-called Great Game, Tamm has written a grand sweep of a narrative. It combines a long and arduous physical journey—9 months and 17,000 kilometers from St. Petersburg across the Tibetan Plateau and the Gobi desert to Beijing—with the revelations of high stakes history—espionage in virtually unknown territory in the early years of the twentieth century. At its core, this is a journey into the soul of the Middle Kingdom, and the roots of modern China. Full of wild characters, harsh geography, and historical surprise, Tamm's journey reveals him to be at once an intrepid adventurer, fine writer, and discerning historian. Altogether a wonderful book." ---—Wade Davis

“TAMM's account of his journey has tremendous scope and panache. He unearths what has happened to these regions in the intervening 100 years and his ghost companion, Mannerheim, proves useful as a baseline from which to gauge the changes. TAMM's themes are the vanishing of languages and ways of life, environmental depredation, China's colonization of the hinterlands and, finally, the prospects for its political development...THE HORSE THAT LEAPS THROUGH CLOUDS is a serious, generous and enlightening introduction to this huge and infrequently travelled part of the world.” -- VANCOUVER SUN --Vancouver Sun
"A sophisticated journalist indeed, Mr. TAMM gathers observations like gemstones." --Diplomat & International Canada
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