Bubba's Reviews > Trespassers on the Roof of the World: The Secret Exploration of Tibet

Trespassers on the Roof of the World by Peter Hopkirk
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Why do I love books about the exploration of the Tibetan plateau so much? What's there? It has it valleys, but large parts of it are barren and mountainous. I guess it has the monasteries (or did before 1966 when Mao's little Red Book waivers came in destroyed most of what was left after the invasion in 1950). There is also the rituals/art of Tibetan Buddhism. Nobody can accuse that religion of being boring. Last week I spent a few hours staring at Tibetan demon statues in the British museum...the ones where the night time is the right time for the demons (if you know what I mean). I suppose the fact that the Tibetans closed themseleves off from the rest of the world, and that it was so difficult to reach anyway, has always made it fascinating. The purpose of this book is to recount European attempts to crack the Tibetan nut and, more specifically, to reach Lhasa.

Hopkirk does a fine job of combining long forgotten or obscure tales of exploration in Tibet with the expeditions everyone knows (Younghusband, Heinrich Harrer, Sven Hedin). He also, somewhat uncharacteristically when compared to his other books, makes some attempt to bring the story of Tibetan and the outsiders who just wouldn't leave it alone up to the present (well, the early 80s when he wrote it). generally, old Hoppy confines himself to the 19th and (first half of the) 20th centuries.

This is the third Hopkirk book I've read. I love what the guy does. It is popular history at its best, written by a journalist (i.e. a guy who knows how to write entertainingly). If you want to know how Tibet found itself in a dogfight between London, St. Petersburg, Beijing...and a bunch of freelancers, check this out.

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