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My Journey to Lhasa: The Classic Story of the Only Western Woman Who Succeeded in Entering the Forbidden City

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  1,038 Ratings  ·  113 Reviews
An exemplary travelogue of danger and achievement by the Frenchwoman Madame Alexandra David–Neel of her 1923 expedition to Tibet, the fifth in her series of Asian travels, and her personal recounting of her journey to Lhasa, Tibet's forbidden city.

In order to penetrate Tibet and reach Lhasa, she used her fluency of Tibetan dialects and culture, disguised herself as a beg
Paperback, 376 pages
Published August 23rd 2005 by Harper Perennial (first published 1927)
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Lynne King
Apr 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion
I was amazed for some reason to see this book on Goodreads. I knew that I had it and I've been searching for the past half hour. The reason I couldn't find it first of all is that my book is in French.

It's just called "Le Tibet d'Alexandria David-Néel". I purchased this at her museum in Digne-les-Bains in Provence in 1991. I had spent a year in France and at the time my spoken French was dreadful. Even now I doubt if I will ever be fluent in the language. It is such a rich and sophisticated lang
Jan 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A little hard to get into at first, but what this woman did is truly amazing. And the coolest thing about it is she seems totally unfazed by having to hike through chest-deep snow and survive on butter tea for long stretches of time to reach Lhasa, not to mention being disguised as a Tibetan peasant the whole time. I've read a lot of travel books, and this woman is the real deal.
Ruta Sevo
Sep 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Wild story of walking out of China into Tibet at age 55, around 1920. She was extraordinary and went on to write 30 books bringing Tibetan Buddhism to the West. She learned Tibetan and became a nun. The details are unbelievable and that's why some people wonder how she did it, but there is a photo of her sitting in front of the Potala, with her face covered with soot from a cooking pot so her white skin would not give her away. Foreigners were forbidden at the time.
Dec 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mme. David-Néel was one seriously badass explorer.

Though she often regards the Tibetan peasantry as 'childish and superstitious' in comparison to the civilisation of her native France, Mme. David-Néel's love for the country and formidable achievements as a holy lama shine through. Truth often provides us with stranger tales than fiction, and this is certainly one instance - a lot of the narrow scrapes that cunning, determination or sheer good luck got Mme. David-Néel and her son out of would see
Jul 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This is the story of Alexandra David-Neel's journey to Lhasa in the 1920s when it was forbidden for a woman to visit the holy city. She had to disguise herself as a man and travel on foot through harsh terrain. She was in her 50s at the time of this amazing journey.
Didn't want it to end. Even if only half of what this lady endured and did to get to Lhasa in disguise of a beggar Tibetan woman were true, it would still be a story made of win. That was, by the way, in the time when white people in Asia traveled with tables, chairs, bread ovens and gramophones.
She and her companion traveled on foot, thinly clad, living mostly on buttered tea (and from time to time stuff so horrible it would burn a hole in my Goodreads page), through snow and ice and mud. They
Feb 23, 2010 rated it it was ok
While there is absolutely no doubt that Alexandra David-Neel was truly an amazing woman and her trip was a great feat, I must say that this book was a bit of a disappointment. I can't imagine having endured what she did and to do so with such apparent ease and almost nonchalance. The experiences and encounters along her journey were undoubtedly exciting but somehow the writing and storytelling itself managed to lack the excitement an adventure such as this would guarantee.
Dec 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I think I was traveling in Mexico when we read this book and I always thought how easy my new life was in comparison. I still love the book and think anyone who likes to travel should read it.
Jun 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Alexandra David Néel ist eine der bekanntesten Abenteurerinnen, und nun habe ich auch endlich mal eins ihrer Bücher gelesen: Toll! Beeindruckend! 1868 in Frankreich geboren, interessierte sich Alexandra so wahnsinnig für Asien, dass sie ab 1888 fast immer dort lebte. Das Geld für die Reisen beschaffte sie sich zunächst durch Auftritte mit Operngesang! Sie lernte asiatische Sprachen, studierte die Religionen und verbrachte sogar ein Jahr als Einsiedlerin in einer tibetischen Hütte auf 4000 Metern ...more
Jun 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
'Nature has a language of its. own, or maybe those who have lived long in solitude read in it their own unconscious inner feelings & mysterious foreknowledge. The majestic Kha Karpo, towering in a clear sky lit by a full moon, did not appear to me that evening as the menacing guardian of an impassable frontier. it looked more like a worshipful but affable Deity, standing at the threshold of a mystic land, ready to welcome & protect the adventurous lover of Thibet.'

This quote sets the to
Nov 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Wow. Ce qu'a fait cette femme, il y a maintenant plusieurs dizaines d'années, est tout simplement bluffant. En 1924, déguisée en mendiante, elle se rend à Lhassa, ville interdite aux étrangers, au départ du Yunnan. Accompagnée d'un lama - son fils adoptif , elle parcourt incognito et avec un équipement plus que minimal les montagnes enneigées du Tibet, dormant dans des grottes, jeûnant de nombreuses fois et risquant sa vie à de multiples reprises. Par amour pour ces montagnes himalayennes, par g ...more
Mar 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
If I could give this book ten stars, I would. Alexandra David-Neel was the first western woman to enter Lhasa and see the Potola. She did it by learning Tibetan and dressing as a peasant, carrying nearly nothing and begging with her companion that she had adopted as her son.

The descriptions of traveling in that part of the world in the early 1920s still resonate with what it's like to travel now. Very clear, conversational, and compelling writing.

Outside magazine called this "the best adventure
Dec 24, 2008 rated it liked it
Well, it took awhile but I finally finished it. The author was truly an amazing woman and I admire the life she lived and all of her explorations at a time when women didn't travel on their own into remote areas. Her writing style didn't capture me, but considering that English wasn't her first language, it was very impressive. Reading about her life on-line gives a remarkable view of her accomplishments and makes her book that much more enjoyable.
Jan 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Talk about a take charge of your life kind woman. Married to a fellow that she has friendship, but no passion for.. she tells him her want to travel to Tibet's forbidden city. The account is so nitty gritty and filled with respect for the land and its people.

If you have any interest in early women adventurers/explores... don't miss this.
Mar 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: those interested in Tibet
Amazing woman. If you keep in mind the audience she was writing to (Victorian Europe), this book is wonderful. I was able to get a picture of Tibet before it was "changed". This book was important and valuable to me. And it's a great story.
Jun 27, 2011 marked it as try-again-later
I am so disappointed in this book. I thought it would be a wild and crazy adventure, but it is part the author worrying in print about being seen by Thibetans, part adventure, and half, discussion about Eastern religion. I've looked forward to reading this book for so long, I am bummed!
John Leavens
Jan 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Would be an amazing story today but considering that she did it at the turn of the century makes it truly unbelievable.
Feb 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Comment ne pas tomber littéralement admiratif devant tant de volonté d'esprit!
Feb 25, 2008 rated it liked it
a woman traveler in lhasa. true story. wonderful. exciting events she went thru.
#22 of Outside Magazine's "Books for the Well Read Explorer"
Oct 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
"I was wandering in the market when a policeman stopped and gazed at me intently. Why? Perhaps he only wondered from what part of Thibet (sic) I might hail, but it was better to be prepared for the worst. A new battle was to fought, and I began it, my heart beating rather quickly, but brave as usual. I chose, amongst the things for sale, an aluminum saucepan, and began to bargain for it with that ridiculous obstinacy shown by the people of the half-wild tribes of the borderland. I offered an abs ...more
Cora Lein
Dec 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thomas Wartmann beschreibt über ca 30 Seiten das Leben von Alexandra David-Néel und stimmt den Leser so wunderbar auf den Reisebericht dieser einzigartigen Frau ein. Die Autorin nimmt einen dann mit auf eine spannende und gefährliche Reise nach Lhasa (Tibet).

Das Vorwort war etwas „trocken“, wobei der Lebenslauf von David-Néel mehr als spannend ist. Diese Frau hat so viel kraft und, wenn die Auszüge aus ihren Briefen gut übersetzt sind, einen wundervollen Sinn für Humor. Der Sc
In 1923 Alexandra David-Neel walked months from China to Lhasa with her adopted son, the lama Yongden. David-Neel, a French woman, had already lived in Northern India, Sikkim and nearby areas for many years, studying Buddhism and was fluent in a local dialect. Tibet and Lhasa were pretty much closed to westerners and no western woman had ever been to Lhasa. She had already attempted to travel to Lhasa once before and been turned back.

David-Neel gives an account of their journey with much detail.
Deb Grove
Jul 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is an amazing book about an amazing woman. from info on the WEB, Alexandra David-Néel (October 24, 1868 - September 8, 1969) was a French explorer, anarchist, spiritualist, Buddhist and writer. She is most known for her visit to the forbidden (to foreigners) city of Lhasa, capital of Tibet (1924). She was born in Paris, France and died in Digne, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. She wrote more than 30 books, about Eastern religion, philosophy, and her travels. Her well-documented teachings influence ...more
Patty Simpson
Jan 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
This is really 3.5 stars, not 4. I've been wanting to read this book for years and years and am glad that I did. It wasn't what I expected - I'd always imagined it was about a spiritual young woman trekking alone through the wilderness to see the seat of the Dalai Lama out of religious fervor. Instead, it's about a middle-aged or older woman, already well studied and well known in Buddhism, who decides to get to Lhasa just because she's not allowed to go there. She treks with her "adopted son" ( ...more
Dec 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Very interesting for those interested in the history and culture of Tibet as it existed in the 1920s. There were some intriguing ideas posited by Ms. David-Neel, including some about the power structure and the role of China and Great Britain in that region, which seem to be completely reversed at present. Whether Ms. David-Neel's suppositions are accurate or are coloured by her Western background, is difficult to say as this book reads not like an historical book, but rather as a travelogue.

May 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: tibet, 2009, non-fiction
The language is a bit difficult to get into at first, but once you get the hang of it, the rest of the books goes pretty fast.

It's an excellent travelogue of David-Neel's journey into Lhasa, full of humorous little quips about how she managed to avoid detection. (For example: at one point, when someone seemed to start doubting her Tibetanness, she used her hand to blow her nose into the ground.)

There's also a heavy hand of mysticism in the book which is both warranted and sometimes exaggerated,
Santanu Dutta
I just have finished reading this book the other day. It was quite late in the night.
It took a long time to complete this book. in fact reading this needs its own leisurely pace as the book moves.
Many a books on "Thibet" in the early days of explorations when the country was entirely forbidden to outsiders give a good account of the country, the land, the people, the culture, the religion. This book written on author's successful attempt to gate crash "Thibet" and reach the holy city of Lhasa
Kt Bradshaw
Dec 28, 2014 rated it liked it
At times I found the language and lengthy scenic descriptions of this book plodding, but the narrative suspense kept me reading. Would Jetsunma be discovered as a philing? How would she and Yongden outwit the bandits and government officials this time? I was impressed by how Alexandra David-Neel stoically endured the hardships of the journey and absorbed the interwoven landscape and culture of Tibet.

The introduction to the book (I have finally learned to read these intros AFTER I read the main t
Feb 03, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book and love that it blurs the lines between fiction and non-fiction. Though Alexandra wrote this as a non-fiction autobiography published in 1927, there are elements that can be likened to scenes from the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. This book is truly a wonderful tale of an extraordinary woman, her life and her adventures. She was born in France, was an opera singer, and at one time the head of the Tunis Casino, yet she set off to explore Asia and was the first w ...more
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Alexandra David-Néel (October 24, 1868 - September 8, 1969) was a French explorer, anarchist, spiritualist, Buddhist and writer. She is most known for her visit to the forbidden (to foreigners) city of Lhasa, capital of Tibet (1924). She was born in Paris, France and died in Digne, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. She wrote more than 30 books, about Eastern religion, philosophy, and her travels. Her well- ...more
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