The Desert Road to Turkestan

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Overview

In inner Mongolia in 1927, when travel by rail had all but eclipsed the traditional camel caravan, Owen Lattimore embarked on the journey that would establish him as a legendary adventurer and leader among Asian scholars. THE DESERT ROAD TO TURKESTAN is Lattimore’s elegant and spirited account of his harrowing expedition across the famous “Winding Road.”

Setting off to rejoin his wife for their honeymoon in Chinese Turkestan, Lattimore was forced to contend with marauding ...

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Overview

In inner Mongolia in 1927, when travel by rail had all but eclipsed the traditional camel caravan, Owen Lattimore embarked on the journey that would establish him as a legendary adventurer and leader among Asian scholars. THE DESERT ROAD TO TURKESTAN is Lattimore’s elegant and spirited account of his harrowing expedition across the famous “Winding Road.”

Setting off to rejoin his wife for their honeymoon in Chinese Turkestan, Lattimore was forced to contend with marauding troops, a lack of maps, scheming travel companions, and blinding blizzard. Luckily he had with him not only his father’s retainer, Moses, but a team of camel pullers and Chinese traders he had assembled to teach him the ropes about their mysterious and now extinct way of life.

Lattimore’s gifts as a linguist and his remarkable powers of observation lend his chronicle an immediacy and force that has lost now of its impact in the decades since its original publication.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Herald Tribune
"The life and vivid record of a modern pioneer in a far-off frontier...of the new century."
New York Times
"Mr. Lattimore knows how to convey to the reader the emotion and thought that animated him on his great journey. [We get] a vivid sense of the drifting life of the desert."
The Nation
"Far away and exotic, yet curiously akin to something that our own West has lost... An amazing story.. [told] with intensity and power."
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Originally published in 1929, Lattimore's account of traveling in a camel caravan through inner Mongolia sheds light on the lives and customs of ``camel pullers'' and Chinese traders. (Aug.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781568360706
  • Publisher: Kodansha International
  • Publication date: 3/28/1996
  • Series: Kodansha Globe Series
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 8.20 (w) x 5.60 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

OWEN LATTIMORE was one of the foremost China scholars of this century. In 1950 Senator Joseph McCarthy labeled him "one of the top Communist agents in the country." After years of Senate hearings and appeals, he was exonerated and left the United States to become Professor of Mongolian Studies at the University of Leeds. He died in 1989.

DAVID LATTIMORE is Professor of Chinese Studies at Brown University.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2003

    The essence of central asian travel

    Though the camel pullers and the winding road are covered in history and sand, this book is unique in capturing the timelessness of the caravan experience in an essentially modern American voice. The sociology of the group, the logistics, the feel for the land and its resonance with the traveler are all featured here. Passages like daydreams appear from time to time in the text to add the feel and philosophy of the long road. Here is a passage from early in the book that exemplifies the foriegnness of the experience... 'One night, when the Chinese were yarning, the talk turned on the Mohammedans. Someone said that their holy city was farther west of Turkestan than Turkestan was west of Peking, and that it was walled with brass. Ch¿ing Ch¿eng Li, who had spoken Turki from his childhood, looked up from the lamp where he was preparing opium. ¿Yes,¿ he said, ¿I have heard the Turbaned-Heads speak of it. It is called Roum.¿ With the hearing of that name, which is current throughout Central Asia for Constantinople, I knew that I was well beyond the Great Wall of China¿¿ My favorite passage is from the end of a daydream on camel-back at the close of a march. I first read it while in the heart of central asia. Its effect on me and my fellow travelers was profound. ¿¿The force of old memories revived had set me dreaming again, through a wonderful evening, out in front of the caravan in the dusk, the moonlight, and the starlight. I balanced for the first time all the contrasts of the b****** treaty-port life; Tientsin, Peking, Pei-tai Ho, with Kuei-hua and the first glorious reconnoitring that my wife and I shared of the borderland behind the Kuei-hua hills; and then this drifting life of the caravans. The feeling bore down on me like a wave that I was a long way off and going farther; that I had been in China so long that I had lost the feeling of Home, but that I was going Home all across Asia, by roads that men had traveled before sea roads were known. The camels and the long road, with glimpses, before the fulfillment of an old ambition, but they became suddenly tinged with the emotion of a new dream¿¿ This book was a treasure to me.

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