The Horse That Leaps Through Clouds: A Tale of Espionage, the Silk Road, and the Rise of Modern China

Overview


On July 6, 1906, Baron Gustaf Mannerheim boarded the midnight train from St. Petersburg, charged by Tsar Nicholas II to secretly collect intelligence on the Qing Dynasty’s sweeping reforms that were radically transforming China. One of the last Tsarist secret agents, 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, ...

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The Horse that Leaps Through Clouds: A Tale of Espionage, the Silk Road, and the Rise of Modern China

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Overview


On July 6, 1906, Baron Gustaf Mannerheim boarded the midnight train from St. Petersburg, charged by Tsar Nicholas II to secretly collect intelligence on the Qing Dynasty’s sweeping reforms that were radically transforming China. One of the last Tsarist secret agents, 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 a century ago and today.

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? As Confucius once wrote, “Study the past if you would divine the future,” and that is precisely what Tamm does in The Horse That Leaps Through Clouds.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Praise for The Horse That Leaps Through Clouds

"A complicated, ambitious travel adventure through modern Inner Asia . . . a truly inspired journey." —Kirkus

“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

Praise for Beyond the Outer Shores

“Tamm’s account of Ricketts’s short life . . . is an engrossing memoir. Freelance writer Tamm smartly weaves in-depth literary analysis of Steinbeck’s fiction into his narrative, though writing relatively little about mythologist Joseph Campbell’s spiritual explorations . . . Tamm writes with impassioned honesty about his subject’s many dimensions.” —Publishers Weekly

“Tamm . . . presents an affecting and mind-expanding group portrait of three creative thinkers.” —Booklist

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781582438177
  • Publisher: Counterpoint Press
  • Publication date: 4/17/2012
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 512
  • Sales rank: 791,295
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.70 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author


Eric Enno Tamm is an author and journalist. His first book, Beyond the Outer Shores: The Untold Odyssey of Ed Ricketts, the Pioneering Ecologist Who Inspired John Steinbeck and Joseph Campbell, was a Kiriyama Prize Notable Book. His writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times Magazine, San Francisco Chronicle, and the Toronto Star, among others. Tamm currently lives in Ottawa.
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Table of Contents

Notes xi

Prologue: Crossing the Mannerheim Line xiii

Eurasia

1 St. Petersburg: The Secret Agent 1

2 Azerbaijan: The Nobels' Prize 19

3 Turkmenistan : Fear and Loathing 39

4 Uzbekistan: The Great Game Redux 57

5 Kyrgyzstan : Travels on the Synthetic Road 81

Western China

6 Kashgar: Mission Impossible 109

7 To Khotan: Oases and Outposts 133

8 Tian Shan Range : The Horse That Leaps through Clouds 155

9 Urumoj: The Banquet 177

10 To Dunhuang: Treasure Hunt 195

11 Hexi Corridor: Barbarians Inside the Gate 215

12 Lanzhou: The Chinese Renaissance 241

13 Labrang: Stoned 265

Northern China

14 Xi'an: Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics 289

15 Henan: The Harmonious Countryside 313

16 Taiyuan: Opium of the People 337

17 Wutai Shan: The Wanderer 359

18 Inner Mongolia: The Soot Road 375

19 Beijing: Reawakening 395

Epilogue: To the Finland Station 427

Acknowledgments 441

A Note on Sources 445

Endnotes 447

Selected Bibliography 467

Index 477

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