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The High Road to ChinaIn the summer of 1774, George Bogle, an East India Company envoy, packed up the best in European invention and, with a crew of 63 servants, set off to...The High Road to ChinaMemoir, NonfictionIn the summer of 1774, George Bogle, an East India Company envoy, packed up the best in European invention and, with a crew of 63 servants, set off to...2007-01-31Farrar, Straus & Giroux

The High Road to China

Genre: Memoir, Nonfiction; Author: Kate Teltscher; Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux

In the summer of 1774, George Bogle, an East India Company envoy, packed up the best in European invention and, with a crew of 63 servants, set off to lead the first British expedition across the Himalayas into Tibet. His twofold mission: to study ”the customs and manners of the people” and to cultivate the Third Panchen Lama, Tibet’s Buddhist leader, as a trading partner (and potential route to Peking, the greater commercial prize). Bogle gained an audience with the Lama (”a fat, short man, and as merry as a Cricket”) and the two struck up a lasting friendship based on mutual curiosity: Bogle gamely exchanged tight breeches for fur-lined robes and learned Tibetan law and language, while the Lama eagerly quizzed his guest on Western practices (Bogle struggled to explain dueling to the nonviolence-practicing Lama). Unfortunately, Kate Teltscher’s The High Road to China loses its momentum when it leaves the Tibetan sojourn behind for less-compelling topics like political rivalries at the East India Company. Still, Teltscher offers a worthwhile footnote to the history of two imperialist empires and a beguiling glimpse of a culture that exists now only in exile. B

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