The High Road to China traces two extraordinary journeys across some of
the harshest and highest terrain in the world: the first British mission to
Tibet, and the Panchen Lama's state visit to China to mark the emperor's
In the late eighteenth century, with its empire
expanding, the British sought a commercial opening to China, which was closed to
outsiders; and they saw a possible advocate with Peking in the Panchen Lama, the
spiritual leader of the Buddhist people of Tibet. The British envoy, a young
Scot named George Bogle, sought an opening to China through negotiations with
the Panchen Lama's envoy, a Hindu monk and trader, and then through the
incarnate deity himself. All the while, he kept a journal, in prose that is by
turns playful, self-deprecating, grandiose, and shrewd, and through his words
Kate Teltscher makes this meeting of two worlds palpably real to the reader.
The High Road to China brings the pleasures of narrative history to bear
on a crucial turning point in history, one whose effects are still being felt.
High Road to China, Kate Teltscher, Farrar Straus Giroux, Paperback, 2007, 316 Pages, $18.95
Kate Teltscher is a contributor to The Times Literary Supplement and The Guardian, and is the author of India Inscribed: European and British Writing on India.