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

Alexandra David-Neel
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

23 Aug 2005

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 beggar with yak hair extensions and inked skin and tackled some of the roughest terrain and climate in the World. With the help of her young companion, Yongden, she willingly suffered the primitive travel conditions, frequent outbreaks of disease, the ever–present danger of border control and the military to reach her goal.

The determination and sheer physical fortitude it took for this woman, delicately reared in Paris and Brussels, is inspiration for men and women alike.

David–Neel is famous for being the first Western woman to have been received by any Dalai Lama and as a passionate scholar and explorer of Asia, hers is one of the most remarkable of all travellersߴales.

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My Journey to Lhasa: The Classic Story of the Only Western Woman Who Succeeded in Entering the Forbidden City + Magic and Mystery in Tibet + The Secret Oral Teachings in Tibetan Buddhist Sects
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Product details

  • Paperback: 376 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (23 Aug 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060596554
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060596552
  • Product Dimensions: 20.5 x 13.6 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 420,722 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


“David-Neel was indisputably a fearless traveler, a rogue’s rogue. Her account has the power to awe even today.” (Outside magazine)

About the Author

An indomitable traveler, singer, journalist, and religious adept, Alexandra David-Neel (1868–1969) was awarded a Gold Medal by the Geographical Society of Paris and was made a Knight of the Legion of Honor.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By BrynG
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I wont get into a debate about how much of this book is or isn't factual. My only wonder is, given that it covers a very long walk pretending to be a beggar on a pilgrimage to Lhasa in the company of her adopted son the lama Jongden, is just how did she record everything that is depicted in this book?
Setting that query aside though, this book tells a truly amazing story of how the author made her way from China all the way to the fabled Forbidden City of Lhasa. Although she wasn't the first westerner to get there (the British forces were in the country), her story is made all the more remarkable given the fact that she had to do her travelling in secret.
The book, despite its age (it was first published in 1927), is very readable. I found the descriptions of both the landscape and, in particular the people she meets along the way, both interesting and convincing.
Given the Shangri-La status in which Tibet is viewed today there is a fair amount of debunking contained within these pages. For example, not all Tibetans turn out to be peace loving, animal loving, caring and spiritual. Indeed along the way she comes across robbers, excessive violence/abuse and a great deal of superstition by the uneducated. Indeed the Tibetan propensity for superstition is used by the author and her companion to extricate themselves from some difficult circumstances.
However, despite the hardships and the unsavoury nature of some of the people she meets on her journey, Alexandra David-Neel is a lover and academic of all Tibetan culture and religion(s), and this comes across strongly. Additionally, and to me surprisingly, there is also the occasional sense of humour evident.
Well worth a read by anyone interested in the life of the ordinary peasants of Tibet before the country was opened up to external influences.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My Journey to Lhasa by Alexandra David-Neel 29 Nov 2009
A wonderful insight into old Tibet before the Chinese invasion by an admirable Buddhist scholar, who used all her many talents to walk to Lhasa over high mountain passes in winter - a real life adventure by a brave, tenacious and admirable woman, the first European woman in Lhasa. Absolutely fascinating.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderful autobiography 6 Feb 2013
By vbspots
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I read this book over 20 years ago and it is one of the books that has stayed with me since. Alexandra David-Neels heart must have been huge, to take on the hardships of this journey through Tibet a hundred years ago. But the book is not about hardship, it is a love story with Tibet and a journey into tibetan buddhism, - a wonderful book.
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9 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comment of Book and Prefaces 3 Nov 2005
By A Customer
This is a superb book -- brilliantly written -- with lots of detail that never tire the reader. Morevoer, in reading Madame David-Neal's account of what effort and ingenuity it took her to WALK to Lhasa, one is almost humbled and will refrain, forever, complaining about any "hardship" of modern air travel.
The only deplorable aspect of the publication are the two Prefaces. The long one, by a writer unknown to me, gives the distinct impression of that writer NOT having read Madame David-Neal's book. Had she done so, she might have noticed that the Tibet of that time was anything but "Paradise," depicted in Hilton's "Shangri-La," but rather "Hell" for the common people. Moreover, the shift of authority from the Chinese overlords to the "Powers in Lhasa" at the decline of the Ching dynasty, according to Madame David-Neal, had led to a deterioration of the living standards of the Tibetans.
Even His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, in the shorter Preface seems to be oblivious to the hardship of the Tibetan population when he deplores that much of what Madame David-Neal describes is gone today. True, it is -- but much of what is gone should never have existed; such as the poverty of the rural population, the abuse of the ruling classes, that were occupying themselves even in the 1950s building yet another palace for the 14th Dalai Lama in NorbulingKa (where there were already two), keeping the population in ignorance and religious adoration -- presumably to rule them more easily (similar to the Catholic Church in Medieval Europe).
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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars travel and adventure 24 Jun 2011
By xanadu
Its difficult to take everything here at face value, why does she take a watch and themometer and tent (remember this would have been canvas and really heavy when wet)but no hat or blanket. Why did she go in winter, and how did she find the track under the snow? and how come she never got sick? Leaving these questions to one side this is a very entertaining story, is it the whole truth, I doubt it, indeed someone wrote a book claiming she never made the journey!. There is a supposed photo of her in front of the Potala in Lhasa which seems unlikely, But on balance I would imagine she did make this incredible journey.
Some women see her as a feminist icon, but against that she seems to have treated her husband badly and poor Yongden who came back with her to France later died an alcoholic I believe, never breaking free from her. She may have been the first western woman ( not the only woman) to have reached Lhasa but of course many western men had been there before.She certainly helped to popularise Buddhism in the west, and lived to 100 still keen to go back to the "Land of Snows"
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