Erik Mueggler is author of 'The Age of Wild Ghosts', a study of the Cultural Revolution and Great Leap Forward (Backward?) on the Yi people of Yunnan. In 'The Paper Road', Mueggler continues his brilliant exploration of the impact of modern history on traditional lives in southwest China. Whereas the earlier anthropological study explored the rapid destruction of village mores, ritual and lives by communist political ideologies of the Chinese revolution, his latest work steps back to the early decades of the 20th Century when Western science sought to extend its knowledge of the botanical riches of Yunnan, Sichuan and the Burmese border areas. In this fascinating and readable account of two of those early explorers (Forrest and Rock), Mueggler contrasts the material worldviews of these Western collectors with the mythic 'mapping' by their local counterparts, the Naxi men who climbed the remote ridges and ancient forests to collect the samples that ended up in Kew, Edinburgh and Harvard. Using the metaphor of the 'road', we tramp with these independent and courageous botanists in these once isolated lands and come to appreciate the wealth of meaning present in the local cultures. Through Mueggler's enchanted writing, the reader ventures further into the complex relations between our Western civilization and the indigenous people whose lives were altered by the extension of the imperial reach into their remote valleys and villages. The remarkable species of plants sent back by these early explorers have already altered the face of European and American gardens, but with this detailed and gently sympathetic study, our minds will better understand now the riches of culture that defined these border communities, as well as the lack of understanding that haunted these social relationships along the Burmese border and Tibetan plateau over a century ago.