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Trespassers on the Roof of the World: The Race for Lhasa [Paperback]

Peter Hopkirk
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

19 July 2001
Hidden behind the Himalayas and ruled over by a God-king, Tibet has always cast a powerful spell over travellers from the West. In this remarkable, and ultimately tragic narrative, Peter Hopkirk recounts the forcible opening up of this medieval land during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and the extraordinary race between agents, soldiers, missionaries, mountaineers, explorers, and mystics from nine different countries to reach Lhasa, Tibet's sacred capital. His story concludes with the ultimate act of trespass - the Chinese invasion of 1950.

Product details

  • Paperback: 284 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; New edition edition (19 July 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192802054
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192802057
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 12.8 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,296,295 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


'A marvellous book, well researched and beautifully written - a treat for armchair explorers everywhere' (New Statesman)

'As vivid and gripping as a John Buchan novel' (Evening Standard) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

'A rich harvest of harrowing adventures recounted in fascinating detail' Daily Telegraph

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
In the heart of Central Asia, buttressed by the highest mountains on earth, soars the immense natural fortress of Tibet. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb account of the race for Lhasa 19 April 2004
By A Customer
This is a cracking account by Peter Hopkirk of the Western race for Lhasa in the 19th & early 20th centuries.
Some of the other customer reviews have been luke-warm about the book, but in its defence it is not a book about Tibet, Tibetans or religion - it is exactly what it claims to be, i.e. a series of fascinating stories of western adventurers (plus one Japanese!) told to different levels of detail depending on the merits and information available of each adventurer's journey.
I have to say that I am a big Peter Hopkirk fan so I must disclose my obvious bias here. However, for those that are familiar with some of his other works, I would rate this book alongside his 'The Great Game' and I found that, as a read, it flowed even better than his (very good) works 'Setting the East Ablaze' and 'On Secret Service East of Constantinople'.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tiptoe to Tibet 22 Dec 2009
By G. M. Sinstadt VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
For centuries Tibet was the innermost core of one of the most inaccessible, and therefore most mysterious, places on earth. The country was ringed by mountains and protected by sub-zero temperatures. There was Everest (and possibly an even higher peak). There was Lhasa with its "golden domes like tongues of fire" and its Potala palace of a thousand rooms rising into the clouds from a sheer rock face. There was Tibetan Buddhism which could instal a Dalai Lama from the cradle. Small wonder that the brave and the curious wished to see for themselves.

Stripped to basics, these are adventure stories: Somerset Maugham meets John Buchan. But in detail they are revealed often as accounts of immense courage in overwhelmingly forbidding circumstances, sometimes of almost unbelievable foolhardiness. Remarkably but perhaps not surprisingly, virtually everyone who made the attempt wrote about it afterwards. Hopkirk has read the books, feretted among the official archives, travelled the area himself. The narrative is vivid and anecdotal but there is enough political and historical background to establish context. If the voice is the voice of Empire it is at least authentic.

The reservation of other readers that this book does not look at the trespassers from the point of view of the Tibetans would only be valid if the author had set out to provide a rounded account. But that is matter for other writers with other perspectives. Peter Hopkirk unashamedly sets out to tell the many stories of those who attempted - and mostly failed - to penetrate the forbidden kingdom in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant as ever 31 Dec 2007
Hopkirk has made Central Asia his area of authority and his books on the subject (especially The Great Game) are all superb. He tells the real stories behind such novels as George McDonald Fraser's Flashman series in a way that makes the real-life characters come alive. The subject is thrilling in a boys-own way, but the relevance of this region to modern events is in any case huge, which adds another layer of interest. This is a shortish book, and marginally not as epic as The Great Game, so gets 4*, but I would highly recommend it
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I've just finished this book and can say that Peter Hopkirk knows how to engage the reader. This is history, but not the kind you might learn in the classroom. It is, however, an interesting part of the world that, although no longer closed to foreigners, remains mysterious. I was there in 1993 and fell in love with the place. Having travelled across Tibet from east to west, through 'forbidden' country I can understand just how it must have been for those early pioneers.

Peter Hopkirk manages to keep the interest up throughout the book. He relates his facts like a story unfolding and the reader just wants to keep going. It isn't written in a highbrow way, but it covers everything it aims to and Peter Hopkirk makes no apologies for skipping things he sees as being beyond the scope of the book. I have read two other of Hopkirk's books as well and now intend to read the rest.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A well written, well researched gem of a book 23 July 2001
A chronological review of all the documented attempts to infiltrate Tibet. A fascinating insight into both Tibet and the driving politics of the time.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars from Loftus Road to Lhasa 15 Feb 2004
The book was both of the reviews above, it was a one sided account of the of the attempts to reach Lhasa.But it was was well sourced and researched and although it is now a dated text, and the author did not demonstrate any empathy or understanding of Bhuddism,I enjoyed it and it has encouraged me to read other books on the subject.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The most incredible real adventures ! 20 April 2014
By Harry
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Historian, explorer, military historian or who ever - for anyone with a sense of right and wrong and a sense of adventure (couch or actual) and for those who enjoy cloak without dagger (but still bloodthirsty) tales of yore this amazing compilation of accounts contains such excitement and moves at such pace, the reader won't want to put it down. The need for a country's inviolation and the need of those who must violate. Factual pathos with a modicum of humour but plenty on the edge of the seat.
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