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The high road to China - Kate Teltscher

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The high road to China - George Bogle, the Panchen Lama and the first British expedition to Tibet
Kate Teltscher
UK Publication Date

In 1774 the head of the East India Company in Bengal, Warren Hastings, determined to open trade relations with the hitherto impenetrable court of imperial China. To this end he entrusted the young Scotsman George Bogle to be the first British envoy to Tibet. Once there, Bogle attempted to enlist the influence of the Panchen Lama in a bid to attract the sympathy of the Qianlong Emperor; a hard task, for the imperial court generally viewed trade with disdain, and took an altogether dim view of the British Empire.
But what began as an unprecedented diplomatic mission soon acquired a different character. Bogle became smitten by what he saw, and in particular by the person of the Panchen Lama himself, with whom he struck up a remarkable friendship, fuelled by a reciprocal desire for understanding. And as for Tibet: 'When I look upon the time I have spent among the Hills it appears like a fairy dream.' Bogle's letters and journals, by turns playful, penetrating, self-deprecating and packed with engaging detail, were to help create the myth of Tibet in the West, the Shangri-La so familiar to us today.
This book tells the story of the British attempt to reach the Qianlong Emperor's ear, a narrative of two extraordinary journeys across some of the harshest and highest terrain in the world: Bogle's mission, and the Panchen Lama's state visit to China, on which British hopes were hung. Piecing together the narrative from Bogle's private papers, Tibetan biographies of the Panchen Lama, the account of a wandering Hindu monk, and the writings of the Qianlong Emperor himself, Kate Teltscher deftly reconstructs the momentous meeting of four very different worlds.

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Kate Teltscher is a Senior Lecturer in English Literature at Roehampton University. She studied at the University of York and was a North Senior scholar at St John's College, Oxford. She has published numerous essays in academic collections and journals, and reviewed for theGuardianand the TLS.

Her doctoral research, a study of British and European writing on India in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, was published asIndia Inscribed (Oxford University Press, 1995). The High Road to China is her first book for a general readership.

'A wonderful book, absolutely compelling - partly because the two journeys, Bogle's to Tibet and the Panchen Lama's to China, give it a structure full of suspense and expectation, but mainly because the material is so beautifully organised to bring this out. The exoticism - clothes, food, buildings - is ravishing. I am quite certain that readers will find it irresistible.'
John Carey

'Thrilling and fascinating - Kate Teltscher makes us feel the awe of her hero, young Bogle, on his journey through India and Tibet to meet the Panchen Lama, but she also takes us further, on the Lama's own thousand-mile journey to the sumptuous summer court of the greatest Chinese emperor, Qianlong. Letters, journals and documents are woven into the flowing narrative, which is wonderfully vivid and evocative - reeds, tents, people, food, silks, clothes, weather. And the intimate drama is underpinned by a clear understanding of the power struggles of the day, of the mutual wariness - and explotiation - of Oriental and European rulers, and the fascination for Enlightenment writers of societies very different to their own.'
Jenny Uglow

"Fascinating … an extraordinary narrative about 18th-century precursors of the Great Game, set in India, Tibet and China, dominated by marvellous characters and told with a rare mixture of scholarly learning and enthusiast's fizz."
Jan Morris

Keyword Index
Panchen lamas.|Scots - Travel - China - Tibet.|Tibet (China) - Discovery and exploration, British.|Tibet (China) - History - 18th century.|Tibet (China) - Civilization - 18th century.
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