In My Hands Today…

Jade Dragon Mountain – Elsa Hart

23848327On the mountainous border of China and Tibet in 1708, a detective must learn what a killer already knows: that empires rise and fall on the strength of the stories they tell.

Li Du was an imperial librarian. Now he is an exile. Arriving in Dayan, the last Chinese town before the Tibetan border, he is surprised to find it teeming with travelers, soldiers, and merchants. All have come for a spectacle unprecedented in this remote province: an eclipse of the sun commanded by the Emperor himself.

When a Jesuit astronomer is found murdered in the home of the local magistrate, blame is hastily placed on Tibetan bandits. But Li Du suspects this was no random killing. Everyone has secrets: the ambitious magistrate, the powerful consort, the bitter servant, the irreproachable secretary, the East India Company merchant, the nervous missionary, and the traveling storyteller who can’t keep his own story straight.

Beyond the sloping roofs and festival banners, Li Du can see the mountain pass that will take him out of China forever. He must choose whether to leave, and embrace his exile, or to stay, and investigate a murder that the town of Dayan seems all too willing to forget.

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In My Hands Today…

Last Seen in Lhasa: The story of an extraordinary friendship in modern Tibet – Claire Scobie

1282802Some go to Tibet seeking inspiration, others for adventure. The award-winning journalist, Claire Scobie, found both when she left her ordinary life in London and went to the Himalayas in search of a rare red lily. Her journey took her to Pemako, where few Westerners have set foot and where the myth of Shangri-la was born. It was here she became friends with Ani, an unusual Tibetan nun who was to change her life.

Through seven journeys in Tibet, Claire chronicles a rapidly changing world — where monks talk on mobiles and Lhasa’s sex industry thrives. But it is Ani, a penniless wanderer with a rich heart, who leaves an indelible impression. Together, in a culture where freedom of expression is forbidden, they risk arrest. And they forge an abiding friendship, based on intuition and deep respect.

In My Hands Today…

Bone Mountain – Eliot Pattison

435631When disgraced former inspector, Shan Tao Yun joins a group of reverent Tibetans returning a sacred artefact to its home, it seems he has at last found the peace he has struggled for since leaving prison. What starts as a spiritual pilgrimage, however, quickly turns into a desperate flight through the Tibetan wilderness as the outlawed monk who guides them is murdered and Sham discovers that the artefact has recently been stolen from the Chinese army.

But why is the army so desperate to find the artefact entrusted to Shan? Why is an aged medicine lama being stalked by government agents? Why has an American woman, a geologist for an oil company, abandoned the project and fled into the mountains? Shan discovers not answers, but only new mysteries as he is drawn to such unexpected places as the raucous headquarters base of the Western oil venture and a monastery that seems more attuned to the teachings of the party than those of Buddha. And the further he travels into the mountains, the more Shan realises that what is at stake is not only justice but the spiritual survival of those who have joined his strange quest. At the heart of Pattison’s powerful tale is a story of a brave, oppressed people who have learned to endure by drawing strength from their land and their rich spiritual traditions.

In My Hands Today…

The Heart of the World: A Journey to the Last Secret Place – Ian Baker

The myth of Shangri-la originates in Tibetan Buddhist beliefs in beyul, or hidden lands, sacred sanctuaries that reveal themselves to devout pilgrims and in times of crisis. The more remote and inaccessible the beyul, the vaster its reputed qualities. Ancient Tibetan prophecies declare that the greatest of all hidden lands lies at the heart of the forbidding Tsangpo Gorge, deep in the Himalayas and veiled by a colossal waterfall. Nineteenth-century accounts of this fabled waterfall inspired a series of ill-fated European expeditions that ended prematurely in 1925 when the intrepid British plant collector Frank Kingdon-Ward penetrated all but a five-mile section of the Tsangpo’s innermost gorge and declared that the falls were no more than a “religious myth” and a “romance of geography.” The heart of the Tsangpo Gorge remained a blank spot on the map of world exploration until world-class climber and Buddhist scholar Ian Baker delved into the legends. Whatever cryptic Tibetan scrolls or past explorers had said about the Tsangpo’s innermost gorge, Baker determined, could be verified only by exploring the uncharted five-mile gap. After several years of encountering sheer cliffs, maelstroms of impassable white water, and dense leech-infested jungles, on the last of a series of extraordinary expeditions, Baker and his National Geographic-sponsored team reached the depths of the Tsangpo Gorge. They made news worldwide by finding there a 108-foot-high waterfall, the legendary grail of Western explorers and Tibetan seekers alike.

In My Hands Today…

A Home in Tibet – Tsering Wangmo Dhompa

When her mother dies in a car accident along a great highway in India, far from her country and her family, Tsering decides to take a handful of her ashes to Tibet. She arrives at the foothills of her mother’s ancestral home in a nomadic village in East Tibet to realize that she had been preparing for this homecoming all her life. Everything is familiar to her, especially the flowers of the Tibetan summer. She understands then the gift her mother had bequeathed her: the love of a land.

A Home in Tibet is a daughter’s haunting tribute to a mother and a homeland. A story about the love between a mother and a daughter who only had each other as family and refuge, it gestures to the journeys made by those exiled from their lands, and the dreams of daughters.

In My Hands Today…

To A Mountain in Tibet – Colin Thubron

Mount Kailas is the most sacred of the world’s mountains – holy to one-fifth of humanity. Isolated beyond the central Himalayas, its summit has never been scaled, but for centuries the mountain has been ritually circled by Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims. Colin Thubron joins these pilgrims, after an arduous trek from Nepal, through the high passes of Tibet, to the magical lakes beneath the slopes of Kailas itself. He talks to secluded villagers and to monks in their decaying monasteries; he tells the stories of exiles and of eccentric explorers from the West. Yet he is also walking on a pilgrimage of his own. Having recently witnessed the death of the last of his family, his trek around the great mountain awakens an inner landscape of love and grief, restoring precious fragments of his own.