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Mountains of the Middle Kingdom: Exploring the High Peaks of China and Tibet

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This is photojournalist Galen Rowell's acclaimed portrait of the mountain lands of China and Tibet -- a realm the Chinese call the "middle kingdom" between earth and sky, higher and more remote than anywhere else on earth. Rowell's text sets his own adventures in this exotic region against a rich historical and cultural background, recreating the exploits of and describing This is photojournalist Galen Rowell's acclaimed portrait of the mountain lands of China and Tibet -- a realm the Chinese call the "middle kingdom" between earth and sky, higher and more remote than anywhere else on earth. Rowell's text sets his own adventures in this exotic region against a rich historical and cultural background, recreating the exploits of and describing the dramatic changes that recent years have wrought on Chinese life and society. From the palaces of Lhasa to the pristine strongholds of the snow leopard, the 85 splendid color photographs and compelling narrative map a geography that stretches the bounds of imagination.


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This is photojournalist Galen Rowell's acclaimed portrait of the mountain lands of China and Tibet -- a realm the Chinese call the "middle kingdom" between earth and sky, higher and more remote than anywhere else on earth. Rowell's text sets his own adventures in this exotic region against a rich historical and cultural background, recreating the exploits of and describing This is photojournalist Galen Rowell's acclaimed portrait of the mountain lands of China and Tibet -- a realm the Chinese call the "middle kingdom" between earth and sky, higher and more remote than anywhere else on earth. Rowell's text sets his own adventures in this exotic region against a rich historical and cultural background, recreating the exploits of and describing the dramatic changes that recent years have wrought on Chinese life and society. From the palaces of Lhasa to the pristine strongholds of the snow leopard, the 85 splendid color photographs and compelling narrative map a geography that stretches the bounds of imagination.

30 review for Mountains of the Middle Kingdom: Exploring the High Peaks of China and Tibet

  1. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    I didn’t realize what a treasure I gained when I nabbed this at a library book sale. It looks like a coffee-table book of Himalaya mountain photos. But they aren’t just any photos. They are from a master photojournalist and serious adventurer and mountain climber. And the narrative of his trekking and climbing is of historical significance. Rowell in 1980 was among the first set of Westerners allowed access to the mountain provinces of Tibet and neighboring Chinese provinces since being closed o I didn’t realize what a treasure I gained when I nabbed this at a library book sale. It looks like a coffee-table book of Himalaya mountain photos. But they aren’t just any photos. They are from a master photojournalist and serious adventurer and mountain climber. And the narrative of his trekking and climbing is of historical significance. Rowell in 1980 was among the first set of Westerners allowed access to the mountain provinces of Tibet and neighboring Chinese provinces since being closed off to foreigners after the founding of the People Republic in 1949. The book wends its way from mountains to the northwest of Tibet, into inner Tibet, and extending to ranges to the north and east of Tibet. The tour helped me appreciate how vast and remote these regions are, and Rowell does a good job balancing his own discoveries of peoples and places with that of colorful explorers and climbers of the past. On the one hand there is sadness in his learning how much new settlement and development under the communist regime had changed the indigenous cultures and devastated the wildlife, while on the other hand it was a pleasure to experience what aspects of culture and wilderness were still persisting. The intersection of desert and high mountains in the Xinjiang (Sinkiang) province near the borders with Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Kyrgyzstan made for some exquisite visions, such as the huge dune in the Pamir range (note the horsemen for perspective). He compared the feel of the region to Nevada and Utah, the difference being mountain twice the height of those in the U.S. For this section, we are treated to the explorations of Eric Shipton, a British consul in Kashgar in the 40’s. In this area, Rowell participated in the first party to ascend and descend the peak of Mustagh Ata (24,600 ft.) by ski, led by Ned Gilette. A trip through the Tian Shan range highlights the Kirghiz and Uygar tribes, Muslim peoples now dominated by an influx of Han Chinese settlers. The next phase of the book takes you through the Tibetan plateau, a partial climb of Everest (Chomolungma; 29,000 ft.), a review of Mallory’s expeditions, and a visit to the holy capital of Llasa. Mustagh Ata in Xinjiang province near Pakistan (not a Rowell photo) Rainbow over Potala Palace in Llasa Next we move to Minya Konka (Mt. Gongga; 23,000) in the Szechuan (Sichuan) province and Anye Machin (Amne Machin; 20,610) in Qinghai (Kokonor) province. The story of Terris Moore’s climb of the former in 1932 was fascinating to hear about. Rowell was unable to join naturalist and climber George Schaller as planned at his study of pandas in the region initiated in 1981. Anye Machin is a bigger focus for this book. The mountain is so remote that Joseph Rock’s first descriptions of it in the 20’s and the claim it might be higher than Everest (wrong by 10,000 feet), helped stimulate Hilton’s fictional account of Shangri-La (see this article for more information). The main reason it remained relatively unknown to Westerners was the fierce Golok (Golog) peoples who dominated the region from the 7th century. By 1981, this nomadic Buddhist tribe were still holding on to their culture against communist repression and push for assimilation, though more recent information suggests most are now moved to large housing complexes. Rowell used a Golok guide on a 120 mile circumnavigation of Anye Konka, a traditional pilgrimage route. Then he joined Kim Schmitz and Harold Knutson on the first successful climb of its highest peak. Anye Machin, which Rowell's party climbed for the first time (earler claims have been discounted) The book provided me a great introduction to remote regions of China and some great images to go with my in-depth delving into Western intersections with Tibet in Wade’s massive and outstanding book on the British expeditions in the 20’s, Into the Silence . The prose in this book is surprisingly good sometimes, such as in this paragraph on the paradoxes of the Tibetan people: Tibetan culture is full of what appear to be paradoxes. The land itself has extreme alternations of season, and a rugged appearance with a most fragile dusting of soil. Village life sets the broght exterior splendor of nature against the dark interior worlds of the home and the monastery. Individuals display opposite personality traits, which would be deemed contradictory in the logic-ridden Western world: extreme generosity and extreme cruelty, spontaneous laughter and mystical ritual, orthodoxy and tolerance, superstition and sagacity.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Terry

    This looks like a book of photographs and the author is a renowned climber/photographer, but I found the narrative more engaging. China's has three substantial ranges and a long history of exploration. Rowell talks about the tension between natives, British, Russian, and Chinese colonial power. The result is that Mao decimated these lands and cultures. Another result is that modern (1980s) is absurd with bureaucracy and difficulties. This looks like a book of photographs and the author is a renowned climber/photographer, but I found the narrative more engaging. China's has three substantial ranges and a long history of exploration. Rowell talks about the tension between natives, British, Russian, and Chinese colonial power. The result is that Mao decimated these lands and cultures. Another result is that modern (1980s) is absurd with bureaucracy and difficulties.

  3. 4 out of 5

    John Mattson

    The Middle kingdom refers to Tibet, and similar surrounding areas that have been closed to foreigners throughout most of recent history. Galen Rowell managed to get permits to access many of these areas, and his photos and stories are astounding. They include a great deal of history, as well as his private adventures and reveal many secret places from an incredible portion of world geography.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Wade

    Beautiful insight into the region. I am not aware of another book that covers the topic so well.

  5. 4 out of 5

    David Miller

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jim Sanderson

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jordan

  8. 4 out of 5

    Paul

  9. 5 out of 5

    Charles Hoots

  10. 4 out of 5

    Colin Stump

  11. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Sims

  12. 4 out of 5

    cheryl kikkert

  13. 5 out of 5

    John

  14. 4 out of 5

    Tom Spille

  15. 4 out of 5

    Linda

  16. 5 out of 5

    Bill

  17. 5 out of 5

    P_Racemosa

  18. 4 out of 5

    Charles

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jules

  20. 4 out of 5

    Huw Thomas

  21. 4 out of 5

    John

  22. 4 out of 5

    James

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kenzie Schaffer

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kyla

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jay

  27. 5 out of 5

    Rudy Seifert

  28. 4 out of 5

    Grant

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tom Carter

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