Frontiers of Heaven
For the Chinese the Great Wall defined a psychological frontier. Within it lay the Celestial Kingdom, the compass of all civilisation. Beyond lay a barbarian world of chaos and exile. Chinese journeys to the west, along the ancient Silk Road, were passages into the unknown, often into legend. Today the great western province of Xinjiang is still the land of exile, the destination of soldiers, reluctant settlers, political prisoners and disgraced officials.
Following in their wake, Stanley Stewart journeys halfway across Asia, from Shanghai to the banks of the Indus, and along the way encounters the modern Chinese for whom these regions beyond the Wall still hold the same morbid fascination.
Whether describing the lost cities of Central Asia, a Buddhist monastery in the shadow of Tibet, a Kirghiz wedding on the roof of the world, ballroom dancing in the Mountains of Heaven, an escape form the secret police in Kashgar, or a love affair in Xi’an, Stewart tells his story with wit, charm and affection.
‘Stewart must now be considered among the very first rank of contemporary travel writers.’
Times Literary Supplement
‘The book is full of the kind of lively encounter that most people find only in great literature … Stewart’s excellent narrative brings the Great Wall that much closer.
‘This is not travel without a purpose; it’s pure gratification, a fine addition to what is called “loiterature”’
The New York Times
‘Stewart is a master at weaving history and geography into cleverly reconstructed observations and encounters that range from the merely curious to the heartily bizarre.’
‘Bewitching.. subtle observation runs like a fine silk thread through the text.’
‘Elegant and witty… if you read no other travel book this year – read this.’