The Gobi Desert - The Adventures of Three Women Travelling Across the Gobi Desert in the 1920s New Ed Edition

8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1906393120
ISBN-10: 1906393125
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Trotamundas Press; New Ed edition (June 26, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1906393125
  • ISBN-13: 978-1906393120
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,280,866 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By D.N.Wijewardane on March 7, 2002
Format: Paperback
A serious and very readable account of the travels of two very observant (missionary) ladies in the early part of this century in the Gobi region. This book, illustrated by some fine photos in its early 1940s editions (to which I refer), pays extraordinary and quite sensitive attention to the practices, customs, people and places of this (even now) little known region and it is most creditably written, especially as the writers are Christian missionaries. It is hard to believe that the language and style of this book is over 60 years old. As a (Buddhist) traveller in Central Asia and reader of several books on the region, I would wholeheartedly reccommend this book to anyone interested in this fascinating part of the world.

PS Having travelled several of the routes round the Taklamakan described by the authors in Spring 2004, I would add that the book accurately captured much of the spirit of these lands, even today. I can not really reccommend a more informative (culturally and socially, even allowing for deviations) and vividly written book on the region.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Smallchief on October 18, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This may be the best of many good books about Central Asia and the old Silk Road through the deserts of Western China. Mildred Cable and two sisters, Francesca and Eva French, called themselves the "trio." They were missionaries, already middle aged in 1923 when they began a 13 year journey up and down a thousand miles of caravan route -- the Gansu corridor, the Gobi, the Lob, and the further reaches of Sinjiang. Don't let the word "missionary" put you off as there is not much of religion in this book. Only now and then do the authors remind you of their profession.

The excellence of the book stems from the expertise of the authors who spoke Chinese and had decades of experience in China. They were not casual travelers describing their impressions of places seen once. "We ... spent long years in following trade-routes, tracing faint caravan tracks, searching out innumerable by-paths and exploring the most hidden oases," say the authors. "Five times we traversed the whole length of the desert, and in the process we had become part of its life." What they produced is a vivid picture of life in the oases and along the caravan tracks of Chinese Central Asia

They describe in great and fascinating detail their travel by oxcart caravan from one oasis to the next. We learn of the culture of the oxcart drivers, what they eat, how their food is cooked, and how they pack their carts. Similarly, we learn about Chinese inns, monastaries, archaelogical sites, abandoned cities, and the settled life of oasis towns. Near the end of the book we also see that the life and ancient culture they portray is coming to an end as civil war, communists, and the motor age encroach.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Bob Newman VINE VOICE on August 2, 2001
Format: Paperback
Around my neck of the woods, in eastern Massachusetts, on any Saturday morning except in winter, you can visit an endless number of yard sales. At malls or in specialty shops, you know what you are going to find---in fact you select a particular store to get what you need. Yard sales are different. You never know what you will find; you rummage around and maybe come up with a treasure. At least you can see what weird and wonderful items people have accumulated over a lifetime. Mildred Cable's book on the Gobi Desert reminded me of a yard sale---and I like yard sales.
After many years as missionaries in Shansi province, where they learned fluent Chinese and absorbed the majority culture, Cable and her two female companions, all three Englishwomen, received permission to venture into the deserts of northwestern Kansu and eastern Xinjiang, then still known as Chinese Turkestan. They spent around 13 years, from 1923 to 1936, wandering up and down the rutted desert tracks of this remote area, spreading Bibles and the word of God as known to Christians (and were not excessively denominational about it either). THE GOBI DESERT then, does not exactly cover the whole Gobi Desert, for most of that vast area lies in Mongolia, where the ladies never set foot. It is about the ancient civilizations and mixed ethnic groups (Chinese, Hui, Mongol, Kazakh, Uighur, Manchu, Russian) found in the territory between Suzhou and Urumchi, a breadth of country some 600 miles long, but much narrower due to the lack of water in most of it. The "yard sale" quality of the book lies in the fact that everything is mixed together, but it's all interesting. There are many photographs, but I must say that in my edition (Virago paperback), they were mostly of poor quality.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Patto TOP 500 REVIEWER on September 15, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Mildred Cable and two other female missionaries traversed the Gobi Desert in a small and undefended caravan of carts.

Because they spoke fluent Chinese and were unarmed, they were welcomed everywhere. Because they showed good judgment hiring carters and took local advise, they were able to get over life-threatening terrain. And although they were constantly handing out bibles, they were surprisingly tolerant of forms of spirituality different from their own. This enabled them to converse and make friends far and wide, high and low - and to appreciate the exotic religious cave art along the Silk Road.

These women had incredible adventures. They passed days of unquenchable thirst in a stony, shadeless wilderness, tormented by mirages and sandstorms. They were welcomed as guests in a Mongol yurt, a Muslim harem, a camel-driver's tent, a rebel military camp, and the summer palace of the Khan. They drank tea with young Chinese prostitutes and befriended a Living Buddha trained in esoteric practices. They dressed the wounds of a brigand chief. They dined on imported royal delicacies one day and dough strings and bitter water the next.

The missionaries traveled at three miles an hour through the desert however, and the reader goes not much faster. This is no page-turner. Sometimes I found it fatiguing to get through the wealth of detail, especially the long passages on local uprisings. But the journey was well worth taking. Any reader who loves tales of adventure in exotic realms should find this book a delight.

And even in this day and age, this book is a good preparation for a trip to the Silk Road. It was recommended to me by a frequent traveler to China who's an expert on the Silk Road cave paintings.
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