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Trespassers on the Roof of the World: The Secret Exploration of Tibet (Kodansha Globe) Paperback – April 15, 1995

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Trespassers on the Roof of the World: The Secret Exploration of Tibet (Kodansha Globe) + Foreign Devils on the Silk Road: The Search for the Lost Treasures of Central Asia + The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia (Kodansha Globe)
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Product Details

  • Series: Kodansha Globe
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Kodansha USA; Reprint edition (April 15, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568360509
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568360508
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 0.8 x 5.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #139,647 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Hopkirk (The Great Game: The Struggle for Empire in Central Asia) traces international attempts at breaking Tibet's isolationism since the mid-19th century.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"Hopkirk's wonderfully vivid book describes the...always thrilling efforts of explorers, spies...to plumb Tibet's secrets."-Philadelphia Inquirer

"Hopkirk handles the storytelling with infectious enthusiasm...[with] great and obvious love for the subject, and is one of those British writers who cannot write an awkward of boring sentence."-Bruse Colman, The San Francisco Chronicle

"A lament for a country that, wanting only to be left alone, was hauled unceremoniously into the twentieth century, and is now an unwilling satellite of Communist China."-Richard E. Nicholls, The Philadelphia Inquirer

More About the Author

Peter Hopkirk has traveled widely in the regions where his six books are set - Central Asia, the Caucasus, China, India and Pakistan, Iran, and Eastern Turkey. He has worked as an ITN reporter, the New York correspondent of the old Daily Express, and - for twenty years - on The Times. No stranger to misadventure, he has twice been held in secret police cells and has also been hijacked by Arab terrorists. His works have been translated into fourteen languages.

Customer Reviews

It's a fast read, and is always full of anticipation and intrigue.
This book is a history of the outsiders who have tried to gain entry to Tibet through the centuries.
Amazon Customer
Mr. Hopkirk takes a fascinating piece of history and makes it read like an adventure story.
L. Berlin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Tuan Robo on August 20, 2005
Format: Paperback
If there's ever been a writer of history who captures the essence of Indiana Jones-style adventure, that man is Peter Hopkirk. Having made a career as Our-Man-in-Asia for the London Times, Hopkirk turned from writing news to writing history, in particular the often-overlooked history of Central Asia. He began this phase of his career by writing a history of European encroachment on the Silk Road. He followed this work with Trespassers on The Roof of The World. This history of "the secret exploration of Tibet" is an enjoyable blend of mystery, romance, adventure, history, and journalism.

Trespassers on the Roof of The World traces the history of colonial interlopers in their quest for the legendary city of Lhasa. Hopkirk follows the footsteps of the very first pundits who pioneered the mapping of Tibet and leads his readers through the bloody years of the Red Chinese Cultural Revolution. His treatment is both thorough and comprehensive. The reader first finds that the spirit of James Bond's "Q" was alive and well in the Survey of India, the chief repository of geographic intelligence during the Great Game. The early surveyor-spies for the British Empire were followed in turn by both Men-of-Science and Men (and, perhaps more prominently, Women)-of-God. Explorers of every cut and hue, and finally, the armies, both British and Chinese. Hopkirk treats each one, while intentionally glossing over some of the most celebrated of the Tibetan visitors, such as Heinrich Harrer.

As a collector of "rare books on Central Asia," Hopkirk makes ample use of the most obscure narratives and travel logs, in addition to the archives of the Survey of India and the Royal Geographic Society.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By doomsdayer520 HALL OF FAME on November 2, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is a very entertaining little history book by the master expert on the obscure lands of Central Asia, Peter Hopkirk, who is also an excellent writer. The focus here is an esoteric bit of history which has probably not been covered elsewhere - the race by the outside world to get into mysterious Tibet, and especially its forbidden capital Lhasa. The Tibetans' almost pathological need to be left alone led them to repel anyone from outside shortly after such interlopers crossed the border. Add to that Tibet's inaccessibility, surrounded on three sides by the most impenetrable mountains on Earth, and on the fourth side by equally hostile deserts, all of which many people though the ages have died trying to traverse. Of course this all made outsiders, especially Westerners, yearn to "gatecrash" this forbidden land.
Hopkirk tells the intriguing tales of the various adventurers, diplomats, and missionaries who made the earliest attempts to reach Lhasa, most of whom didn't make it. While mostly unsuccessful in reaching their ultimate goal, these hardy souls still had incredible stories to tell and contributed immensely to the sparse knowledge of Tibet's geography and culture. Included are some unexpected goodies like the story of the indestructible Pundits from India who literally counted the steps they took, plus the earliest deadly attempts to conquer Mt. Everest. The book ends rather depressingly with the story of China's brutal occupation in the 1950's, which ended Tibet's self-imposed isolation once and for all, after which the Chinese closed it off even more tightly because of political paranoia.
Throughout the book, Hopkirk offers some key insights into ancient Tibetan culture and their homegrown brand of extreme Buddhism.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By M. Mcfarland on February 15, 2002
Format: Paperback
Another classic from the Englishman who brought us Great Game tales and the story of China's missing Buddhist artwork.
This time it's the story of the race to be first in Lhasa - even though the Tibetans asked no one to come and gave no one permission to enter their country. An international cast of Russians, North Americans, the French and the British all attempted to win. Hopkirk's tale of heroism and derring-do then ends with the tragic days of the mid-twentieth century when China invaded and Mao's Red Guard fanatics tried to destroy everything that stood in the way of total domination.
Most travellers entered Tibet incognito, either as private travellers hoping to evade detection, and win the prize of being first to enter the sacred city, or in the service of their military or religious masters. All failed, until the legendary Sir Francis Youghusband fought his way there - in true Great Game style - as the head of a British army battalion sent to head off Russian imperial advances into Tibet.
Of course, the Tibetans didn't want the Brits telling them what to do and conflict broke out. These days, the manner of the British victory at Guru - in the modern day Indian state of Sikkim - would be the subject of an international enquiry.
Many of the other tales are also tragic ...Others are heroic. Most spectacular of all were the 'Pundits' - British trained Indian's spies - who entered Tibet disguised as holy travellers and spent years spinning their prayer wheels, counting every pace and mapping every corner of the country for their colonial masters. It's amazing what you can learning from boiling water.
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