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The Horse that Leaps Through Clouds: A Tale of Espionage, the Silk Road, and the Rise of Modern China Hardcover – April 26, 2011

4.1 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Praise for The Horse that Leaps Through Clouds

"Tamm utilizes [Baron Gustaf] Mannerheim's extensive journals to effectively recreate sights and sounds across a vast landscape in an effort to better understand China's future by examining its past." —Publisher's Weekly

"[P]art-travelogue and part-biography with rigorous social historical analysis, [The Horse That Leaps Through Clouds] demands perseverance, and rewards it . . . Tamm offers as lucid an insight into China’s malaise as any foreigner could be expected to provide." —PopMatters.com

"A complicated, ambitious travel adventure through modern Inner Asia . . . a truly inspired journey." —Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

Eric Enno Tamm is an author and journalist. His first book, Beyond the Outer Shores: The Untold Odyssey of Ed Ricketts, the Pioneering Ecologist Who Inspired John Steinbeck and Joseph Campbell, was a Kiriyama Prize Notable Book. His writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times Magazine, San Francisco Chronicle, and the Toronto Star, among others. Tamm currently lives in Ottawa.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint; First Edition edition (April 26, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582437343
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582437347
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 6.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,308,164 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By R. M. Peterson TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 10, 2011
Format: Hardcover
"The horse that leaps through clouds" was Baron Carl Gustaf Mannerheim - one of those people from several generations ago who seemed to lead enough lives and have enough adventures for about ten people of today. He is perhaps THE national hero of Finland. In 1918, Mannerheim led the military forces of the "Whites" in their defeat of Bolshevik armies, thereby securing the liberation and independence of Finland. In 1939, he again assumed command of the Finnish military in its defense against much superior Soviet forces, thwarting the Soviet Union in its campaign to make Finland an occupied satellite. Yet, before the World Wars Mannerheim had been an officer in the Imperial Army of Tsar Nicholas II and, seemingly, a devoted supporter of the Tsar, even when the Tsar was repressing his fellow Finns.

This book was inspired by one of Mannerheim's exploits on behalf of Nicholas II - a two-year espionage mission into Central Asia and China. From 1906 to 1908, Mannerheim, nominally traveling as a Finn collecting archaeological and ethnographic materials for a museum in Helsinki, traversed the remote autonomous areas of Central Asia and on into China, gathering economic, political, and military information for the Tsar. Along the way, in Kashgar, he was given a Chinese passport with a Chinese name - Ma Dahan, which Mannerheim, with both romantic and literary license, translated as "the horse that leaps through clouds".

Author Eric Enno Tamm determined to retrace Mannerheim's journey one century later. THE HORSE THAT LEAPS THROUGH CLOUDS is Tamm's account of both his trek and Mannerheim's. Tamm interweaves the two accounts deftly. Nonetheless, it is Tamm's travels in the latter half of 2006 that constitute the principal reason to read this book.
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Format: Hardcover
Apart from the many parallels between the the treks of 1906 and 2006, I was enthralled by the journey across the southern tier of the former USSR and the journey into China. After reading each chapter, I 'flew' by Google Earth to the locations and opened photos and Youtube sources that showed me the people and geography. The concluding chapters left me wondering about and discussing with friends the issues regarding the final days of the Qing Dynasty and the challenges facing the Chinese Communist Party today. You will not be disappointed with the travel and political observations from the treks.
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Format: Hardcover
In my mind, Eric Enno Tamm's book ought to be at or near the top of everyone's reading list.
It will have special appeal to those of us who have Finnish ancestry because it is about the notable Finn Baron Gustaf Mannerheim, and his espionage expedition (as a Russian spy) from St. Petersburg all the way to Beijing, China, in 1906-08. The title is taken from Mannerheim's Chinese name, Ma Dahan, meaning "the horse that leaps through clouds."
In 2006, Tamm retraces Mannerheim's epic journey across the Silk Road from St. Petersburg to Beijing, and as Tamm has written, "[I] discovered both seismic differences and eerie similarities between the China of today and the country Mannerheim visited a century ago."
Yet, the book is far from being nostalgia for Finns. This is an adventure tale that has the feel of a novel that any reader can enjoy. But even more so, because Tamm is a very knowledgeable historian and critical observer, it is a book that ultimately reminds us of both the immense political and environmental changes that have taken place on this planet in the last 100 years, and at the same time reminds us of all the corrupt political power-tripping that has remained unchanged in that period of time.
Here's a case in point: Tamm, while preparing for his journey following Mannerheim's footsteps across Asia, visited with Craig Murray who was formerly a British ambassador to Uzbekistan. They discussed Murray's involvement in discovering torture practices benefitting both the US and Britain, and they talked about the idea that American involvement in Central Asia was "only about fighting militant Islam."
"The fundamental motives are more basic than that," Murray told me. "It's about oil and gas contracts." That, according to Murray, is the prize in the New Great Game.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I enjoyed learning about parts of the world I rarely think about and many of the parallels between early 20th century history & the present day (e.g., the competition for central Asia, Qin dynasty v. present Chinese rule) and some of the history of China. However, perhaps like the Mannerheim's original work, I found the author's travelogue to be somewhat dry and impersonal. Occasionally the author will mention tiredness or sickness but rarely any elation or disappointment which makes the work difficult to relate to ("which with to relate" if you prefer). A well researched and interesting book nonetheless.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For many years I have been fascinated by the enigma that was, Baron Gustaf Mannerheim. A curious episode in his life was his trek through central Asia to China at the behest of Tsar Nicholas II. Having received a grubbing at the hands of the Japanese a year earlier in a war where they grossly underestimated the capabilities of their enemy, the Russian Emperor was perilously short on solid intellegence about their southern neighbours.
For two years Mannerheim trekked through the southern borderlands of the Russian empire seeking to ascertain the military strength and the political intentions of the Chinese empire. Ostensibly a spying mission under the guise of an anthropological expedition, as with all things concerning Mannerheim, it wasn't as straight forward as it first seemed. Eric Enno Tamm's book retraces Mannerheim's route 100 years later. Tamm uses Mannerheim as his guide and as a framework around which he builds a fascinating travelogue. Tamms erudite and relaxed writing style makes this a relaxing, but at the same time informative read. He wonderfully combines the observations made 100 years ago with the current situation and you are left wondering if anything really changes politically or is history destined to continue repeating itself. The only difference between then and now seems to be that man has managed to pollute horribly what was pure 100 years ago.
I bought this book as a Kindle edition and at the start of each chapter their is a resource link, linked to Tamm's website which has copious information, maps and photographs related to each particular chapter. Unfortunately using this link on my Kindle was frustratingly slow and the maps were hard to discern in black and white, but I think it is a marvelous innovation on Tamm's part to have this in his book.
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