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SMITHSONIAN JOURNEYS

Classic China & Tibet

READING AND TRAVEL GUIDE

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Books for

Enrich your travels with reading! Here's a hand-picked list prepared for your journey in conjunction with the book experts at Longitude.

Essential Reading

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My Journey to Lhasa

My Journey to Lhasa

by Alexandra David-Neel

  • TRAVEL NARRATIVE
  • 2005
  • PAPER
  • 317 PAGES

Dressed as a humble pilgrim and traveling under the cover of night, the indomitable 55-year-old David-Neel and her young companion climbed mountains and tricked soldiers to ultimately reach Tibet's forbidden capital. Originally published in 1923, her account stands as a riveting portrait of early 20th-century Tibet. (TBT26, $14.99)

Lonely Planet Discover China

Lonely Planet Discover China

by Lonely Planet

  • GUIDEBOOK
  • 2013
  • PAPER
  • 448 PAGES

Focusing on must-see and memorable places and experiences, this all-color guide by the discerning editors at Lonely Planet features hundreds of color photographs and maps, suggested tours and itineraries along with not-to-be-missed places to stay, eat, shop and see. (CHN674, $27.99)

Insight Guide China

Insight Guide China

by Manfred Morganstern

  • GUIDEBOOK
  • 2013
  • PAPER
  • 411 PAGES

This lavishly illustrated guide includes essays on the history, politics and culture of China with hundreds of color photographs, providing a concise, informative introduction to the country. (CHN05, $24.99)

China Adventure Map

China Adventure Map

by National Geographic

  • 2011
  • MAP

A double-sided, full-color map of China, at a useful scale of 1:4,375,000, which shows roads and cities. Printed on tear- and water-resistant paper. (CHN06, $11.95)

 
Culture Smart! China

Culture Smart! China


by Kathy Flower

  • GUIDEBOOK
  • 2010
  • PAPER
  • 168 PAGES

This is a handy guide to local customs, etiquette and culture. (CHN434, $9.95)

Eyewitness Top 10 Beijing

Eyewitness Top 10 Beijing


by Eyewitness Guides

  • GUIDEBOOK
  • 2013
  • PAPER
  • 128 PAGES

A compact, illustrated guide in the popular series, featuring favorite attractions in Beijing. (CHN427, $14.00)

Lonely Planet Mandarin Phrasebook

Lonely Planet Mandarin Phrasebook


by Hua-Yuan L. Mowry | Justin Ben-Adam Rudelson

  • LANGUAGE & PHRASEBOOKS
  • 2012
  • PAPER
  • 256 PAGES

A handy phrasebook for basic Mandarin, focusing on pronunciation, grammar and essential vocabulary for the traveler. (CHN72, $8.99)

Lonely Planet Tibetan Phrasebook

Lonely Planet Tibetan Phrasebook


by Sandup Tsering

  • LANGUAGE & PHRASEBOOKS
  • 2014
  • PAPER
  • 256 PAGES

A brief guide with place names, pronunciation and common phrases. (TBT52, $8.99)

Odyssey Guide Xi'an, Shaanxi & the Terracotta Army

Odyssey Guide Xi'an, Shaanxi & the Terracotta Army


by Kevin Bishop

  • GUIDEBOOK
  • 2009
  • PAPER
  • 336 PAGES

With color photographs, insightful essays on culture and history, site plans and places of interest in and around China's ancient capital. (CHN34, $24.95)

Anxious Wealth, Money and Morality Among China's New Rich

Anxious Wealth, Money and Morality Among China's New Rich


by John Osburg

  • CULTURAL PORTRAIT
  • 2013
  • PAPER
  • 248 PAGES

An anthropologist with an interest in networking and deal-making, Osburg immersed himself in the social hangouts of China's rich -- karaoke clubs, saunas and massage parlors that cater specifically to the wealthy and powerful. (CHN754, $22.95)

Before the Deluge, The Vanishing World of the Yangtze's Three Gorges

Before the Deluge, The Vanishing World of the Yangtze's Three Gorges


by Deirdre Chetham

  • CULTURAL PORTRAIT
  • 2004
  • PAPER
  • 306 PAGES

A vivid portrait of the Three Gorges region of the Upper Yangtze River, by the director of the Asia Center at Harvard. Chetham offers a personal, detailed glimpse into the daily life along the river, its spectacular natural beauty and checkered history, including recent efforts to tame it. (CHN132, $26.00)

China Shakes the World

China Shakes the World


by James Kynge

  • HISTORY
  • 2007
  • PAPER
  • 270 PAGES

China Bureau Chief for the Financial Times, Beijing-based Kynge brings experience and perspective to this very readable, enlightening report on the transformation of China today. (CHN353, $14.95)

Deng Xiaoping and the Transformation of China


by Ezra F. Vogel

  • HISTORY
  • 2011
  • HARD COVER
  • 876 PAGES

Henry Ford II professor of the social sciences emeritus at Harvard, Vogel disentangles in this monumental new biography the contradictions, life and legacy of China's boldest strategist. (CHN692, $39.95)

Essential Tibetan Buddhism

Essential Tibetan Buddhism


by Robert Thurman

  • RELIGION
  • 1996
  • PAPER
  • 317 PAGES

The foremost Western scholar of Tibetan Buddhism, Thurman has chosen well from that tradition's sacred literature and helpfully includes suggested further reading, explanatory notes and a directory of sacred sites. (TBT15, $14.99)

Postcards from Tomorrow Square

Postcards from Tomorrow Square


by James Fallows

  • HISTORY
  • 2008
  • PAPER
  • 288 PAGES

Ranging from politics to society and business, these richly observed, candid essays capture the complexity, tumult and promise of modern China. A correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly, where these essays first appeared, Fallows and his wife moved to China in 2006. (CHN559, $15.00)

Shanghai, The Rise and Fall of the Decadent City 1842-1949

Shanghai, The Rise and Fall of the Decadent City 1842-1949


by Stella Dong

  • HISTORY
  • 2001
  • PAPER
  • 318 PAGES

A riveting portrait of "the most pleasure-mad, rapacious, corrupt, strife-ridden, licentious, squalid and decadent city in the world." (CHN128, $15.99)

The Open Road

The Open Road


by Pico Iyer

  • CULTURAL PORTRAIT
  • 2009
  • PAPER
  • 288 PAGES

Travel writer Pico Iyer was a graduate student in Britain when he first met the Dalai Lama. Here he draws on his long association with the man and his ideas, painting a remarkable portrait of the Tibetan people and the aspirations of their leader. (TBT118, $15.95)

The Snow Lion and the Dragon, China, Tibet and the Dalai Lama

The Snow Lion and the Dragon, China, Tibet and the Dalai Lama


by Melvyn C. Goldstein

  • HISTORY
  • 1997
  • PAPER
  • 130 PAGES

A brief history of the relationship of China and Tibet in the 20th century. Goldstein, a professor of history and expert on the region, includes a call for the United States to take an active role in mediating a diplomatic solution to the conflict. (TBT23, $26.95)

Tibet, An Enduring Civilization

Tibet, An Enduring Civilization


by Francoise Pommaret

  • CULTURAL PORTRAIT
  • 2003
  • PAPER
  • 160 PAGES

This pocket-size encyclopedia, packed with hundreds of full-color illustrations and photos, highlights the culture and history of Tibet. Pommaret, who has written widely on the Himalayas, devotes a section to Tibet today, titled Invasion and Colonization. (TBT69, $12.95)

Tibet, An Inner Journey

Tibet, An Inner Journey


by Matthieu Ricard

  • CULTURAL PORTRAIT
  • 2012
  • PAPER
  • 232 PAGES

Ricard draws on his long association with the region and Buddhism for this collection of 191 vivid color photographs of the people and landscapes of Kham, or Eastern Tibet. (TBT113, $19.95)

Trespassers on the Roof of the World

Trespassers on the Roof of the World


by Peter Hopkirk

  • HISTORY
  • 1995
  • PAPER
  • 288 PAGES

Hopkirk's spellbinding history of the uninvited exploration of Tibet from the 19th century to the present, including a fantastic array of Victorian adventurers. His wild tale has as its centerpiece the 1949-1951 invasion by China. (TBT08, $16.00)

Understanding China

Understanding China


by John Bryan Starr

  • HISTORY
  • 2010
  • PAPER
  • 400 PAGES

A Yale professor's essential primer on the history, politics and economy of China. A succinct and refreshingly forthright best-selling guide, this third edition brings us right up to date with events in the rapidly evolving nation. (CHN196, $17.95)

Art of Tibet

Art of Tibet


by Robert Fisher

  • ART & ARCHITECTURE
  • 1997
  • PAPER
  • 224 PAGES

A concise survey of the culture and religion of Tibet as expressed through its art. With 200 illustrations of monasteries, painting and sculpture throughout the country. (TBT13, $21.95)

The River at the Center of the World

The River at the Center of the World


by Simon Winchester

  • EXPLORATION
  • 2004
  • PAPER
  • 410 PAGES
  • FAVORITE

With ease and grace, Winchester writes about the character of the Yangtze and the people and places along its banks. An absorbing portrait of the great river which flows through the heart of China. (CHN31, $17.00)

China Road

China Road


by Rob Gifford

  • TRAVEL NARRATIVE
  • 2008
  • PAPER
  • 368 PAGES

NPR's Gifford writes with warmth and affection of his encounters with truckers, small farmers and regular folk along fabled Route 312 from Shanghai to the border of Kazakhstan. (CHN433, $17.00)

Country Driving

Country Driving


by Peter Hessler

  • TRAVEL NARRATIVE
  • 2011
  • PAPER
  • 480 PAGES

Opening with an eventful 7,000-mile road trip across northern China, Peter Hessler (River Town, Oracle Bones) shows the absurdity, humor and hope of China in this latest portrait of a nation catapulted into the modern world. (CHN600, $15.99)

Dreaming in Chinese, Mandarin Lessons in Life, Love, and Language

Dreaming in Chinese, Mandarin Lessons in Life, Love, and Language


by Deborah Fallows

  • BIOGRAPHY/MEMOIR
  • 2011
  • PAPER
  • 208 PAGES

A linguist, living in Shanghai and Beijing with her journalist-husband James (Postcards from Tomorrow Square) the exuberant Deborah Fallows illuminates the Chinese worldview through language in playful, anecdotal essays, documenting her own missteps and growing understanding with self-deprecating humor. (CHN648, $14.00)

Mao Zedong

Mao Zedong


by Jonathan Spence

  • BIOGRAPHY/MEMOIR
  • 2006
  • PAPER
  • 192 PAGES

Yale sinologist, writer and historian Spence tracks the life of the architect of the People's Republic from his provincial upbringing to his savage three-decade rule. (CHN66, $15.00)

Marco Polo, From Venice to Xanadu

Marco Polo, From Venice to Xanadu


by Laurence Bergreen

  • BIOGRAPHY/MEMOIR
  • 2008
  • PAPER
  • 432 PAGES

Bergreen brings to life ancient traders, despots, conquerors and, especially, the fabled lands of the Silk Road in this vivid tale, weaving his own adventures from Venice to Mongolia and on to China with those of the 13th-century Venetian merchant. (EXP49, $18.95)

Oracle Bones

Oracle Bones


by Peter Hessler

  • TRAVEL NARRATIVE
  • 2007
  • PAPER
  • 512 PAGES

In this fine portrait of tumult and tradition, Hessler (River Town) finds clues to modern China's realities in the personal stories of peasants, scholars, day laborers and activists. (CHN316, $15.99)

Seven Years in Tibet

Seven Years in Tibet


by Heinrich Harrer

  • BIOGRAPHY/MEMOIR
  • 2009
  • PAPER
  • 352 PAGES

First published in 1953, this is the riveting account of a young Austrian adventurer and mountaineer who became tutor to the Dalai Lama. (TBT02, $14.95)

To a Mountain in Tibet

To a Mountain in Tibet


by Colin Thubron

  • TRAVEL NARRATIVE
  • 2012
  • PAPER
  • 256 PAGES

The intrepid, soulful Colin Thubron journeys from Nepal to Kailash, the revered mountain, "source of the universe, created from cosmic waters and the mind of Brahma," in his most revealing book yet. A New York Times Notable Book. (TBT134, $15.99)

Wild Swans, Three Daughters of China

Wild Swans, Three Daughters of China


by Jung Chang

  • BIOGRAPHY/MEMOIR
  • 2003
  • PAPER
  • 524 PAGES
  • FAVORITE

In this riveting tale of three generations spanning the end of Old China, Mao's regime and the Japanese occupation, Chang chronicles the enormous changes in China since 1929. (CHN04, $18.00)

China, A Traveler's Literary Companion

China, A Traveler's Literary Companion


by Kirk Denton

  • ANTHOLOGY
  • 2008
  • PAPER
  • 231 PAGES

An introduction both to China's finest modern writers and its diverse cultures, concerns and landscapes, organized geographically. (CHN520, $14.95)

The Good Earth

The Good Earth


by Pearl Buck

  • LITERATURE
  • 1994
  • PAPER
  • 379 PAGES

The modern classic that won the Pulitzer Prize in 1931. Drawing heavily on Buck's personal experience as a young newlywed in rural China, it is the plainly told story of a poor farmer and his stalwart wife. (CHN15, $16.00)

More Recommendations

Here are some other groups of books that might be of interest

Longitude provides recommended reading for travelers in partnership with the leading tour operators and travel programs for hundreds of destinations worldwide. We've got the classic, new and hard-to-find books and maps to help you get the most out of your adventures.