The Horse That Leaps Through Clouds

A Tale of Espionage, the Silk Road, and the Rise of Modern China

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Book Description

On July 6, 1906, Baron Gustaf Mannerheim boarded the midnight train from St. Petersburg, charged by Czar Nicholas II to secretly collect intelligence on the Qing Dynasty’s sweeping reforms that were radically transforming China. The last czarist agent in the so–called Great Game, Mannerheim chronicled almost every facet of China’s modernization, from education reform and foreign investment to Tibet’s struggle for independence.

On July 6, 2006, writer Eric Enno Tamm boards that same train, intent on following in Mannerheim’s footsteps. Initially banned from China, Tamm devises a cover and retraces Mannerheim’s route across the Silk Road, discovering both eerie similarities and seismic differences between the Middle Kingdoms of today and a century ago.

Along the way, Tamm offers piercing insights into China’s past that raise troubling questions about its future. Can the Communist Party truly open China to the outside world yet keep Western ideas such as democracy and freedom at bay, just as Qing officials mistakenly believed? What can reform during the late Qing Dynasty teach us about the spectacular transformation of China today? As Confucius once wrote, “Study the past if you would divine the future,” and that is just what Tamm does in The Horse that Leaps Through Clouds.

About the Author

Praise For This Book

Praise for The Horse That Leaps Through Clouds

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

"Following in the footsteps of Baron Carl Gustav Mannerheim, the last Tsarist spy in the so–called Great Game, Tamm has written a grand sweep of a narrative. It combines a long and arduous physical journey—9 months and 17,000 kilometers from St. Petersburg across the Tibetan Plateau and the Gobi desert to Beijing—with the revelations of high stakes history—espionage in virtually unknown territory in the early years of the twentieth century. At its core, this is a journey into the soul of the Middle Kingdom, and the roots of modern China. Full of wild characters, harsh geography, and historical surprise, Tamm's journey reveals him to be at once an intrepid adventurer, fine writer, and discerning historian. Altogether a wonderful book." —Wade Davis

Praise for Beyond the Outer Shores

"Tamm's account of Ricketts's short life . . . is an engrossing memoir. Freelance writer Tamm smartly weaves in–depth literary analysis of Steinbeck's fiction into his narrative, though writing relatively little about mythologist Joseph Campbell's spiritual explorations . . . Tamm writes with impassioned honesty about his subject's many dimensions." —Publishers Weekly

"Tamm . . . presents an affecting and mind–expanding group portrait of three creative thinkers." —Booklist