The Dog Doesn’t Die

Book reviews & random thoughts

Does the Dog Die? A Brief Review of The High Road to China, by Kate Teltscher

This history of an 18th century British expedition to Tibet was a joy to read. Teltscher, who teaches at a British university, has written an engrossing book that conveys her own excitement in having found an engaging protagonist. George Bogle was one of the many young men who went to India to advance his career and make his fortune – though in his case, the motivation was to save the family estate in Scotland after a bank disaster. However, Bogle was unique in his openness and curiosity, making him the perfect emissary to take an appeal for trade to the Panchen Lama in Tibet. Bogle’s journals were key among the source materials Teltscher relied upon, though she also makes it clear that others, such as the Panchen Lama himself and a young Hindu trading monk named Purangir, were critical to the story, especially once Bogle became stuck in Bengal due to politics and other concerns.

But I’m getting ahead of myself here. At the behest of Governor General Warren Hastings, the 27-year-old Bogle took a delegation, including Purangir, to meet with the Panchen Lama in Tashilhunpo, Tibet. Bogle and the Panchen Lama formed an instant friendship, and their story is the most interesting part of the book. Purangir later became critical as a go-between on behalf of the East India Company and Tibet, while the Panchen Lama subsequently went on to Peking to meet with the emperor. To tell more would be to spoil the story. But this relatively brief account (268 pages) presents some endearing characters who just happen to have been historic figures. Many novelists fail to enliven their characters as well as Teltscher does here. I highly recommend this book, even if you seldom read non-fiction.

As for animals, the focus of this blog, there are a few sad incidents. The Tibetans used copious amounts of fur from wild animals they’d slaughtered, and Bogle enjoyed sport hunting, though this isn’t shown. Reflecting the time, there are assorted beasts of burden, the occasional pet, long-haired sheep, animals that don’t survive transport to be in private collections, and an ornery yak. I would say this book is SAFE for most animal lovers, but if you’re super-sensitive, consider yourself warned about the few sad moments. Otherwise, I think most people would enjoy reading this book as much as I did.

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December 15, 2008 - Posted by | animals, Book Reviews, history, travel | , , , , , , ,

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