"Rockhill was a remarkable American orientalist who was a diplomat in Beijing. He
was fascinated with Tibet, and worked for four years to study Tibetan (he
was already fluent in Chinese). In 1888 he resigned his position
and set off westward from Beijing on the Silk Road. His intent was
to get to Lhasa disguised as a Chinese. His plan was thwarted but, undaunted, he tried again
a year later; this time he got within 100 miles of his goal. While
he did not succeed, he was a remarkable geographer, and his surveys and
studies of the people and their culture are still respected today.
This book, 'Land of the Lamas,' was the result of this first
expedition." - Written in 1891 by William Woodville Rockhill.
About the Author:
Standing six feet-four inches, William Woodville Rockhill, the U.S. Minister to China, still had the stiff bearing of the French military officer he had once been and was not given to strong expressions of emotion. But after two meetings with the Dalai Lama, Rockhill could barely conceal his excitement in a twelve-page letter describing the meetings to Pres. Theodore Roosevelt.
The Dalai Lama presented Rockhill with a
number of gifts, one of which was a beautiful Buddhist text called the 'Sutra of
the Perfection of Wisdom.'
During his youth in France, Rockhill developed
a strong interest in Tibet that remained with him during his years as an officer
in the French Foreign Legion, a stint as a rancher in New Mexico, and a long
career as a diplomat and China specialist. He is best known as the framer of
America's "Open Door" policy toward China at the turn of the century. But
Rockhill remained first and foremost a scholar. A book Rockhill published in
1891, 'The Land of the Lamas,' grew out of his 1888-1889 journey into eastern Tibet and Mongolia. The Smithsonian Institution sponsored Rockhill's second trip to Tibet and Mongolia in 1891-1892 and published his detailed travel diary. Throughout his long career, Rockhill published a number of other scholarly works on Tibet and China, and his personal library became the heart of the Library of Congress's extensive holdings on Tibet.
From the Author:
"In the following pages I have endeavored to give the results obtained during a journey of several thousand miles through a very imperfectly known portion of the Chinese Empire. My object has been to supply facts concerning the country, of an historical, geographical, and ethnographical nature, and not to attempt to turn out a well-finished bit of literary work."