For the Chinese, the Great Wall of China has defined much more than a physical barrier. Over the centuries it has represented a psychological frontier--within it lay the Celestial Kingdom, the compass of all civilization. Beyond lay a barbarian world of chaos and exile. Chinese journeys to the west along the ancient Silk Road were passages into the unknown, often into legend.
Following in their wake, Stanley Stewart recounts his wanderings halfway across Asia in Frontiers of Heaven, his Thomas Cook Travel Book of the Year Award-winning account. The journey took him from Shanghai to the banks of the Indus, and along the way he encountered the modern Chinese for whom these regions beyond the Wall still hold the same morbid fascination. Today, the great western province of Xinjiang is still a land of exile, the destination of soldiers, reluctant settlers, political prisoners, and disgraced officials.
Whether describing the lost cities of Central Asia, a Buddhist monastery in the shadow of Tibet, a Kirghiz wedding on the roof of the world, ballroom dancing in the Mountains of Heaven, an escape from the secret police in Kashgar, or a love affair in Xi''an, Stewart tells his story with wit, charm, and affection. In a book packed with character and incident, Stewart explores the paradoxes of travel, the lure of far horizons, and the isolation of exile.
"Stewart is a master at weaving history and geography into cleverly reconstructed observations and encounters that range from the merely curious to the heartily bizarre. Juxtaposed against all is his unabashed fascination with unfamiliar surrounding and the isolation that comes with being alone."--Booklist "A Stanley Stewart travel story about a walk to the nearest corner would be a page-turner. And that is because, unlike too many other travel writers, he takes his reader on the most important trip of all: the journey of a good sentence."--The Washington Post "Self-deprecating and wry, Stewart is a gifted amateur in the classic tradition of Patrick Leigh Fermor; indeed, he seems to have no particular objective other than to observe and enjoy. This is not travel with a purpose; it is pure gratification, a fine addition to what is sometimes called 'loiterature.' "--New York Times Book Review "... The book is full of the kind of lively encounters most people find only in literature ... Stewart's narrative brings the Great Wall that much closer."--USA Today "Stewart writes of his experiences with compassion and great charm."--Chicago Tribune