A Stranger in Tibet: The Adventures of a Zen Monk – Scott Berry

A fascinating account of the life of Kawaguchi Ekai, a Japanese zen monk who travelled to Tibet at the turn of the last century, at a time when the country was closed to foreigners and little known. His travels took him to British India, and to the remote mountain kingdoms of Nepal and Ladakh, Lo and Sikkim, and en route he learned Tibetan to supplement his disguise as a Chinese monk. He also studied Sanskrit to allow him to translate the Buddhist scriptures that were the reason for his journey.

Kawaguchi’s adventures took him over the high Himalaya passes on foot, across the tough Tibetan plateau where cold, altitude and the locals can kill, wading through snow-fed rivers to follow unmapped and little used routes between Buddhist shrines and small settlements; his route would be a difficult one today, but in the opening years of the 20th century, living off a meagre vegetarian diet and always needing to mask his true identity it was a miracle he survived to tell his tale. Not only that, but to return to Tibet once its seclusion was shattered by the British and then the Chinese, in the closing years of the Great Game.

Amazon.co.uk link: A Stranger in Tibet: The Adventures of a Zen Monk – Scott Berry