The Horse That Leaps Through Clouds: A Tale of Espionage, the Silk Road, and the Rise of Modern China
Eric Enno Tamm
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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 a century ago and today.
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 precisely what Tamm does in The Horse That Leaps Through Clouds.
eyes were seeking their children, and husbands were moving the heaps of rotting flesh.”7 Cossack soldiers rode through the streets wantonly shooting citizens to restore order. Baku became known as the “greatest blood spot on the mysterious, rebellious and blood stained Caucasus.”8 By summer’s end, a thousand oil wells were destroyed and some two thousand people lay dead. Baku’s first oil boom was at its end. “THE OIL INDUSTRY has certainly created a building boom in the city,” I said.
town. Most appeared closed for the winter. They reminded me of the desolate hotel in The Shining. This place of spiritual enlightenment—the “holy of holies,” as Mannerheim described it—actually felt haunted. I stepped off the bus into a blustery, freezing wind. I was in a nasty mood—cold, ill, hungry and exhausted. With my heavy pack, I trekked down the gloomy, deserted street and crossed a stone bridge to one of the few open hotels. It had comfortable, warm rooms, but I barely slept. My throat
Khan as one of their own. The Mongol ruler did not conquer China, according to official histories, but rather “unified” it in 1206. His conquests paved the way for his grandson, Kublai Khan, to found the Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368). “The Chinese say Genghis Khan is their master,” Sechenbaatar told me. “The Mongolians say ‘No, no, no! Genghis Khan is ours!’” Having conquered their lands, the Chinese are now resolved to absorb the Mongol mythology. The bus meandered back to Dongsheng along a country
in a stone vault under a gazebo. From here, I could see Andijan’s lights twinkling like fireflies below the black silhouette of the Tian Shan range in the distance. These are the famed “Heavenly Mountains” that wall off China from the West. As I pondered my difficult journey ahead, I felt cold raindrops hitting my face and looked up to see thunderclouds. After four weeks of desert travel, the rain felt like manna. We ate shashlik and drank more vodka at a café next to the turnoff for the museum.
gloomy grey high-rise topped with a steel telecommunications tower. It’s the headquarters of the Public Security Bureau. The building’s disproportionate height, compared to Kashgar’s low-slung neighbourhoods, had the desired effect: I felt like I was being watched. “I don’t like the new Kashgar,” Kahar grumbled about all the bleak, Soviet-style buildings obscuring the wall. “It doesn’t even feel like Kashgar. When I was a little boy, I could see a lot more of the wall. Even ten years ago, you