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March 18 , 2011


Travels in An Untamed Land


For seventy years Mongolia was all but closed to the west - a forbidden country, shrouded in darkness. Jasper Becker had long dreamed of exploring the sweeping land that lay just beyond China’s Great Wall and when communism disintegrated, he finally did. Setting out from Kublai Khan’s capital, Beijing, Becker was one of the first westerners to cross the border. Tracing the course of the Yellow River, he ventured deep into the heart of Mongolia, witnessing the birth of one of the world’s youngest democracies as well as the deep and tragic impact of the rules of Mao and Stalin on the Mongolian people.  

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Unravelling the history of Mongolia which had for so long been obscured and distorted, Becker traces the rise and fall of the Mongols who emerged from the steppes to forge one of the greatest and most feared empires of all time under Genghis Khan and his successors; he examines the shattering, divisive years of communist rule and explores present-day Mongolia, where poverty and the encroachments of westernisation cause as much damage. He goes in search of the fragile remnants of Buddhism and shamanism; visits Tuva - the lost world of Central Asia - and searches for the tomb of Genghis Khan which has been guarded and hidden by the same family for generations. Listening to the pulse of Central Asian history, Becker adorns his narrative with the stories of past travellers, tyrannical rulers, nomads, monks, missionaries, Russian officials, Mongolian activists and the memories of everyday people to paint a moving and enlightening portrait of Mongolia, a country that against all the odds has survived since the days of Genghis Khan and continues to beat to its own rhythm.

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