Title : The Heart of the World : A Journey to the Last Secret Place
By : Ian Baker
Hardcover: 544 pages
Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The (November 4, 2004)
Language: English
ISBN: 1594200270

The Heart of the World : A Journey to the Last Secret Place
The Heart of the World : A Journey to the Last Secret Place

An incredible book for anyone intrigued by the mysteries of Asia. The tale begins in 1982 when Baker overhears a conversation about a Tibetan sage who found a hidden paradise between vaulting cliffs in a little-explored corner of Tibet. Baker was curious. He had heard about Tibet’s `hidden lands,’ secret places that – Tibetans believe – can only be found by a devout pilgrim who can endure physical challenge, and spiritual challenge, too. Baker, an accomplished climber and a determined student of Tibetan culture, resolved to find out more. The myth of Shangri-la originates in Tibetan Buddhist beliefs in beyul, or hidden lands, sacred sanctuaries that reveal themselves to devout pilgrims and in times of crisis. The more remote and inaccessible the beyul, the vaster its reputed qualities. Ancient Tibetan prophecies declare that the greatest of all hidden lands lies at the heart of the forbidding Tsangpo Gorge, deep in the Himalayas and veiled by a colossal waterfall. Nineteenth-century accounts of this fabled waterfall inspired a series of ill-fated European expeditions that ended prematurely in 1925 when the intrepid British plant collector Frank Kingdon-Ward penetrated all but a five-mile section of the Tsangpo’s innermost gorge and declared that the falls were no more than a “religious myth” and a “romance of geography.” The heart of the Tsangpo Gorge remained a blank spot on the map of world exploration until world-class climber and Buddhist scholar Ian Baker delved into the legends. Whatever cryptic Tibetan scrolls or past explorers had said about the Tsangpo’s innermost gorge, Baker determined, could be verified only by exploring the uncharted five-mile gap. After several years of encountering sheer cliffs, maelstroms of impassable white water, and dense leech-infested jungles, on the last of a series of extraordinary expeditions, Baker and his National Geographic-sponsored team reached the depths of the Tsangpo Gorge. They made news worldwide by finding there a 108-foot-high waterfall, the legendary grail of Western explorers and Tibetan seekers alike. The Heart of the World is one of the most captivating stories of exploration and discovery in recent memory-an extraordinary journey to one of the wildest and most inaccessible places on earth and a pilgrimage to the heart of the Tibetan Buddhist faith.

Zuozheng He
Zuozheng He

Photography is a good way to dive into life, to record life, says Leng Bai, a clerk at the First Northeast Electrical Power Engineering Company in Tieling City, China, who has been taking photos for more than 20 years. He captured this shot of 80-year-old musician Zuozheng He in Yunnan Province in the city of Lijiang, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Most of Lijiang’s residents belong to the Naxi ethnic group. He is playing traditional music on the Chinese lute. “Naxi ancient music is a precious asset to China,” explains Bai. “Since today few people can play the music, I am worried about its future. That’s why I wanted to use the camera to record the image.” (Hasselblad 503CW, 50-80mm zoom lens, Kodak VS100 film.) Prize courtesy of the Guatemala Tourist Commission. The Nakhi or Nashi (simplified Chinese: 纳西族; traditional Chinese: 納西族; pinyin: Nàxī zú; endonym: ¹na²khi) are an ethnic group inhabiting the foothills of the Himalayas in the northwestern part of Yunnan Province, as well as the southwestern part of Sichuan Province in China. The Nashi are thought to have come originally from northwestern China, migrating south toward Tibetan populated regions, and usually inhabiting the most fertile river-side land, driving the other competing tribes farther up the hillsides onto less fertile land. The Nashi, along with Bai and Tibetans, traded over the dangerous overland trading links with Lhasa and India, on the so-called Tea and Horse Caravan routes. They were brought to the attention of the Western world by two men: the American botanist Joseph Rock and the Russian traveller and writer Peter Goullart, both of whom lived in Lijiang and travelled throughout the area during the early 20th century. Peter Goullart’s book Forgotten Kingdom describes the life and beliefs of the Nashi and neighbouring peoples, while Joseph Rock’s legacy includes diaries, maps, and photographs of the region, many of which were published in National Geographic. The two were friends and left the region together when the Communist troops came in. The Nashi form one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People’s Republic of China. The official Chinese government classification includes the Mosuo as part of the Nashi people, although neither ethnicity support this categorization. Although both groups are descendents of the Qiang people, together with the Pumi and Yi, and notwithstanding very striking resemblances between their respective languages, the two groups are now understood to be culturally distinct, the Nakhi more influenced by the very patriarchal Han Chinese culture, the Mosuo more influenced by Tibetan culture and their own matriarchal family practices.