To a Mountain in Tibet

by Colin Thubron

Paperback, 2012




Harper Perennial (2012), Edition: Reprint, 256 pages


Offers an intimate travelogue of the author's trek to Kailas, the holiest mountain in Tibet, in the wake of the death of his mother and the loss of his family.

Media reviews

This relatively slender volume, which might have been nothing more than a dashed-off travelogue by an established name, reveals itself as daring and brilliant. Thubron has crafted a book which beautifully describes one man's experience of loss, and familial love.

User reviews

LibraryThing member John_Vaughan
A lyrical book and wonderfully written travel narrative on at least two levels – the actual journey, a hike through Nepal to the ancient sacred regions of Tibet, and a healing of the author’s grief and loss of his parents and sister.
This edition too is beautiful, a Harper Collins hardback with
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hand-cut leaves – a pleasure to hold and own. The jacket shows the river-valley path winding through the trees, rocks and mist with the Kailas mountain’s snowy crags looming above. This mount is sacred to nearly a quarter of the world’s population and the ceremonial and grueling circle around the base is conducted by believers of four different religions. Of course, as you would expect with any religion, the adherents worship different deities and encircle the mount from different directions!

We are led back into the historic, near mythical country of Tibet, and back too into the lands of thousand mile gods with five heads and countless reincarnations, a region of confused interweaving of Buddhist and Hindu peoples leavened with Chinese Maoists and the ruins of their occupation. Thubron notes the confusion of the actual identity of Tibet, the Westernized view of its sacredness, the Dalai Lama's celebrity status and the subsequent cultish beliefs of mysticism that contrast and contradict the actual history of this war-loving land, with its serfdom of peasants and the feudal over-lording by armed and armored monks.

The author conducts his own peaceful and respectful pilgrimage and this delightful book allows the reader to walk beside him in his healing circuit.
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LibraryThing member debnance
This is my second book by Thubron and, for the second time, I have to say that I’m not wild about his writing. What is it that you don’t like? you might ask. And I can’t put my finger on it. This is the kind of book I should like; I adore travel narratives. But once again I was not wowed by
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Thubron. I’m sure it is just me. I stuck with him all the way to the mountain, as Thubron described the scenery and the people and the culture. But nothing touched me emotionally.

I really wish I could figure out why Thubron is not for me.
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LibraryThing member mrsjason
I'm going to admit that I was a bit disappointed while I was reading this book. It's mostly my fault as I had thought this was mainly going to be a travel memoir. I was expecting more on the author's adventures as he traveled throughout the country more like something from the Travel Channel. If
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you're looking for something like that, this is not the book for you. Rather than a fast paced travel adventure, it is a slow paced spiritual hike that you have to savor and find peace instead of just rushing through. That being said, this is a beautifully written book.

Thubron explains the beliefs of different religions in the areas he traveled in from tenets of Buddhism to the deities in Hinduism as well as other smaller cultural religions. I really appreciated learning more about how different cultures practice other religions. Even though I don't share the same faith, I am always interested in learning more about what others believe in. I feel that it is important to know about different religions and find out exactly what differences you share and what you have in common.

As Thubron continues on this travels, he describes the people and scenery in full detail. I could honestly picture myself on the side of a mountain walking along side of him, glancing at the people walking by and seeing a mountain looming above me. He describes Tibet the way he sees it, the people who are suffering and those who cannot return home. It's a stark contrast from how most Americans are living and there are many who have no idea of what is going on the other side of the world.

This is a book that is not to be rushed through. It's a travelogue that is also a spiritual and emotional journey. It's a book where you feel both exhausted and refreshed at the same time. This is probably one of the more unique reads that I've read this year and I'm glad that I kept going with it.
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LibraryThing member royanish
Ok-ish book. I was expecting more - failed to inspire!
LibraryThing member ed.pendragon
I found this a fascinating journey, all the more inspiring as it was accomplished by a man in his seventies. Despite privations and cold and altitude, most of which he refers to but never with any sense of self-pity, he undertakes a voyage largely on foot up to and around Mount Kailas in Tibet, the
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sacred mountain of Eastern traditions. In straightforward but poetic language he describes for us the landscape he sees, the peoples he meets, the traditions that imbue every physical feature he negotiates, in such a way that we feel we are there with him.

'Pilgrimage' is not quite adequate a word for his trek. He sympathetically outlines Buddhist and Hindu and primitive beliefs without subscribing to them, so it is not a spiritual pilgrimage as such. Nor is it a trip undertaken to find himself, as it were: he has recently lost the last of his immediate family, but it is not a journey to come to terms with personal grief, though he does meditate on the memories of his father, his mother, his sister. Nor does it feel like a mercenary voyage, something to provide material for another of his travel writings or to justify his presidency of the Royal Society of Literature.

Rather, I think, this is a journey that he has to do because that is what he does. It seems to be an imperative, this constant travelling in distant lands, imbibing the culture, making temporary connections with locals, becoming one with the physical geography. I picked up the book to read because I wanted to share the experience of encountering one of world's archetypical mountains. I came away having briefly met a very private man who paradoxically happens to share some of his thoughts very publicly through his writing.
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LibraryThing member BillPilgrim
The author trekked to Mt Kailas, a holy mountain in western Tibet near the borders with Nepal and India. Pilgrims go there regularly to walk in a circle around the mountain. It is holy to Buddhists, Hindus and others also. It is a difficult route. It starts at high altitude and climbs even higher
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during the circling. There are numerous religiously significant locations on the mountain, and the author describes all of these from the true believers' perspective.
Thurbon trekked with a cook and porter through Nepal to the Tibet border. He lodged with locals along the way. Once he crosses into China, there is a road that he could take by vehicle to the base of the mountain.
In addition to describing the sights along his route, he describes the people he meets and their lives as he sees them. He also gives some history of the region and its religions, and some description of Tibetan Buddhism. And, he also relates some of his personal story, his parents both died recently, which motivated him to make this journey.
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LibraryThing member evergene
I'm reading this for the second time, much more slowly than my first go at it, and finding it very rewarding. I'll rate it with stars when this second reading is complete, but it's very powerful, very personal, and goes way beyond traditional travel writing.
LibraryThing member liz.mabry
I liked it, but it took a while to get through. Normally audio books tend to go a bit faster, but this one dragged for some reason. I'm not sure why, as the narrator was fantastic and it was only 6.5 hours or so. The writing itself was great and I have a hunch that I would have enjoyed it much more
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had I read it instead of listening to it.
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LibraryThing member bogreader
There was not enough first person narrative for me.
LibraryThing member kaitanya64
This is a slow, dreamy kind of travel memoir. Colin Thubron reflects on his own life and mortality as he joins pilgrims on the trek to Kailas, an ancient sacred site in Tibet, revered by Buddhists and Hindus, but difficult to reach not only because of it's height and remoteness but also because of
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the political turmoil in the region between China and Tibet. There is enough traditional travel observation and physical rigor to create movement and tension, but there is also a deeper level of personal reflection on immortality as Thubron reviews his feelings and reactions to the deaths of his father, his sister (in a mountain skiing accident) and his mother. Alone in the world, he contemplates the purpose of pilgrimage and wonders if simply following a certain physical path can have any spiritual significance.
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LibraryThing member Helenliz
This is, on one level, a trek to Mount Kailas, a sacred mountain in Tibet. It is also, although not overtly, a journey into the soul. The author has experienced the loss of his sister, when young, and now both parents, such that he is alone in the world. He undertakes the journey to circumnavigate
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Mt Kailas, which is scared to Buddhists and Hindus. To do so in not a light undertaking and the trek to just the foot of the mountain is hard going. He describes it all in some detail, and is, at times, unsparing in his descriptions. There is poverty here, but there is also something soul enhancing. Even for a non-believer, he experiences something over and above the travel in this trek. The details of the journey are well described, the history, background, geology and political turmoil all feature. It is when he is meditating on his fellow humanity and the act of memory that he is at his most human.
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LibraryThing member PDCRead
Another exquisite travel book by the master


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