Kingdom of Ten Thousand Things

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 June, 2008, 12:00am

Kingdom of Ten Thousand Things

by Gary Geddes

Sterling HK$120

More than 1,000 years before Christopher Columbus discovered America a Buddhist monk called Huishen apparently landed on its shores, having fled persecution by White Huns in Afghanistan. The monk and his associates would have journeyed initially east towards China, writes Gary Geddes. Following in the probable footsteps of Huishen, the author travelled through 12 countries, venturing from Islamabad to the Middle Kingdom, then across the Pacific to Canada and down to Mexico and Guatemala. Unlike other intrepid travel writers, Geddes, a poet, admits his ideal trip would involve being home at weekends after having visited exotic locales during the week. But that doesn't stop him on his 18-month odyssey through almost every imaginable kind of terrain. The result is a body of writing categorised as 'travel' although it is also partly detective account, history and reportage. Despite the effort dispensed to produce the book, however, readers will come away without absolute proof of the monk's journey: what written evidence there may have been has not survived, according to Geddes. The trip did not prove much but it scratched the itch that started when the author first heard of an Afghan Columbus in 1974.