Ulaanbaatar beyond Water and Grass

A Guide to the Capital of Mongolia


M. A. Aldrich

ISBN : 978-988-8208-67-8


March 2018

312 pages, 6″ x 9″, 98 b&w illus.; 8 maps

  • HK$300.00

Ulaanbaatar beyond Water and Grass is the first book in the English language that takes the visitors to an in-depth exploration of the capital of Mongolia. In the first section of the book, M. A. Aldrich paints a detailed portrait of the history, religion, and architecture of Ulaanbaatar with reference to how the city evolved from a monastic settlement to a communist-inspired capital and finally to a major city of free-wheeling capitalism and Tammany Hall politics. The second section of the book offers the reader a tour of different sites within the city and beyond, bringing back to life the human dramas that have played themselves out on the stage of Ulaanbaatar.

Where most guide books often lightly discuss the capital, Ulaanbaatar beyond Water and Grass: A Guide to the Capital of Mongolia reveals much that remains hidden from the temporary visitor and even from the long-term resident. Writing in a quirky, idiosyncratic style, the author shares his appreciation and delight in this unique urban setting—indeed, in all things Mongolian. The book finally does justice to one of the most neglected cultural capitals in Asia.

M. A. Aldrich is a lawyer and author who has lived and worked in Asia for nearly thirty years. He has previously published The Search for a Vanishing Beijing: A Guide to China’s Capital through the Ages and The Perfumed Palace: Islam’s Journey from Mecca to Peking in addition to numerous articles on Chinese and Mongolian law. He is currently writing a book about Lhasa.

‘Combining history, ethnography, architecture, city planning, and folklore with a delightful dash of irony and personal opinion, Michael Aldrich’s Ulaanbaatar beyond Water and Grass is an authoritative introduction to Mongolia’s capital city. For first-time visitors or long-term academics, this is quite simply the best book available on Ulaanbaatar.’ —Jack Weatherford, author of Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World

‘The charm of this superb guide to Mongolia’s mysterious capital is the exuberance and love the author bestows on his subject. Michael Aldrich’s erudition is profound and all embracive, and he is as comfortable discussing abstruse aspects of Buddhism, as he is the city’s history from its pastoral and feudal origins through Manchu suzerainty to Soviet communism to the wild capitalism of the present day. He never misses the opportunity for a colourful and amusing anecdote or tidbit of scandal, to relish an obscure custom, to delight in the spice in a local dish or to pause and admire the beauty of a particular artwork, building or monument. The prose rings with his idiosyncratic personality: knowledgeable, urbane and sceptical (sometimes downright cynical), but always passionate and committed. Carrying this book through Ulaanbaatar’s streets, or curling into its pages on a sofa at home, he is the perfect companion—squeezing stories out of ancient stones, conjuring ghosts and elegantly baring the city’s soul. Ulaanbaatar beyond Water and Grass will become as great a classic of travel literature for Central Asia as J. G. Links’s Venice for Pleasure was for Europe.’ —Adam Williams, author of The Palace of Heavenly Pleasure

‘Destined to become the quintessential introduction to Ulaanbaatar, not only in terms of the wealth of information but also in terms of the sympathetic understanding and humour the author shares with the reader. Genghis Khan would have loved it.’ —Bill Porter, author of Road to Heaven: Encounters with Chinese Hermits and Finding Them Gone: Visiting China’s Poets of the Past

‘Michael Aldrich’s guide to Ulaanbaatar reveals a city of religion, of revolution and, latterly, of bold new experiment. It is both a journey through the city of today as well as an imagining of the historical city now lost to development.’ —Paul French, author of The Old Shanghai A–Z

‘This is an interesting and illuminating book, providing fascinating details on the history and evolution of Mongolia’s capital and largest city. It should definitely be included on the essential reading list for anyone living or working in Mongolia.’ —Jonathan Addleton, Executive Director of American Center for Mongolian Studies; former US Ambassador to Mongolia; author of Mongolia and the United States: A Diplomatic History

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