The Tibet Code: a Chinese bestseller

The Tibet Code

Photo: Creative Commons/Göran (Kartläsarn)

The Tibet Code is one of the most popular works of Chinese fiction of recent times. The book follows the story of Qiang Ba, an expert on the prized breed of dog, the Tibetan mastiff, searching for ancient Buddhist treasure. Qiang and his mentor, Fang Xin, after receiving a mysterious letter containing photos of the prized dogs. Their search leads them into the wilds of Tibet, where they of course uncover much more than just a dog.

Although title of The Tibet Code is an obvious nod to a certain American bestseller, the book is arguable more historically accurate and interesting and bears little resemblance to Dan Brown’s work. The sweeping landscapes, continuous intrigue and historical detail contained in the book make it true page-turner that’s hard to put down.

The Tibet Code coverThe Tibet Code was an instant success in China when it was released in 2008. The book, or rather books – as the novel is in fact a series of eight installments (and counting) – has been rightly compared to both The Da Vinci Code and the Harry Potter series for its use of historical accounts, travel and myth and legend. A number of fascinating mythical animals even pop up in The Tibet Code which, along with the vast scenery of the Tibetan wilds, makes it an almost sure candidate for translation to film.

He Ma is the author of The Tibet Code. Although ethnically Han Chinese, He was raised in the ethnically Tibetan Sichuan Province of China and spent more than a decade living inside Tibet’s borders. A bit of an adventurer, He undertook several journeys through the Tibetan wilds, including a solo trek through the Hoh Xil Nature Reserve – the the least populated areas on earth. The snow-capped peaks and craggy valleys described in The Tibet Code reflect He Ma’s passion for this scenic part of the world.

Additionally, the author did his research. He Ma spent months (perhaps even years) pouring over historical texts, ancient documents and every piece of research on Tibet that he could find, which comes through in The Tibet Code. The book is based on the events of 839 AD, when Lang Darma ascended the Tibetan throne and began to persecute Buddhists, destroying many Buddhist artifacts, including the sacred Pagbala Temple. With it supposedly went all of the treasures hidden below the palace in a secret crypt. They have never been recovered but have been the subject for many treasure hunters throughout history, including Hitler.

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