River of the White Lily – Peter Goullart (1965) (1st ed)


River of the White Lily – Peter Goullart (1965) (1st ed)


An account of working amongst the people of Sarawak, by a Russian Taoist who lived the latter part of his life in Singapore.

Title: River of the White Lily: Life in Sarawak

Author: Peter Goullart

Publisher: John Murray, 1965. First edition.

Condition: Hardcover, with dust jacket. Fair. Some soiling to dust jacket and endpapers, slight foxing to edges. Text clean, binding tight. With black and white photographic plates. 196pp.

From jacket flap:

Peter Goullart was sent by the United Nations Co-operative Department and at the special request of the Government of Sarawak to that country to help in the development of trade amongst the Chinese farmers, rubber tappers, the Sea and Land Dayaks, and other indigenous tribes. He was already experienced in this work in China and Tibet, speaking a number of languages and possessing a rare understanding of these people.

His work carried him to remote areas where he stayed in the longhouses with Dayak families, sharing their meals and even showing them how to cook French dishes. He travelled for miles across the whole country by way of innumerable rivers and accompanied by the young Chinese officer, Pochuan, whom he was training in co-operative work in the field, and visited all five provinces or divisions of Sarawak. Chinese, Malays, Sea and Land Dayaks all became his friends and he was successful in starting a number of stores where people could purchase goods at a fair price. These stores are still flourishing now that Sarawak has become part of Malaysia.

Peter Goullart is a Taoist who believes that if something is sincerely desired it will be obtained: if one door is closing, another will be opened. He was always prepared to listen and his encounters with individuals and understanding of their problems enabled him to make the most of every opportunity. In this unusual book Peter Goullart gives an absorbing picture of his practical work amongst the people of Sarawak, and the hazards of journeys through the country spanned by the River of the White Lily.

About the author (from Wikipedia):

Peter Goullart was a Russian-born traveler, explorer and author, who is best known for a number of books describing the life and customs of various peoples living in remote parts of East and Southeast Asia.

Goullart was born in Russia in the beginning of the 20th century into a well-educated family, and spent his youth in Moscow and Paris. He was interested in the Orient from an early age. After Bolshevik Revolution he fled to China and eventually settled in Shanghai in 1924. He perfected his Chinese and worked as a tour guide for Western tourists and businesspeople, accompanying them on their trips throughout East and South-East Asia. During this time he developed an interest in Daoism and in exploring the remote mountainous areas of Western China.

In 1939 following the Japanese invasion of China, Goullart secured an appointment as a representative of the Chinese Industrial Cooperatives (an agency of the Kuomintang Government), first in what is now western Sichuan, then in 1942 in the ancient city of Lijiang, in the North-Western corner of Yunnan Province.

He lived in Lijiang for over eight years at the time when it was an important transit stop on the vital trading and supply route from India to China during World War II. Goullart documented life and customs of inhabitants of this remote region, in particular, Nakhi People, in his first book, Forgotten Kingdom.

In 1949 shortly after the communist takeover, Goullart left Lijiang on a chartered plane to Kunming together with the botanist and explorer Joseph Rock. He left China and then lived and worked in Singapore, and continued to write about his travels throughout Southeast Asia. All his books were written and published in English. He died in the house of his friend Desmond Neill in Singapore on June 5, 1978.