> Skip to content
Play sample
  • Published: 25 January 2024
  • ISBN: 9781802064384
  • Imprint: Penguin Audio
  • Format: Audio Download
  • RRP: $28.00

The Light of Asia

A History of Western Fascination with the East




This wonderfully various, rich and enjoyable book tells the story of the many ways in which Asia has influenced Europe and North America over centuries of tangled, dynamic encounters

From the time of the ancient Greeks onwards the West's relationship with Asia consisted for the most part in outrageous tales of monsters and giants, of silk and spices trans-shipped over vast distances and an uneasy sense of unknowable empires fantastically far away. By the 20th century much of Asia may have come under Western rule after centuries of warfare, but its intellectual, artistic and spiritual influence was fighting back.

The Light of Asia is a wonderfully varied and entertaining history of this vexed, confused but centrally important relationship. From Marco Polo onwards Asia has been both a source of genuine fascination and equally genuine failures of comprehension. China, India and Japan were all acknowledged to be both great civilizations and in crude ways superseded by the West. Christopher Harding's captivating gallery of geniuses, adventurers and con-men celebrates Asia's impact on the West in all its variety.

  • Published: 25 January 2024
  • ISBN: 9781802064384
  • Imprint: Penguin Audio
  • Format: Audio Download
  • RRP: $28.00

Also by Christopher Harding

See all

Praise for The Light of Asia

‘This beautifully written, deeply absorbing and revelatory account … offers a fresh perspective … a judicious, far-reaching exploration of how the discovery of Eastern beliefs, customs and mores helped to shape Western ideas as much as Western advancements were in turn being taken up in the East … fascinating … makes an elegant and entertaining progress from the Ancient Greeks to the "raga rock" of the Beatles’ Norwegian Wood

Mick Brown, Daily Telegraph

‘A rich history … Harding writes with energy and insight, wearing a tremendous amount of learning lightly’

Rana Mitter, Financial Times

‘A very interesting book … I found his history fascinating. The book is a fine complement to Edward Said’s Orientalism, as Harding fills many of the gaps in Said’s famous thesis’

Ian Buruma, Spectator

‘Well-researched, well-written’

Craig Clunas, Literary Review