Julia Lovell at Literary Review:
Adam Brookes’s thrilling new book tells for the first time in English the epic story of a sixteen-year quest by curators, archaeologists, scholars and politicians to protect the irreplaceable artistic treasures of the Forbidden City from the ravages of invasion and civil war. He has uncovered the kind of history deserving of a cinematic blockbuster. Approximately 250,000 priceless artefacts – porcelain, silks, paintings, bronzes – somehow escaped destruction by fire, water, moths and termites on a journey of 15,000 miles, being transported by train, boat, lorry, raft and carrying pole ‘up rivers and across mountain ranges, through famine and war’.
The story begins amid the turmoil of early 20th-century China, with fights over the ownership of the Forbidden City’s peerless collection.