Orchid Books

Orchid Books is a collection of well illustrated books, appealing to both the layman and the scholar, and written by specialists.

Central & North-East Asia Burma South Asia
Thailand & South-East Asia Himalaya & Tibet China

Central & North-East Asia

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Hayagriva: Horse Culture in Asia
by R. H. van Gulik
Second edition 2005 (reprint of the Leiden 1935 edition),
245 x 175; viii, 104 pp., 1 colour and 9 b&w plates, 3 line drawings, hardcover.
ISBN-10: 974-524-074-5 $40.00
ISBN-13: 978-974-524-074-2


First reprint of the definitive monograph on the subject of the Tantric Buddhist god Hayagriva, its origins and evolution as the cult migrated from India north- and eastward through Tibet and China to Japan. This previously scarce and sought-after work by one of the most respected Sinologists of the 20th century was derived from the author’s doctoral thesis, for which he graduated summa cum laude from the University of Utrecht in 1935.

[Read more about the life of R. H. van Gulik]
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Pilpay’s Fables
by Sir Richard Burton with an introduction by Tom Cox
2003. 96 pp., 9 colour plates. 21 x 19 cm. Hardbound.
ISBN-10: 974-524-028-1 $27.95
ISBN-13: 978-974-524-028-5


Sir Richard Francis Burton (1821-1890), perhaps the greatest of the soldier-scholars spawned by British colonial expansion of the early 19th century, translated works in six different languages and mastered at least 24, among these some of the more difficult tongues in the world. Burton was responsible for introducing many great literary masterpieces of the Oriental world to the West, including The Arabian Nights, the Perfumed Garden, and the Kama Sutra among others. Ironically, his first translation, the present, is the last to be published.
    Many of the tales in Pilpay’s Fables are very old, dating to written texts with origins perhaps as ancient as 200 BC and possibly to even earlier oral traditions. Each tale, acted out by a cast of animals and people, are intended to illustrate an important lesson in life, often one that evolves from the protagonists’ various misfortunes. Burton translated the tales from Hindi, derived from a Persian text, which had, in turn probably been translated form the original Sanskrit; the handwritten original was completed in 1847. Surviving fire, bombing during two World Wars, and a library flood, it was eventually discovered by ethnographer Tom Cox, who provides a fascinating introduction and bibliography.
    Illustrated by nine superb watercolours of Susheila, this exciting first publication of a new Burton title, 123 years after his death, will be certain to delight many generations to come.

[Read a review from the Centre for the Performing Arts in Mumbai, India] [Read an Interview from The South China Morning Post] on how this book was discovered and published.
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Shigaraki Potters’ Valley
by Louise Allison Cort
2000. 428 pp., 41 illustrations, 2 maps, bibliography, index. 29 x 22 cm. Hardbound.
ISBN-10: 974-8304-91-4 $60.00
ISBN-13: 978-974-8304-91-5


For over seven centuries, farmer-potters of Shigaraki, a rural valley outside the ancient Japanese capital of Kyoto, have used the distinctive clays of their region to make a broad variety of storage jars and tea-ceremony wares that occupy a key place in the esteemed aesthetic of Japanese woodfired stoneware. This classic and long out-of-print study by Louise Cort brings together all facets of the valley’s fascinating political, economic, and artistic history to present a comprehensive portrait of these appealing wares and the potters who produced them. Throwing, glazing, firing, and kiln building are described in detail, while invaluable supplemental information includes commentaries on Shigaraki wares by potters from outside the valley; an account of early twentieth-century life in the valley by a woman who was both the daughter and wife of master potters; a thorough assessment of kiln-site investigations; and complete formulas for the distinctive Shigaraki glazes. Over 350 color and monochrome photographs, maps, complete appendixes, notes, bibliography, and an index make this an essential volume in the library of all connoisseurs of ceramics.
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Southern Silk Road
In the Footsteps of Sir Aurel Stein and Sven Hedin
by Christoph Baumer
2003, 2000. 166 pp., 129 colour plates; 13 maps,23 x 22.5 cm., softbound.
ISBN-10: 974-8304-39-6 $35.00
ISBN-13: 978-974-8304-39-7


The Tarim Basin in Central Asia has a fascinating history of human occupation. Here, civilizations flourished, only to die as climatic change and the depredations of invading armies destroyed the vital water resources in a region of the ever-encroaching sands of the Taklaman Desert; but where, with a return to a more humid climate and periods of peace, new settlements took root and blossomed. Here too was the vital artery between West and East – the Silk Road, along which, among other things, silk travelled from China to the West and the use of the horse and cultural influences spread from the west to China; and along which the major religions of Buddhism, Nestorian Christianity, Manichaeism, and Islam waxed and waned. Because of an extremely dry climate, shifting desert sands and inaccessibility, the remains of ancient past civilizations have been preserved – not only the more sturdy structures built of stone, but even some more humble edifices of mud, timber and reeds – and the art and even the written records of the occupants. Dr Baumer traces for us the first waves of Indo-European migrations of 4,000 years ago, Mongolian and Chinese advances and retreats from the east, Tibetan incursions from the south, the spread of the Uighurs from present-day Iran, and the Arab conquest from the south-west. This is followed by a detailed archaeological study of the major settlements along the major Silk Road route. The author makes extensive use of the accounts of the two major previous Western explorers, which form the platform for the author’s own two expeditions in the 1990s. The commentary is a most satisfying blend of historical and contemporary accounts of archaeological discoveries, richly adorned with both recent and past black and white and colour photographs, and accompanied by maps and archaeological site plans for several of the settlements.

[Read a review]
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The Quest for Kibi
and the True Origins of Japan
by Michael S.F. Gorman with photography by Akio Nakamura
1999. 156 pp., forty full-colour illustrations, four maps, two charts. 23.5 x 22.5 cm., hardbound.
ISBN-10: 974-8299-23-6 Softbound: $35.00
ISBN-13: 978-974-8299-23-5
ISBN-10: 974-8299-22-8 Hardbound: $45.00
ISBN-13: 978-974-8299-22-8


This monograph is the result of thirty years’ research by New Zealander Michael Gorman into the Korean influences on the little known ancient Kingdom of Kibi in Western Japan. Archaeological evidence is combined with legends and tales from the eighth century histories of Japan which, until now, have cleverly managed to obfuscate the real ethnic and cultural origins of the Japanese people. Ancient Kibi was situated on the inland seaway between Korea and Yamato in central Japan. Nothing travelled to or from Yamato without the sufferance of Kibi. In the mid fourth century, Puyo warriors from Manchuria invaded the Japanese archipelago after conquering large areas of Korea, creating their own kingdoms as they went. Gorman takes the reader through this fascinating period, introducing new and exciting ideas which question traditionally held views and perceptions. This book is illustrated in colour with the beautiful photography of Akio Nakamura, one of Japan’s leading photographers.