The Light of Asia

The Light of Asia

A History of Western Fascination with the East


Brought to you by Penguin.

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 China, India and Japan were all acknowledged to be both great civilizations and in crude ways superseded by the West.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.

©2024 Christopher Harding (P)2024 Penguin Audio


  • ‘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

About the author

Christopher Harding

Christopher Harding is the author of the widely praised Japan Story: In Search of a Nation - described by Neil MacGregor as 'Masterly. How much I admired it, what a lot I learned from it and, above all, how very much I enjoyed it' - and The Japanese. Harding teaches at the University of Edinburgh and frequently broadcasts on Radio 3 and Radio 4. He also writes the IlluminAsia blog, about Asia’s influence on Western life.
Learn More

Sign up to the Penguin Newsletter

For the latest books, recommendations, author interviews and more