Yasushi Inoue was one of Japan's most talented storytellers; his numerous rich narratives made him the prime creator of an era in modern Japanese literature. This award-winning collection focuses on the region along the Silk Road running from western China into Central Asia.
The title story tells of the fate of the kingdom of Lou-Lan, a small state on the shores of Lake Lop Nur that lasted just a half-century or so until 77 B.C. This tiny kingdom was buffeted by the great powers that surrounded it?Xiongnu and the Han Dynasty?and at last its people sought refuge, leaving their rich lakeside lands behind and going to build a new city under the protection of the Han. As the people left Lou-Lan, their beautiful princess took her own life, and they buried her casket on a small hill overlooking the lake.
Some six centuries later, a young military commander traveled to Lou-Lan, the land of his ancestors. There he found that the desert had swallowed up the entire area, leaving no trace of the lake behind. It was in the 20th century that Swedish adventurer Sven Hedin (1865?1952) would finally disturb the long sleep of the princess, finding her casket in his excavation of the Lou-Lan ruins. The Hedin expedition also proved that Lake Lop Nur shifted from one location to another over time.
Inoue's story, though a short piece, is a masterfully constructed work that provides fascinating glimpses of the lands of China's distant west. Lou-Lan is joined in this publication by six other works, including Flood, also set in western China, Tale of the Trouble with Wolves, based on an old Chinese fable, and Person from a Strange Land.