Written by Heinrich Harrer during the 1940s that begins shortly before the outbreak of World War II and ends with the Chinese invasion of Tibet. Heinrich, an all around adventure man, was actively pursuing his mountaineering passion and was scouting the Diamir Face of the Nanga Parbat just north of India in modern day Pakistan when war broke out back home. Heinrich, a German, was repeatedly captures and placed in English internment camps only to keep escaping. Heinrich was finally able to escape with three other detainees and promptly headed towards Tibet in search of freedom.
The first half of Seven Years in Tibet follows Heinrich as he makes his way though the mountains and eventually ends up in Lhasa, Tibet. The journey is full of brutal and near death conditions and some humorous interactions with locals as Heinrich attempts to hide his true identity. Heinrich is only able to complete the journey with the help of Tibetans who understands how to survive the harsh mountainous region. After four years in captivity and two years journeying though the mountains, Heinrich finally arrives in Lhasa, Tibet with the goal of seeking refuge and maintaining freedom from the English.
Lhasa greeted Heinrich with a mixture of pleasant welcomes and demands to depart from all members of Lhasa’s upper class. After observing numerous weaknesses in Lhasa’s infrastructure was quick to integrate himself with government officials while working to improve portions of the infrastructure including building a dam, designing irrigation systems and introduced western sports. These contributions quickly earned Heinrich some much needed good will and respect amongst Lhasa’s elite.
This section of the book starts to dive deep into the traits, mannerisms and lifestyles of Lhasa’s residents such as how birth and death was treated along with the way Tibetans disposed of their deceased.
It wasn’t until Heinrich was in Lhasa a few years and deeply integrated into society before he met the Dalai Lama. At this point in time the Dalai Lama was still a young boy who was curious about the outside world and would often call for Heinrich to discuss western culture and practices. The book comes to a speedy conclusion after China’s invasion into Tibet in the year 1950. At this point Heinrich is forced to depart Lhasa and return to Europe.