In this entrancing story of spiritual adventure, a Westerner in Peking seeks the mystery at the heart of the Forbidden City. He takes as a tutor in Chinese the young Belgian René Leys, who claims to be in the know about strange goings-on in the Imperial Palace: love affairs, family quarrels, conspiracies that threaten the very existence of the empire. But whether truth-teller or trickster, the elusive and ever-charming René presents his increasingly dazzled disciple with a visionary glimpse of "an essential palace built upon the most magnificent foundations."
"Strange and memorable...Segalen had seen the truth in his lies and has left them this beautiful endorsement." --The Japan Times
"An allegorical novel of Being [that] beneath the mask of irony Segalen poured into this book all the anguish of man in thrall to his limitations...this is the novel of the Impossibility of Knowing." --Henri Bouillier