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