I'm surprised that I only recently became aware of this book by Hans Li. I was poking around on Amazon, looking at Alberto Villoldo's and Eric Jendresen's books, I believe, when I noted Hans' name in the mix on one. When I clicked through to his
author page I found The Ancient Ones: Sacred Monuments of the Inka, Maya & Cliffdweller
listed, and ordered a used copy. Hans was on many, if not most, of the same trips that I took with Alberto back in the 80's-90's, and I was not aware he'd done a book like this. He is from a very significant Chinese family, with centuries of eastern healing knowledge, and much of his work (such as establishing the Waka Foundation
) appears to have been in relation to that grounding ... although he professionally has trained as an architect and photographer.
Obviously, that last piece is what provided the genesis of this book, being a collection of B&W photos from sites in South America, Central America, and the Four Corners region (primarily covering Incan, Mayan, and Anasazi ruins), woven together with texts, both modern and ancient. As I have traveled a good deal in all three of these areas, it was quite a pleasant remembering to see these pictures (I'm guessing that I've been to about half to three-quarters of the ruins shown here), some for rather remarkable things that happened there.
Hans, of course, is not a "disinterested eye" when approaching these subjects either, as he has studied techniques of native healing and spirituality in many of these locations, and that "knowing" aspect hangs over these images, shifting them away from "vacation snaps" or "photo journalism" and into something deeper. Aside from the exclusive use of black and white, there is very little "arting up" of the pictures here, and unlike some books
there is no effort made to mystify the places shown, rather Li takes an approach suggesting the eye was simply opening wider
to take in more of the essence of these sites.
Frankly, many of the ruins pictured will look very familiar because the photos are taken from the same spots as everybody else's pictures ... however, this can't really be faulted, as in most cases (especially in the Cliffdweller sites), there are only certain places where one both is allowed access, and they provide an interesting shot. Of course, the familiarity of knowing how/where a particular picture was snapped helped bring back memories of various places to me stronger than they might have were these taken under "special" circumstances.
As far as the text goes, it is a mixed bag. Parts of this are Hans Li's personal stories, woven in with assorted native myths and writings (there is a lot of the Popul Vuh
in the Maya section), plus an introduction within the Inca section by Alberto Villoldo. As I've noted in reviews of his recent books, I've been sort of having to re-discover Alberto as he's moved beyond the place he was when I was working with him ... well, this book is a bit like "coming home" as the invocations and general "world sense" in here is "right where I left off", so is somewhat reassuring that I'm not mis-remembering those times. As this is from a dozen and more years back, I wonder what new paths Hans may have taken since putting this out.The Ancient Ones
appears to be out of print (although there still is a web site
dedicated to it), but if you're looking for a deal
, that's not necessarily a bad thing, as Amazon's new/used vendors have "very good" copies of this (originally $35.00 large-format hardcover book) for as little as $5.25 (plus shipping). If you enjoy the archaeology of the Americas, and sincere mystical approaches, this book probably belongs in your library as well.