Janet Wulsin's 'Vanished Kingdoms' Janet Wulsin explored Tibet, China and Mongolia for National Geographic from 1921-1925. NPR's Renee Montagne talks to Mabel Cabot who's written a book, Vanished Kingdoms, which chronicles Wulsin's journey. See a map of their 1923 route, and a gallery of pictures that Wulsin and her husband took on their journey.

Janet Wulsin's 'Vanished Kingdoms'

Daughter's Book Tells of Mother's 'Extraordinary' Expedition

Janet Wulsin's 'Vanished Kingdoms'

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Vanished Kingdoms chronicles Janet Wulsin's Tibet expedition. hide caption

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A map of the Wulsins' 1923 journey. Courtesy of Aperture Foundation, Inc. hide caption

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Courtesy of Aperture Foundation, Inc.

Mabel Cabot describes her mother, Janet Wulsin, this way: "A privileged, spoiled daughter of a New York railroad baron who lived... in that cocoon-protected world at the end of the golden age in the early 20th century in New York. And she was looking for an escape..."

NPR's Renee Montagne talked to Cabot about that escape: a four-year long expedition through China, Mongolia and Tibet. In 1975, Cabot found her mother's archives at Harvard, archives with 1,900 photographs from an expedition Wulsin undertook with her husband, Frederick.

"It was dangerous," Cabot says. "They went by camel, mule and horse, and rafted down the Yellow River. It's extraordinary." From Peking to Taiyuanfu in 1921, to the "living Buddha" at Kumdum and the final three-week raft ride down the Yellow River in 1923, the Wulsins saw wondrous landscapes and people. She wrote in her diary after meeting the living Buddha: "It is quite a thing to be received by a Buddhist divinity, and I guess not many of the Junior League girls in New York can boast of it."