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FRIDAY

In 1921, newlywed Janet Wulsin left her sheltered, upper-middle-class life to join her husband on an expedition to western China, an area that had seldom been visited by Westerners. She and her husband, Frederick Wulsin, collected animal specimens for Harvard University and later, under the aegis of the National Geographic Society, photographed a world Americans had not yet seen, all the while dodging China’s protracted civil war. Mabel Cabot, Janet’s daughter, assembled pictures and writings from Janet, Frederick, and their friends into the lavish Vanished Kingdoms: A Woman Explorer in Tibet, China & Mongolia, 1921-1925, which chronicles their journey: Buddhist temples that offered lodgings to the couple; camel trains crossing the Alashan desert; the head of a thief, suspended from a pole along a Mongolian trail as a warning to other bandits. Cabot’s mother was a plucky gal, as Frederick describes her on their first expedition: “Jan on her donkey was delicious to behold—leaning back in her green leather coat and an orange scarf on a little beast the size of a jackrabbit. She yelled at him in approved Chinese fashion.” Perhaps the Wulsins’ marriage required the stimulation of shared adventure. In 1929, Frederick was on a solo expedition to Mexico when he abruptly divorced Janet, and soon thereafter he married one of their friends from Peking. Janet regretted never returning to China, but she and her second husband, who had also traveled there, never shut their door to the refugees sent to them by their friends in Asia. Cabot speaks at 7 p.m. Friday, May 30, at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919. (Janet Hopf)