Search SFE    Search EoF

  Omit cross-reference entries  

He Ma

Entry updated 26 October 2021. Tagged: Author.

(?   -    ) Pseudonym of a reclusive Chinese entrepreneur and author of Pulp fiction whose Tibet Code series, presented in 75 chapters over ten volumes, has made him one of the wealthiest authors in China. Originally drafted as "The Last Temple", it was retitled by a publisher with a desire to recall the historical conspiracies of Dan Brown. Zangdi Mima "The Tibet Code" (2008) involves a modern expert on dogs in a convoluted plot, as an initial search for the "purple qilin", a rare wild breed of Tibetan mastiff, is diverted into legends of Secret Masters and the quest for the Lost World of Shangri La. The story's focus is a moment in the ninth century when the Tibetan king Khri 'U'i dum brtsan (reigned 838-842, also known as Langdarma) suddenly and lethally turned on the Buddhists in his realm (see History in SF). The destruction of the wealthy Pagbala temple in the midst of these purges creates a myth of hidden treasure, sought by generations of fortune hunters ever since. However, this is only one of many Tibetan legends and folktales appropriated by He for the adventures of his protagonist, who finds in Tibet a mystical realm of cryptozoology, conspiracy and Fantasy.

He's fascination with Tibet recalls the excitement and entitlement of Victorian explorers in the mode of H Rider Haggard, both affirming its status within the People's Republic of China, while also "othering" it as a mysterious, atavistic wilderness of secret passages and forgotten histories. He exploits both his personal knowledge of the region and its periodic closure to outsiders in order to spin an alternate history which, by book two, has uncovered demonstrably "Tibetan" ruins in the jungles of South America, which are only reached after death-defying conflicts with killer bees, soldier ants, pugnacious Drug dealers and native cannibals fit to test the patience of Indiana Jones (see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). Later volumes return somewhat sheepishly to Asia, possibly as the author learned to tame his more excessive exuberance, in a narrative that instructs readers via Infodumps about byways of Tibetan history, while also commodifying it as an environment where plucky Chinese adventurers pilfer the past in search of treasure (see Imperialism).

After its online debut, the story was rushed into print with such speed that some critics accused He of fronting a secret collective of collaborators. He countered that his "overnight success" was the result of a decade's research and writing, an intensive process that had occupied him everywhere, from aeroplanes to the toilet. He benefited immensely from the public support of the author and editor Ah Lai, but also from pragmatic management behind the scenes that somehow put a 50,000-word English-language outline of the entire series into the hands of Hollywood producers. The story was optioned by DreamWorks as the first live-action film project for its Shanghai office (54% Chinese-owned, and hence a "local" production avoiding China's severe import restrictions on foreign movies), enmeshing the work further in byzantine politics and the exercise of soft power. The quiet cancellation of that project a year later, supposedly over the impossibility of securing the rights, only added further fuel to the rumours that "He Ma" was a collaborative venture rather than an individual. [JonC]

He Ma

born Neijiang, Sichuan, People's Republic of China



Tibet Code

  • Zangdi Mima ["The Tibet Code"] (Chongqing: Chongqing Chubanshe, 2008) [Tibet Code: pb/]
  • Zangdi Mima 2 (Chongqing, China: Chongqing Chubanshe, 2008) [Tibet Code: pb/]
  • Zangdi Mima 3 (Chongqing, China: Chongqing Chubanshe, 2008) [Tibet Code: pb/]
  • Zangdi Mima 4 (Chongqing, China: Chongqing Chubanshe, 2008) [Tibet Code: pb/]
  • Zangdi Mima 5 (Chongqing, China: Chongqing Chubanshe, 2008) [Tibet Code: pb/]
  • Zangdi Mima 6 (Chongqing, China: Chongqing Chubanshe, 2009) [Tibet Code: pb/]
  • Zangdi Mima 7 (Chongqing, China: Chongqing Chubanshe, 2009) [Tibet Code: pb/]
  • Zangdi Mima 8 (Chongqing, China: Chongqing Chubanshe, 2010) [Tibet Code: pb/]
  • Zangdi Mima 9 (Chongqing, China: Chongqing Chubanshe, 2010) [Tibet Code: pb/]
  • Zangdi Mima 10: Shensheng Da Jieju ["Tibet Code 10: The Sacred Ending"] (Chongqing, China: Chongqing Chubanshe, 2011) [Tibet Code: pb/]

individual titles

  • Damo Tuteng ["Desert Totem"] (Beijing: Zhongguo Youyi Chuban, 2010) [pb/]
  • Shentan Han Feng Muhou Heishou ["Incredible Investigator Han Feng: A Manipulator Behind the Scenes"] (Beijing: Zhongguo Huabao, 2010) [pb/]


previous versions of this entry

This website uses cookies.  More information here. Accept Cookies