The Great Walk of China: Travels on Foot from Shanghai to Tibet
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What kind of people would you meet if you decided to walk across the world's most populous country? The Great Walk of China is a journey into China's heartland, away from its surging coastal cities. Through surprisingly frank conversations with the people he meets along the way, the Chinese-speaking author paints a portrait of a nation struggling to come to terms with its newfound identity and its place in the world.
religion are you?” I told the boys I had no religion. “But what religion do other people in England have?” “Many people in England are Christian,” I said. “How about you?” “I guess we are Buddhists,” said Chu Jun. “I like Buddhism,” I said. “It is peaceful.” Chu Jun pointed to diminutive Chu Kui. “His father is a Taoist priest.” “Taoism! I like that as well,” I said. I recited the first three words of the Taoist canon, the Daodejing: “Dao ke dao (the way that can be followed…)” Chu Jun
to snap away. “It’s not allowed. You just go into the hotel.” I complied; no point starting a fight. “Who owns this place?” I asked as he escorted me to the front entrance. “The Wuhan City Commerce Office.” A weekend resort for the Wuhan party leadership. Very nice. I walked into the cool lobby, passed billiard and ping pong tables, and was told by the receptionist that a standard room would cost me one hundred and sixty RMB. I asked to see the accommodations, which turned out to be
pulling carts of all sizes. The roads had plenty of trucks too, but the horses were clearly a key part of the local transport infrastructure. I watched a man as he urged a horse up a muddy slope, pulling a heavy cart loaded with bags of grain. The horse tried with all its might, but the wheels stalled on stony outcrops, and the man beat it unmercifully with a whip. The horse knew every time the whip was coming and flinched off to the side. It occasionally tried to seek refuge in some bushes, but
his father was a KMT official and his mother a doctor who had been educated in an English Christian missionary school. He was the eldest of three boys and his father had made the fateful decision not to go to Taiwan when the Communists took the mainland in 1949. He was executed and the family endured a living hell in the years that followed. In the late 1950s, Mr. Zhou was forcibly moved out of Wuhan to a village near the town of Zaoshi, close to where we were walking. He had spent more than
relatively poor.” “Really? It doesn’t seem so poor,” I said. “I’ve seen much poorer than this.” “Right. In the mountains. But they are building roads to open those areas up.” “How’s business?” I asked. “Pretty good.” “Are most of your customers locals or people passing through?” “We get both. How old are you?” he asked. “Fifty-four,” I said. “How about you?” “You look just thirty-something! I’m just over forty.” “Where are you from?” asked his wife. “I was born in England, and I now