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.
cropped hair and wore a fur-lined black jacket. I assumed he was security of some sort. I smoothly removed the flash memory card from my camera and slipped it into my pocket as I walked. “He says he’s looking at the scenery,” he shouted to someone further down the road. I kept walking at the same pace. I could feel him hesitating, unsure of what to do. I was sure he was unhappy about those photos, but he did nothing more. Or so I thought. The road became steep and sharply winding up the
do you do for a living?” he asked. “I have a small company in Shanghai,” I said. “Business is okay, thanks to the Party’s benevolence.” He laughed. “I’m sure you’re a good boss,” he said. “You’ve got a sense of humour.” “Maybe. But when you have to fire someone you have to fire them.” “Do you smoke?” he asked, offering me a cigarette. “No. You have an extra one for me. So, how long do you rest at midday?” “We’re resting for longer than usual today because the truck we use is off doing
Xiaogan, the name of which means something like Filial Feelings. I passed by the temple and garden of the man named Dong Yong, whose filial piety had given rise to the town’s name. As I walked, a man approached me from behind with his jacket bunched up and held above his head to shield himself from the sun. In his late fifties, he had greying, spiky hair, and he said he was a calligrapher. We started a conversation, which was pretty tedious until he delivered this line: “I am Jiang Zemin’s
‘visitor’ was a man on a bicycle. Mr. Zhang, aged fifty, was a teacher of Chinese literature at the local high school and a part-time life insurance salesman. He invited me to visit the school, which was a couple of kilometres up ahead and close to where my country lane connected with the main road to Dangyang. He cycled on ahead, and I walked through a pine forest and emerged back onto the highway, coming up from the south and heading towards Dangyang city. The highway headed generally
Qiu’en, the Chinese name of Norman Bethune, who was a Canadian doctor and member of the Communist Party of Canada who gained immortality, in Communist China at least, by providing medical care to the soldiers of the Chinese Red Army during its campaigns against the Japanese in the late 1930s. He died in the field in 1939 of an illness. I went into the pharmacy and asked an old lady who appeared to be in charge why they had named the shop after Bethune. She dashed to the back of the shop and hid.