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.
of Buddha. At Fenshui, the roads of past, present and future separate. The original stepped path that was for centuries the main way between Wanzhou and the Sichuan capital of Chengdu crossed the finger at Fenshui, while the highway builders of the 1950s decided to route Highway 318 further west along the valley and across the finger at a lower point. The new freeway, which has liberated Highway 318 from much of the heavy traffic, follows closer to the original path. But the old path was also
outsiders. I asked if he could still run his business as a party member. “Oh yes.” He talked at length about the heavy responsibility of party membership, but there was a fake touch to his words that reminded me of other party members I had met in Shanghai who used their positions for their own personal benefit without any moral qualms. Of course, he agreed, party membership also brought with it expanded networking opportunities and alternative business possibilities. The next day, when I
irrelevant. I could see only two sampans on the water, both moored and neglected. Over the bridge, I was back in the countryside. Cotton and more cotton had been laid out on the road to bake. The country lane I had chosen was an old thoroughfare, straight as a die and lined with trees and farmhouses. I stopped at a small store and sat beside a friendly tabby cat that started licking the sweat off my fingers. I talked to the people sitting around enjoying the sunshine, including one man who
Chashui High School at the age of seventeen, he went to Shenzhen to work in a factory for two years. Then three years before our meeting, his mother died unexpectedly and Xu Bing’s father had to undergo a heart operation. His younger sister was devastated, and he had to hurry back to look after everything. He nursed his father back to health, worked the fields and arranged for his sister to get a job in Shenzhen. His father, now better, was the man I saw working under the trellises in the fields
region, and my ear was not yet attuned to it. As I stepped off the bridge and onto the northern shore, I was met by several motorcyclists waiting for fares under a sign welcoming the successful holding of the Seventeenth Communist Party Congress. They waved to me, and I asked if the road was “passable”. One laughed and said: “Well, every road is passable to somewhere, right?” Okay, good point, smart arse. I asked a minivan driver if the road was “passable to Sichuan”, and he nodded. That was