The River at the Center of the World: A Journey Up the Yangtze, and Back in Chinese Time
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Rising in the mountains of the Tibetan border, the Yangtze River, the symbolic heart of China pierces 3,900 miles of rugged country before debouching into the oily swells of the East China Sea. Connecting China's heartland cities with the volatile coastal giant, Shanghai, it has also historically connected China to the outside world through its nearly one thousand miles of navigable waters. To travel those waters is to travel back in history, to sense the soul of China, and Simon Winchester takes us along with him as he encounters the essence of China--its history and politics, its geography and climate as well as engage in its culture, and its people in remote and almost inaccessible places. The River at the Center of the World: A Journey Up the Yangtze, and Back in Chinese Time is travel writing at its best: lively, informative, and thoroughly enchanting.
six-mile strip of Nanjing Road, a few blocks north, where the prices are higher, the shops are open later and there is a McDonald’s. Huaihai Road is by contrast a purely Chinese affair: the shops, the bars, the discos all Chinese-owned, the customers all from the suburbs and the tiny city streets called hutongs and the tower blocks of flats nearby. As we were passing one particularly glossy-looking bar, Lily suddenly beckoned to me: three girls were sitting together at a window table, each
city. But that—that looks, how to say it in English?—somewhat vulgar.” “Tacky!” chimed in another man, who said he had been to San Francisco, and who knew American slang. “Yes, that’s it—tacky.” * * * The bank’s office is at the southern end of a half-mile stretch of castellated Imperial architecture that offers the world the best-known face of Shanghai. We have to thank a prescient taotai for its existence, however, and not the foreigners who built it. When the first settlements were being
tinny amiability that took the chill off the early morning. “You have mail!” Duly, and robotlike, I then performed the slight mouse movements of finger and thumb that are all that is necessary these days to retrieve inbound electronic letters, and found in an instant the morning’s mass of post. Most of it was routine, letters that I wouldn’t bother with for an hour or so. But one did seem at first blush more intriguing—a note from someone I clearly did not know, someone who signed himself or
coincidence of these four factors—each of which, like St. John’s Four Horsemen, is an agent of potential destruction—produces results that are often quite literally apocalyptic. Every summer and all of a sudden, gigantic quantities of water begin to course down each of the tributary streams of China’s two main river systems. Some comes from the melting ice and snow. Some comes from the torrential monsoonal rains. But all goes eventually to the same two places. In the north of the country the
the face of the barbarian opposition, which was already mounting, and stop up her greatest river: the symbolism of such coincidence augured exceedingly well, in the minds of the masters of the moment. * * * For by now not everyone, particularly outside China, was quite so enthusiastic. The foreign firms and government organizations that had been so eager to support the Chinese from the start of the project began to have their doubts only a few years later, as the avarice of one decade began