Tuesday 23 September 2008

China Journey

Finished September 23
The River at the Center of the World: a journey up the Yangtze, and back in Chinese time by Simon Winchester
The edition of this book that I read had a new afterword by Winchester bringing some of the issues around the river and his trip up to date.
Winchester has visited China often and his knowledge of the language assists greatly in both facilitating this journey and informing it. He travels with a guide, Lily, up the river from the mouth to the headwaters. The book breaks the journey into sections, with a map showing the relevant area at the beginning of each section. The trip starts out in the water where the Yangtze waters meet the ocean, and Winchester talks about the major towns that lie along his route, the history of the river, its trade and navigation, and the people he meets. As always in his books, he makes the story interesting, informative and yet not weighed down with too much information. The geography of the river is fascinating and his trip was taken after the Three Gorges Dam project had started, but before it was complete, so this is one of the last glimpses of that section of the river, now buried beneath the waters. I learned interesting tidbits of Chinese history and all kinds of things about the river itself that add to its imagery in the imagination.
I highly recommend this to travellers, historians, and just those who like a good story.

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