Tuesday, December 12, 2017
I was sent a copy of this delightful book by my GR friend Jason Pym, a British artist living in Dali, Yunnan, who wrote it entirely in Simplified Chinese. Usually I would decline reading anything written in Simplified Chinese, as I think it mutilates and degrades the beautiful Chinese language. But I made an exception in this case, not least because it was written by a native British, knowing how hard Chinese language writing is for Westerners. Another major reason is that I wanted to learn about the ancient history of beautiful Dali.
I was not disappointed. A portion of the book is dedicated to relating the early history of Yunnan's "white tribe" 白族, which can be traced back all the way to the times of the Three Kingdoms 三國. In the 8th century, this ethnic tribe came under the rule of Nanzhao 南詔 and became a tributary state annexed to the Tang dynasty. Due to subsequent disputes with Tang, Nanzhao 南詔 was annihilated after a period of prosperity. By the 10th century, the Duan family 段氏家族 established the Kingdom of Dali 大理國, which carried the tradition of Buddhism and ruled in peace for 300 years until its conquest by the Mongols.
Other portions offer interesting information about the landscape, flora and fauna, tribal customs and other cultural tidbits of Dali 大理.
Sunday, December 10, 2017
Friday, December 1, 2017
Saturday, November 25, 2017
Travel books have never been a favorite of mine, but I had been drawn to this one by a recent 5-star Goodreads review, plus the fact that the author happens to be my publisher.
What sets this travelogue apart from others is that its focus is on the author's interactions with the people he met throughout his journey on foot (this is possible as the author speaks fluent Mandarin and reads and writes Chinese), which naturally add a spontaneous and human dimension to the places he visited.
The author makes it clear at the start that this was not a contiguous journey, but rather a series of walks that spanned six years. He could only afford to devote a few days every month to this walking project, and each time he made a fresh start at the point where he had last stopped. The direction he took was always to the west. At the end of the journey, he covered the provinces of Zhejiang, Anhui, Hubei and Sichuan with a total distance of roughly 2,000 kilometers. Almost all the villages, towns and countryside he passed through were off the beaten track - I admit that the place names are all unfamiliar to me.
Through his random and incessant conversations with people from all walks of life he met on the road, readers get a good glimpse of how the locals go about their daily lives and of their thoughts about the past, present and future. It is apparent that the author not only has a deep sense of empathy for the lower echelons of Chinese society, but is genuinely concerned about the future of the kids who have the misfortune of being denied proper education.
The bright spots of the book are descriptions of otherworldly beautiful scenery of some remote and untouched countryside stretches which, if not consciously preserved, will be trampled and wiped out by blind development.
I love this book for its humbling and inspirational qualities, for which I gave 5 stars.
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Tuesday, November 7, 2017
The book launch for The Green Phoenix: A Novel of the Woman Who Re-made Asia, Empress Xiaozhuang will be a joint event with John Saeki, author of The Tiger Hunters of Tai O.