Red Dust: A Path through China [NOOK Book]

Overview

In 1983, at the age of thirty, dissident artist Ma Jian finds himself divorced by his wife, separated from his daughter, betrayed by his girlfriend, facing arrest for ?Spiritual Pollution,? and severely disillusioned with the confines of life in Beijing. So with little more than a change of clothes and two bars of soap, Ma takes off to immerse himself in the remotest parts of China. His journey would last three years and take him through smog-choked cities and mountain villages, from scenes of barbarity to havens...
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Red Dust: A Path through China

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Overview

In 1983, at the age of thirty, dissident artist Ma Jian finds himself divorced by his wife, separated from his daughter, betrayed by his girlfriend, facing arrest for “Spiritual Pollution,” and severely disillusioned with the confines of life in Beijing. So with little more than a change of clothes and two bars of soap, Ma takes off to immerse himself in the remotest parts of China. His journey would last three years and take him through smog-choked cities and mountain villages, from scenes of barbarity to havens of tranquility. Remarkably written and subtly moving, the result is an insight into the teeming contradictions of China that only a man who was both insider and outsider in his own country could have written.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
With insight only a native could impart, Chinese artist Ma Jian has written a powerful travelogue chronicling his years on the road as he explores the furthest reaches of China. Inspired -- or perhaps driven -- to travel as a result of governmental repression, Ma Jian speaks out in a bold voice about art, freedom, and the hardships faced by China's inhabitants. After leaving his home in Beijing with forged papers and only a handful of money, Ma Jian begins a three-year journey of self-discovery that also brings him to a deeper understanding of his own country. Although he visits deserts, ancient Buddhist statues, and other historical sites, the real focus of Ma Jian's narrative becomes his encounters with the struggling Chinese peasants he meets on the road. Questionable sanitation, scarce food supplies, and rigid social structure characterize the towns Ma Jian visits, making it increasingly difficult for him to pursue his artistic and poetic ideals. Western readers will find Red Dust an important, eye-opening work, one that opens a window onto a vastly different world.
Jonathan Spence
In this skillfully constructed
(London) Financial Times
If you have time to read only one book on China this year, choose Red Dust.
Independent (London)
Red Dust is a tour de force, a powerfully picaresque cross between the sort of travel book any Western author would give his eye-teeth to write and a disturbing confession. Ma's dissidence is at once idiosyncratic and conservative. He does not want China propelled into an American future; he seeks greater freedoms but refuses to believe such freedoms add up to anything much in the material world.
The Observer
This is a beautiful, disturbing read -- a new Wild Swans. It is a wonderful book -- part Matsuo Basho, part Jung Chang, part allegory -- one of those rare travelogues that manages to transcend its subject and evoke the leaf-blown qualities of a peripatetic life. Red Dust is at once a sustained poetic meditation and a portrait of a continent-sized nation in flux. From its pages China's landscape emerges with filmic clarity. Ma Jian's Chinese journey and his writing are an exhilarating combination.
Big Issue
Ma Jian's writing is a revelation, an insider's account of a country permeated in every paragraph by a rebel's sensitivity. His writing has a picaresque quality, unforgettably conjuring images of a continually changing landscape where the only constant is hardship, struggle, and ideological confusion.
Publishers Weekly
In 1983, squirming under constant government scrutiny and mourning a failed marriage, writer and photographer Jian abandons his home in Beijing to journey to China's western border with little more than a change of clothes, two bars of soap, a notebook, a camera and Whitman's Leaves of Grass. It is the beginning of an arduous three-year voyage that takes him not only through little-traveled regions of China, Myanmar and Tibet, but through a careful examination of what it means to be a Buddhist, to live in post-Mao China and to exist in his own skin. A skilled storyteller, Jian narrates in prose that is spare and often beautiful his encounters with people who live in a region that "even today... is a place of banishment, populated by political prisoners, descendents of Turkic migrants, and the ghosts of buried cities." From the night he spends crammed under a bus seat next to a pile of dirty socks and clucking hens to his escape from Chinese militiamen who mistake him for a Burmese spy, Jian tells a powerful story that is no mere travelogue. Indeed, his journey exposes him to so many risks getting bitten by sheepdogs in the grasslands along the Yellow River, drinking foul lake water that knocks him unconscious that the sheer number of life-threatening incidents begins to dull their impact. Still, Jian offers a revealing, riveting portrait of a Chinese citizen who seeks truth and honesty in a society in which such a quest can be grounds for punishment. (Nov.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Although billed as a travelog, this perceptive memoir represents a spiritual as much as a geographical journey. In the early 1980s, Jian, a writer, poet, painter, and photographer, became dispirited with his work and personal life in Beijing and set out on a three-year voyage across some of China's most remote areas in an attempt to learn about himself by learning more about his homeland. On the journey through China to Tibet, he visited mountains, deserts, lakes, Buddhist monasteries, a leprosy camp, overpopulated cities, and small villages, encountering unusual as well as straightforward characters along the way. This book, which has not been published in China, is an attempt to portray post-Mao China as seen through the eyes of a wandering man. And the one-man viewpoint interwoven throughout is certainly an important part of its appeal. Clearly not a conventional travel book for tourists contemplating a trip to China, this insightful and heartfelt rendition of China's far-flung landscapes is recommended for all libraries, especially those with specialized collections on China and Asia. Melinda Stivers Leach, Precision Editorial Svcs., Wondervu, CO Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An extraordinary-and offbeat-insider's account of life in post-Mao, pre-Tiananmen China. Born in 1953, Ma Jian had a wife, a child, and a good job working as an artist and propagandist for a government trade-union organization. But he wasn't satisfied living in a China that "feels like an old tin of beans that having lain in the dark for forty years, [and] is beginning to burst at the seams." Unwisely, he let his disaffection be known by growing his hair long, hanging out with dissident artists, and having a fling or two. His actions caught up with him: his wife divorced him, while his section heads brought him in for endless, surreal self-criticism sessions-one deputy accusing him of using a splotch of yellow paint to "suggest that we are a federation of pornographic trade unions." Ma took an unlikely course by simply walking away, traveling hobo-style through the western desert, down to the China Sea coast, and eventually to Tibet, where he kept out of trouble with the oppressed, Chinese-detesting locals by passing himself off as a citizen of Hong Kong. Spinning a single narrative, he collects notes on all he saw and did. Always a step ahead of the law, always with a fresh eye, blending in with the crowd, he was able to see things forbidden to Western travelers, from out-of-the-way oases to sometimes unpleasant scenes of daily life ("I went in and ordered a bowl of mutton noodles. They were quite filling, but I kept thinking of the sheep's head I saw bubbling in the pot"). Out among the cutthroats, brigands, shamans, and rural unemployed, Ma kept clear of the Campaign Against Spiritual Pollution for three years, living a grand life of adventure. How he managed eventually to wanderback into Beijing and resume a more or less ordinary life is a matter, presumably, for another book-one that readers will eagerly await.
From the Publisher
“Honest, raw, insightful. . . . The Chinese equivalent of On the Road.” –Time

“[Ma’s] powers of description make every page buzz with life. . . . Someone who could rank among the great travel writers.” –The New York Times Book Review

“A Sino-beatnik travelogue, [and] a fascinating search for self.” –Mother Jones

Red Dust is a tour de force, a powerfully picaresque cross between the sort of travel book any Western author would give his eye-teeth to write, and a disturbing confession.” –The Independent (UK)

“Ma captures the feel of wandering off China’s beaten track, which is to say most of the country, far from the tour buses and souvenir stands.” –Los Angeles Times

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307427410
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/18/2007
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 873,216
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

MA JIAN left Beijing for Hong Kong in 1987, shortly before his books were banned in China. After the hand-over of Hong Kong he moved to Germany and then London, where he now lives. His acclaimed book Red Dust won the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award 2002.  

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Table of Contents

A Note on Names vii
1. Red Walls 1
53 Nanxiao Lane
The Frozen Blue Sky
A Man of Thirty
Men in the Dark
Writing My Self-Criticism
Mixing Blood and Urine
Launch of the Campaign Against Spiritual Pollution
Back in the Public Security Bureau
Leaving Nanxiao Lane
2. Dust Storm 59
Emerging from the Gate of Hell
First Steps
Living in the Night
The Gold-Digger
Stuck in Suoyang
Resting in the Gale
The Living and the Dead
Lure of the Distance
3. Drifting Through the West 103
Hairdressing in Golmud
Fishing on Qinghai Lake
Racing Down the Ravine
Meeting Ma Youshan
The Girl in the Red Blouse
4. A Country in Ferment 133
Back to the City
Night Sprinkler
River of Ghosts
5. The Wind-Blown Soil 167
City of Tombs
Lost in the Wastes
Flies in Scrambled Eggs
6. Wandering Down the Coast 203
House of Memories
Time Is Money
Day and Night
Building a Park Within a Park
The Opening Ceremony Becomes the Closing Ceremony
Walking to the End of the World
7. The Abandoned Valleys 231
The Silent Beat of the Drum
Entering a Strange Circle
Abyss of Desire
Rain Over the Leprosy Camp
Mountains Behind Mountains
8. Life at the Border 261
Old Shabalu
Into the Jungle
From Traveller to Fugitive
Selling Chiffon Scarves in a Traffic Jam
9. A Land with No Home 289
Buddha and the City
Same Path, Different Directions
The Woman and the Blue Sky
In the Sky, on the Road
Road and Direction
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 24, 2009

    great read good travelogue frank and honest,,

    interesting frank well written and told man who is frustated with red maoist way of life trying to explore his own country and people and life within..... great read . waitin and wanting more from ma jian.. honest teller

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 24, 2009

    good travelouge well written frank and honest,,,

    interesting frank well written and told by inside man who is frustated with red maoist way of life trying to explore his own country and people and life within..... great read . waitin and wanting more from ma jian.. honest teller

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews

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