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The Emperor Far Away: Travels at the Edge of China
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The Emperor Far Away: Travels at the Edge of China

by David Eimer
 

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In 1949, Mao Zedong announced the birth of the People's Republic of China, a proclamation to the world that, after centuries of war and social conflict, China had emerged as one nation. Since then, this idea has been propagated by broadcasts of marches and mass demonstrations of unity, designed for the benefit of the international community. For many living in the

Overview

In 1949, Mao Zedong announced the birth of the People's Republic of China, a proclamation to the world that, after centuries of war and social conflict, China had emerged as one nation. Since then, this idea has been propagated by broadcasts of marches and mass demonstrations of unity, designed for the benefit of the international community. For many living in the vast country, however, the old Chinese adage holds true: "the mountains are high and the emperor is far away."

Bordered by fourteen countries, China could be thought of as more a continent than a country, and yet it is ruled as one and treated so by political and financial commentators, who refer to a traditionally "Chinese" way of life. Few Westerners make it far beyond the major cities, and the Chinese government has made it difficult to do so. David Eimer undertook a dangerous journey to China's unexplored frontiers, to the outer reaches where Beijing's power has little influence. His chronicle shines new light on the world's most populous country, showing clearly that China remains in many ways a divided state.

Traveling through the Islamic areas of Xinjiang province, into the forbidden zone of Tibet and across Route 219, which runs the rough boundary shared with India, the only disputed frontier in China, Eimer exposes the country's inner conflict. All the tensions in China today--from its war against drugs and terrorism and the unstable relationships it maintains with Russia and Korea to its internal social issues--take on new meaning when seen from China's most remote corners. The Emperor Far Away is a brilliant melding of journalism and history and essential reading for anyone interested in contemporary China.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times - Larry Rohter
"Giving the different ethnic groups a voice—something mostly denied them in China itself" is "the principal motivation for this book," Mr. Eimer tells readers early in The Emperor Far Away…and he largely fulfills that objective…Mr. Eimer is especially adept at ferreting out obscure historical facts and documents that put the lie to Beijing's claims that these outlying areas have always been part of China.
Publishers Weekly
05/19/2014
An ancient saying, “The mountains are high and the emperor is far away,” lends this engaging travelogue its title as Eimer, Beijing correspondent for the U.K.’s Sunday Telegraph, takes readers to China’s border regions. He begins in the far western Xinjiang province, home to the bulk of China’s restive Uighur population, with whom he mingles and commiserates amid waves of Han migration and state repression. Next, Eimer explores Tibet, demystifying standard Western images of its people, while contextualizing their struggles with Chinese domination and encroachment. Part three moves into Yunnan, as Eimer mingles with the Dai and other “model minorities” along China’s massive, porous, and fairly lawless border with the regions of Southeast Asia. Finally, Eimer scouts the three provinces of Dongbei, along China’s northeast border with North Korea and Russia’s Far East—an area China is poised to exploit, if not in a territorial grab then via economic colonization. Narrated by this curious Englishman and peopled by a cast of natives, settlers, tourists, and ex-pats, this absorbing book is a tantalizing introduction to China’s diversity and the ethnic and political dynamics at the extremes of its empire. Channeling wanderlust while limning the challenges for both pan-border minorities and global powers in these historic, strategic, and resource-rich lands, Eimer’s detailed survey of minority China should interest travel junkies and students of ethnography and geopolitics. Agent: Ben Mason, Fox Mason Ltd. (U.K.). (July)
Library Journal
11/01/2014
China is the world's most populated country and has vast unexplored regions. Eimer probes the outer reaches of the country, places where the government does not grant access and about which the Chinese have a saying, "The mountains are high and the emperor is far away." A fascinating look at an important country. (LJ 5/1/14)
Kirkus Reviews
2014-05-17
A history/travelogue of the far-reaching Chinese frontiers that share more with the cultures of central Asia than with the Han majority.Xinjiang, Tibet, Yunnan, Dongbei: These are the border regions of China that contain its 55 officially recognized ethnic minorities (about 100 million people) yet are increasingly being populated and overruled by the Han. Sunday Telegraph Beijing correspondent Eimer synthesizes his trips into these nether regions since the 1980s, when he first ventured to Xinjiang, the region of the Muslim Uighurs in the far west, bordering Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Mongolia, among other countries. The journey west across the ancient Silk Road still takes days on a train, but there are many more Han moving westward in what the author sees as a new "colonizing" fever. They have not been particularly welcome among the natives, who often don't even speak Chinese and "regard the Han as interlopers." Indeed, there continue to be spontaneous uprisings against them, and the Uighurs and other minorities largely keep a wary distance from the Han, and vice versa—unlike the more harmonious mixing of ethnic groups in nearby Kazakhstan. From Kashgar, Eimer moved south through the Silk Road stops of Yarkant and Hotan, where he sensed strongly the Chinese Communist Party's strenuous efforts to suppress the Uighurs' religious expression. Then he traveled into mountainous, exotic Tibet, where simply possessing a picture of the Dalai Lama can lead to arrest and Buddhists pilgrims continue to flock despite severe CCP repression. In the deep south of Yunnan Province, heart of the Golden Triangle, the author traveled along the porous, jungle borders of Myanmar and Laos. Eimer also explored Dongbei, which makes up the northeast border near Mongolia, Russia and North Korea and contains many Koreans and Manchus of all stripes (even Christian).A swift-moving, colorful account of the bewildering array of fiercely independent ethnic groups within an uneasy Chinese "home."
From the Publisher

“A superlative choice for either casual interest or a more in-depth look at modern China.” —starred review, Library Journal

“An excellent exposition on how China's hard-line stance on the immovability of its borders is affecting the lives of millions living on the fringes of both a country and a society . . . A witty and endearing travelogue, and one which presents a view of the country which may surprise even seasoned China watchers.” —South China Morning Post

“A timely book . . . Mr. Eimer provides abundant detail . . . The Emperor Far Away, which takes its title from the Chinese proverb 'the mountains are high and the emperor far away,' is also part travelogue with vivid descriptions of landscapes and people.” —The New York Times

“A lively and informative book . . . a breathtaking travelogue . . . an exciting and powerful examination of the vulnerable people who live in the path of the Dragon.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

“The book offers insight into an important aspect of China that will likely remain in the news for some time to come.” —Christian Science Monitor

“A swift-moving, colorful account of the bewildering array of fiercely independent ethnic groups within an uneasy Chinese 'home.'” —Kirkus

“[An] engaging travelogue . . . Narrated by this curious Englishman and peopled by a cast of natives, settlers, tourists, and ex-pats, this absorbing book is a tantalizing introduction to China's diversity and the ethnic and political dynamics at the extremes of its empire.” —Publishers Weekly

“China is a vast place with millions of people from dozens of ethnic minorities living far from Beijing in regions where we Westerners rarely go. Eimer visited the fringes and tells us what he saw there.” —TIME

"Shows a fine touch with descriptions of place . . . Mr. Eimer displays a boyish enthusiasm for these remote locales." —Wall Street Journal

"Turning his back on Shanghai and Beijing, Eimer heads for China’s hinterlands--the sometimes lawless regions along the country’s 22,000km of land borders where the strictures of the Communist party seem distant. Some 50 ethnic minorities--100m people--live in these regions and Eimer aims to give a voice to their grievances against the Han majority." —Books of the Year, Financial Times

"Bookshelves are now groaning under the weight of China travelogues, but Eimer, the former China correspondent of The Sunday Telegraph, has forged genuinely new ground as he recounts his travels to China’s insubordinate far corners, where attitudes and lifestyles are very different from Shanghai’s consumerism or Beijing’s grey governmentality." —Daily Telegraph

"Original and insightful travelogue . . . Whether braving the horrors of Tibetan pit lavatories or the Arctic temperatures of the north-east, Eimer is an entertaining guide to those parts of China that most travel writers never reach." —The Guardian

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781620403631
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
07/15/2014
Pages:
336
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.40(d)

Meet the Author


David Eimer was the China Correspondent for the Sunday Telegraph from 2007 to 2012, while also working as a columnist and feature writer for the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. Having first visited China in 1988, he has traveled in almost every province of the country and lived in Beijing from 2005-2012. Currently based in Bangkok, Eimer was the Daily Telegraph's Southeast Asia Correspondent from 2012 to 2014.

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