The River at the Center of the World: A Journey up the Yangtze, and Back in Chinese Timeby Simon Winchester
Rising in the Mountains of the Tibetan Border, the River That many regard as 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, the Yangtze has also historically connected China to the outside world through its nearly one thousand miles of navigable waters. To travel the vast extent of the river is to travel back in history, to sense the soul of China, and this Simon Winchester does, taking us along with him as he encounters the very essence of China -- its history and politics, its geography, climate, and culture, and above all its people, many of them in remote and almost inaccessible places. This is travel writing at its best: lively, informative, and thoroughly engaging.
“Winchester is a storyteller...romantic enough to make us yearn to be there with him.” The Washington Post
“Winchester is an exceptionally engaging guide...at home everywhere, ready for anything, full of gusto, and seemingly omnivorous curiosity.” The New York Times Book Review
“Another home run.” Los Angeles Times
“At one time or another, many of us, I suspect, have wanted to be Simon Winchester, to lead a life that was equal parts Jan Morris and James Bond.” San Francisco Chronicle
“Winchester is an exquisite writer and a deft anecdoteur.” Christopher Buckley
- Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- First Edition
- Product dimensions:
- 5.92(w) x 9.06(h) x 1.12(d)
Meet the Author
Simon Winchester is the author of The Professor and the Madman, The Map That Changed the World, and Krakatoa, among many other titles. He lives in Massachusetts, New York City, and the Western Isles of Scotland.
- New York; Massachusetts; Scotland
- Date of Birth:
- September 28, 1944
- Place of Birth:
- London, England
- M.A., St. Catherine¿s College, Oxford, 1966
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Winchester is almost thunderstruck by the river's majesty. He loves the wild grandeur of Tibet, and fully appreciates the Yangtze's importance in world history. It's just that he finds China's cities of the 1990s ugly, dull, and distasteful. Partly for diversion he's repeatedly drawn to every available relic of British colonial days, till his Chinese assistant Lilly cries "Oh God, your bloody British Empire again!" About half the book concerns tales of times past. It's half travel adventure, and half history. Clearly Winchester wrote this for a non-Chinese audience, highlighting what seemed relevant or appealing to foreigners, in the years just before the economic boom. --author of A Galaxy of Immortal Women: The Yin Side of Chinese Civilization
I can't say enough about how wonderful this book is. The fabulous information about the geography and hydrology of the river and, indeed China, are amazing. As you travel up the river, it is truly a trip back in time. His adventures with Lily (imagine coming upon someone who can fix a busted radiator in the middle of nowhere), seeing China through their eyes (and Lily's feelings and thoughts on China are ambivalent and complicated) and discovering the people and culture are just some of the high points. You absolutely can't go wrong! I've passed the book around to several other readers who felt the same way. So far, 5 thumbs up!! Also, if you're into China, try Paul Theroux's 'Riding the Iron Rooster.' Another excellent book and writer.
You can read the other reviews if you want to hear about the writer's credentials. What I want to point out to you is how this book illuminates a forgotten and oft-misunderstood aspect of the Chinese people. Their culture is one of the oldest on the Earth. By this fact, we should have lots to learn from them, and we do. Their creativity and resilience astounds even in the face of modern monstrosities and sometimes because of them. What you will find is that the China that Winchester depicts is always in dichotomy. the yin-yang pull of life lives and breathes in every action and inaction. Far too often, the simple and pragmatic Chinese people are written off as mired in nostalgia and tradition. Winchester proves that they choose that path and perhaps might be better for it. This book is truly a remarkable glimpse of an unknown China written from the perspective of one at once in love with and bewildered by its people as Winchester rightfully should be.
She drives up to the house. First she detachs the trailer and puts it in back. Then she grabs the bags and unpacks.