The River at the Center of the World: A Journey up the Yangtze, and Back in Chinese Time

The River at the Center of the World: A Journey up the Yangtze, and Back in Chinese Time

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by Simon Winchester
     
 

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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… See more details below

Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"The delicious strangeness of China," as Winchester puts it, is as much the subject of this absorbing account of a personal journey as is the Yangtze River, the third-longest in the world and the entry to China's heartlands. Along its banks, some of the most important events in the country's history have played out, and the river occupies a singular place in the national psyche. In 1994, Winchester followed its course from the East China Sea to Tibet by boat, car, train, plane, bus and foot; but this is more than an ordinary account of a traveler's pilgrimage, although it is a must for any visitor to China. Wryly humorous, gently skeptical, immensely knowledgeable as he wends his way along the 3900 miles of the great river, Winchester provides an irresistible feast of detail about the character of the river itself, the landscape, the cities, villages and people along its banks. Most notably there is Shanghai, once "the most sinful city in the world," now an economic powerhouse rivaling Hong Kong; Wuhan, where the 1910 revolution began that brought Dr. Sun Yat Sen to power and where Mao Ze Dong, at 70, chose to make his famous swim; the Three Gorges, where a great, controversial dam to rival Aswan is being built; and Chongquin, once Chiang Kai-shek's smoggy and furnace-hot capital. Finally, Winchester made his way to the great river's source 15,000 feet high in the mountains of Tibet. A journalist who has written extensively about Asia (Pacific Rising; The Sun Never Sets) and spent nine years in Hong Kong making frequent visits inland, Winchester is comfortable with the country's long, complex history and politics, and he writes about them with an easy grace that defies the usual picture of China as an enigma wrapped in a conundrum. (Nov.)
Library Journal
A geographer by training, Winchester, the Asia-Pacific editor of Cond Nast Traveler magazine, decided that traveling from the end of the 3,965-mile Yangtze River toward the source would allow him to journey deep into the heart of China. The trip also takes him back in time as he moves from ultramodern coastal cities like Shanghai to the still underdeveloped interior. Along the way, he and a valued Chinese companion-guide, Lily, travel through polluted urban industrial cities, flat plains, and some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in the world. Winchester includes lucid discussions of topics related to geographic areas of the river: a fascinating account of tea in Lushan, once a tea-growing center, and an excellent chapter on the controversial decision, universally condemned by environmentalists, to dam the river and flood, among other things, the scenic Three Gorges. His work is a vivid account of the Yangzte as it will cease to be when the dam is completed. An interesting, informative, well-written account; highly recommended for public and academic libraries.Caroline A. Mitchell, Washington, D.C.
The Washington Post
Winchester is a storyteller...romantic enough to make us yearn to be there with him.
The New York Times Book Review
Winchester is an exceptionally engaging guide...at home everywhere, ready for anything, full of gusto, and seemingly omnivorous curiosity.
Los Angeles Times
Another home run.
San Francisco Chronicle
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.
Christopher Buckley
Winchester is an exquisite writer and a deft anecdoteur.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780805055085
Publisher:
Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
10/01/1997
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
432
Product dimensions:
5.92(w) x 9.06(h) x 1.12(d)

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