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Non Fiction

The big wide world called China

china Ratings : 4/5

The Traveler’s Tale China (as in the other series in the Travler’s tale) is a remarkable collections of travel stories and Adage that is worth going back again and again if it emblematic to the country you fell in love with as well. China is top in my list. There are many funny and harrowing stories contained within this book.


  1. Peter Hessler is teaching English and trying to learn Mandarin in Running. A keen observer of the language, he sussed out the difference between Mandarin and the local dialects of Fuling very well. – one of my favourite
  2. Mark Stevens was there in China when the SARS outbreak happened in China in the Wall came down.
  3. Paula McDonald’s heart warming memories of dancing waltz with a woman in Hainan Island in Waltz at the end of Earth.
  4. Arthur Zich recalled his boat trip up the 3 gorges dam and contemplating the implications of the dam for the residents around Yantze River in Before the Flood.
  5. Stephanie Elizondo Griest in the Tao of Bicycling, recalled the days when she tried to get ahead of the crowd in her new Flying Pigeon China made bicycle only to be caught up with Chinese who seems to do everything else in ease while they are cycling, talking with each other, over the mobile phone, smoking etc. – one of my favourite
  6. Sean Presant travelled with a German blonde on a train who flirt with a PLA army guard not knowing the trouble and danger ahead as they toe the line of what is socially acceptable in China, concerning flirting!
  7. Fergus M Bordewich in Master Kong chronicled the history of Confucian. Amazingly I am a Chinese and Confucian is the bed rock of our civilisation and yet I do not yet read the moral teachings of Confucian. – one of my favourite.
  8. Jeff Booth was put off by a husband and wife postcard peddler at the Great Wall from Simatai to JinShanling, only to be offered some food by the peddler at The Fourteenth Tower and not expected to be paid. The peddler travelled through 40 towers a day to sell his ware.
  9. Mark Salzman in The Master learnt Kung fu from Master Pan who never made mistakes, in Hong Kong.
  10. Karin Faulkner in Pleasure tips talked about the experience at the hair saloon going through the thorough treatments of shampooing in Ningbo. – one of my favourite.
  11. Yvonne Michie Horn in A leg up on Fate took a peep on her future by consulting many fortune tellers in Hong Kong, each telling her contradictory readings of her future.
  12. John Krich talked about the Cantonese fetish for Snake meat in The Revenge of the Snake People.
  13. YingJie Qian brings out the beauty of Lijiang and its natives Naxi in Where Harmony Sings
  14. Jacqueline C Yau had a hilarious experience going bra shopping in Shanghai when the Sales lady got in the fitting room with her and shoved her hands between her bra to help Jacqueline with the fitting, in King Kong in Shanghai.
  15. Matthew Link is trying to make it as a movie extra in Dubbing Over the City, was overjoyed to get a speaking part and requested the director to do the part again and again until he get it right, only to find out that his speaking part was dubbed over! – – one of my favourite.
  16. Michael Buckley tracing the footsteps of Joseph Rock in search of the real Shangri-la in Stepping Stone to Shangri-La.
  17. Jason Overdorf gets into the dark side of China in a fly by night club specialises in Underground Boxing, Prostitution and Night club in Physical Culture.
  18. Carla King rode through the Silk Road in motorbike in China by Motorcycle. She is probably the only one contributor who made condemnation of Chinese by calling them Idiots.
  19. Raz Elmaleh in A Jew in Kaifeng found the artifacts of his people was locked for centuries behind closed door.
  20. Jesse Barkin infatuated with a Chinese girl names Guon Yen in the bar who could discuss about music and artists from the 70’s and 80’s. – one of my favourite.
  21. Pamela Logan went biking to the frontier of Inner Mongolia to commensurate the anniversary of Genghis Khan in Dancing with the Conqueror.
  22. JD Brown found Christian Stele and Nestorian culture in Xi An in The Rubbing Master.
  23. Donovan Webster traced the span of the Gobi Desert and the formidable task of the research institute to stop the desertification process on Alashan Plateau in China’s Unknown Gobi. – one of my favourite.
  24. Patrick Jennings capture the essence of wheat harvest in The Wheat was ripe and it was Sunday
  25. Tim Ward trying to get to the root of how Buddha in China became a woman in Buddha’s Sex Change.
  26. Emily Hahn recalled her days in Shanghai becoming an opium addict in The Big Smoke.
  27. Ted Pigott was forewarned “Don’t be Richard Gere!” when he visit Tibet as a teacher for i.e. don’t turn into Richard Gere who rally for the political cause of the Tibetan.
    • I didn’t know what to say, so I said, “I won’t be a Richard Gere, I promise, when I go to Tibet, I won’t be Richard Gere.” – one of my favourite.
  28. Gretel Ehrlich observed the life of the Panda in Disposable Panda.
  29. Luke O’Reilly running from the Communist Bandits who raid private homes at night in Run for Cover.
  30. Zhang XianLiang was probably the cause of how one of fellow convict died in the rehabilitation camp in Dying is a Frequent Occurrence.
  31. Miriam Roberts was there when the massacre happened in The Tiananmen Square.
  32. Ed Readicker- Henderson had the last word in the Night in the Forbidden City.


The book is not for light reading, although some parts are. Mostly, it is an amalgamation of human experience in China. I thought it was brilliant, although the one on Thailand won the travel award, and none of the libraries in England keep store of the book.


The book gives you a balanced view of China. Some travel books writes about Chinese with contempt and disrespect, in my belief, you only see what it is already in your heart. If you see good, you will see good throughout your travel especially in a country like China. If you see bad, you will only see millions of Idiotic Chinese milling around you. I am happy to say that this book chooses to see the good in this complex country with its complex ethnic make-up. Travel writings are my favourite genre of reading and I highly recommended this one or the series.


A joke:

“The southern Chinese, as any Northerner will tell you with distaste, will eat almost anything. I have heard Southerners themselves tell the story about the Indian and the Cantonese confronted by a creature from the outer space: The Indian falls to his knees and begins to worship it, while the Chinese searches his memory for a suitable recipe.” – Paul Levy, out to Lunch


An afterthought:

I knew very little about China but, being a flaming liberal, I was sure that all hostility we felt toward the Chinese was a result of our biases and if we really got to know the Chinese, we would find them to be just like us. Error. It took me all of my first year in China to accept that I had been wrong in my assumptions and that we were vastly different people.

I am not a China expert. I doubt if there is such a thing despite all those people you see on TV talk shows, hear on public radio, and read in newspapers and magazines. Just imagine a nation with about 5 times as many people as are in the United States, living in a space only slightly larger than our country, with most of the land unable to produce crop. There are 78 different races and hundreds of different languages and dialects it is possible to live in one area all one’s life and never travel more than 20 miles from one’s home. Who could ever be an expert on such a people? – Katherine walker, “Up Against the (Great) Wall.”


About JoV

A bookaholic that went out of control.... I eat, sleep and breathe books. Well, lately I do other stuff.


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Ratings Defined

0 = Abandon the book after first chapter

1 = Waste of paper, we will see what the environmentalist say about this!

2 = Skip it, read the book if you have got nothing better to do

2.5 = An average book, easily forgettable.

3 = A good read.

3.5 = A good entertaining read, a page-turner

4 = So glad that I read the book, a book with substance and invaluable for future reference

4.5 = So glad that I read the book, would pester everyone to read it, invaluable, I would want to own it and wouldn't mind a second read (something that I seldom do)

5 = The book is so good that I feel like I am on scale 4 and 4.5, and more, it blew me away and lingers on my head for weeks!

Books Read

JoV's bookshelf: read
Hold Tight
The Fault in Our Stars
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
The Thief
Catching Fire
A Tale for the Time Being
Into the Darkest Corner
The Liars' Gospel
Goat Mountain
Strange Weather In Tokyo
Strange Shores
And the Mountains Echoed
Ten White Geese
One Step Too Far
The Innocents
The General: The ordinary man who became one of the bravest prisoners in Guantanamo
White Dog Fell from the Sky
A Virtual Love
The Fall of the Stone City

JoV's favorite books »
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Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking. - Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

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