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The Emperor's River: Travels to the Heart of a Resurgent China Paperback

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Eye Books (July 9, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1903070708
  • ISBN-13: 978-1903070703
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,221,947 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"A moving and chilling book. Let us hope there are many more to come.”  —Times on Green Dragon, Sombre Warrior

“Historical insights, Chinese mythologies, modern commentaries are all deftly interwoven with the narrative of his own odyssey. D’Arcy-Brown has penned a perceptive portrait of modern China in all its bewildering diversity. . . . he has captured its soul.”  —Stanley Stewart, author, In the Empire of Genghis Khan on Green Dragon, Sombre Warrior

About the Author

Liam D'Arcy-Brown is the author of Green Dragon, Sombre Warrior.

More About the Author

As a lover of China and its culture I'm proud to be what the Chinese themselves approvingly call a "Zhongguo tong" -- what we might call a Sinologist or an "old China hand". Growing up in York, however, my first twenty years were spent a world away from the wonderful chaos of China. In the late 1980s I embarked on a degree in Mandarin and Classical Chinese at Oxford, graduating from there to study Ancient Chinese History amongst the cherry blossoms of Shanghai's Fudan University.

My travels to China began in 1991 when I first crossed the border from Hong Kong as a student, and over the years I've lost count of the times I've been drawn back. I've spent time in most of the nation's provinces and regions, visited its four most distant compass points, navigated the entire 1,115 miles of the Grand Canal from Hangzhou to Beijing, and been taken into custody while searching for traces of the First Opium War in what turned out to be a People's Liberation Army base.... A single lifetime isn't enough to do justice to a country larger than continental Europe, with 3,000 years of recorded history and 1.3 billion inhabitants, but each year I try to add a few new pages to my travel diary.

After spells working with the top-end tour operator Voyages Jules Verne and with BBC Haymarket in London, at the age of 30 I swapped my briefcase for a rucksack and became a full-time traveller and writer. Since then I've been recording my experiences of a changing, modern China. In 2006, just days before a three-month trip to investigate the Grand Canal of China, I married Rebecca, my supremely understanding and indulgent girlfriend of ten years. We live in the picturesque old town of Kenilworth, Warwickshire, in the heart of England.

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By David I. Cahill on June 20, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The idea of devoting a book not just to the history of China's Grand Canal but to its present state is a good idea, and I'm surprised no one else has done it (at least in English). It often takes foreigners to actually view Chinese history as something that includes the present, not just the musty past, as the Chinese themselves tend to see "history," eliciting from them much yawning. Of course, the reason why history as it is taught in China does not include the present is that the present often departs from the carefully scripted official story, according to which modern China's history ends in 1949 and after which there is no more history to write, because the country's socialist destiny has been reached, apart from a handful of ongoing self-congratulatory milestones - the Beijing Olympics, the space program, etc. So to write a history that addresses the reality of something in the present is quite a radical idea in China. D'Arcy-Brown found this out in his numerous encounters with baffled and suspicious police along the Canal who wanted to know what he was doing there.

Most of the Grand Canal today, it turns out, is not a pretty sight. Only the southern length, from Hangzhou north to Jining, has enough water to continue to be used mainly for coal transport on barges, some of which the author was lucky enough to be allowed onto after bribing the captain. The northern length is largely bone dry, despite a few brief showcase stretches passing through Tianjin, the Beijing suburb of Tongzhou and a few other cities, that have been beautified with parks and monuments. Elsewhere for long lengths of the canal the author could not even gain access, stuck in hotels in nearby cities and monitored by the police.
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By Lilian Enders Ribeiro on December 23, 2013
Format: Paperback
(sorry about my english, i am not a native speaker)
Having lived in Hangzhou, sharing tea and bamboo chairs with my good old neighbors, smelling their chinese medicinal herbs boiling on the stove through the wooden walls , I am enjoying very much reading this book (not yet finished), as a memory of the FACETTES of life that exist uniquely in China.

Initialy i ordered the book to write a short essay for a media-theory-essay focussing on the influence of the technologial breakthrough of the canal to the chinese civilisation.
I found it very inspiring, and yes, indeed, not extremely full of technical information(which can be found elsewhere).
But reading D'Arcy's phrases is a great pleasure. His connection to the Chinese through the deep knowledge of the language and the sensivity of his communication make this book a great fun to read.
I can smell the herbs and the gutters, and have a smile on my face. What do you want more?
Thanks :)
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By Ron Webb on July 10, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I purchased this book before visiting the Grand Canal. I had read about the building of the canal in the Sui Dynasty, and the macro economic effects of trade and commerce during the Tang and Song Dynasties. I expected some interesting, relevant facts and stories about this great wonder of the world. There must be some good stories here, about the boats, about life the towns along the way, about the people who plied the canal. It could have been a wonderful book, but was instead a rather boring travelogue. Very short on information.
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