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The Great Walk of China: Travels on Foot from Shanghai to Tibet Paperback – December 16, 2010
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Earnshaw is a humorous yet no-nonsense host, taking little jabs here and there at the peasant populous and keystone cops who are always left scratching their head at the old Englishman limping through their villages.
But more importantly, Earnshaw illustrates with candor and conviction how China’s changes are affecting the mindset of the under-privileged class – the ordinary people, if you will – who are being left behind the current economic book. Recommended for travelers and scholars alike.
As stated in other reviews here, the basic idea of this book was the author walking across China (albeit in stages over many years) from village to village and making conversation with absolutely ANYBODY who was willing to talk to him along the way i.e. people of all ages and walks of life. This in itself was quite interesting as we were given a really broad spectrum of views, attitudes and glimpses into the lives and hopes of the local people.
The only problem with this "next village/next random conversation" theme was that the author followed it almost to a fault, where he rarely stepped out of the square he had designed for the book to follow, and it did become a bit predictable and boring as the book progressed.
A bigger issue however was with the author and the persona that came across via some of his interactions ....
He had quite a habit of not accepting what people were saying to him and would instead challenge their answers, sometimes to the point where he was close enough to lecturing these people i.e. people that were total strangers. To me, in some cases this presented itself as crossing the line from giving helpful advice/making engaging conversation to not minding his own business/know-it-all arrogance.
He also had what can only be described as an "odd" sense of humour, and often the one-liners he delivered to the people he was talking to were totally over their heads. Which had a sense of belittlement in it's execution, as he seemed baffled that they didn't get it (but apparently should have).Read more ›
It is an ongoing journey that he has tasked himself with completing since 2004, and though not continuous, Earnshaw has thus far traversed over 3% of the earth's circumference between Shanghai and Tibet. ON FOOT!
The Great Walk of China, Earnshaw's published travelogue, is an account of just a fraction of his epic odyssey, covering the interior provinces of Anhui, Hubei, Chongqing and Sichuan. The walk is a straight line due west through some of China's most rural regions, which is exactly the serene backdrop Earnshaw, fluent in Putonghua (and at times more literate than the Chinese he meets), prefers in a concerted effort to talk to as many People as possible.
From the spontaneous hospitality of peasants whom have never before seen a foreigner in the flesh, to the paranoid reactions of low-level authorities who simply cannot grasp what he is doing venturing into the countryside, Earnshaw manages to interact with just about every class of citizen imaginable.
Earnshaw also brilliantly illustrates the ironies of modern China's identification crisis through villagers who exclaim "we are poor" out of habit despite clutching state-of-the-art mobile phones, and students, many the first in their family to be literate yet completely devoid of ambition, who vapidly waste their days away in front of televisions.Read more ›
By his own admission Mr. Earnshaw limps due to a childhood operation which left one leg shorter than the other. He claims that this "walk of China" project is a kind of "raised fist" against unkind fate. It seems to me that he tends to overcompensate for his unfortunate gait by portraying the rural Chinese people as an extremely nice, ignorant and powerless people. He also declines to take responsibility when any Chinese asks him about the century of Western exploitation in the 19th and 20th century (which is perfectly understandable of course) but the way he describes himself as proudly not apologizing seems to me somewhat imperialistic in itself. Many times when he is stopped by local authorities (admittedly for wrong-headed, possibly xenophobic reasons) he tries to challenge their dogma and ignore them, continuing to take photographs or walking past them into off-limit areas.Read more ›