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The Great Walk of China: Travels on Foot from Shanghai to Tibet Paperback – December 16, 2010

3.8 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

A journalist's journey by foot from Shanghai to Tibet offers a fascinating look at a part of China seldom seen by foreigners. --The Christian Science Monitor, December 23, 2010

About the Author

Earnshaw is editor-in-chief of Xinhua Finance, managing director of SinoMedia, Ltd. and a director and founder of Park 97 in Shanghai. He speaks Cantonese and Mandarin, and taught himself to read Chinese.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Blacksmith Books (December 16, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9881900212
  • ISBN-13: 978-9881900210
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.7 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,123,241 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I learned about Graham Earnshaw and this book through some interviews conducted by photographer Tom Carter (author of China: Portrait of a People). It was an easy, pleasant read, almost like taking a virtual stroll through China’s countryside.

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.
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I can't say that this was a bad read but I didn't feel totally at ease with the author. He came across equal parts eccentric, arrogant, entertaining, annoying and knowledgable.

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).
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Format: Paperback
Graham Earnshaw is a true man of the People. His 30-year tenure in China as a journalist, businessman and, most recently, publishing magnate, have made him a permanent fixture in the Shanghai scene - which is exactly why Earnshaw makes it a point of de-fixing himself at least once a month to walk in the countryside and "speak to the Real China."

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.
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Format: Paperback
I'm about a quarter thru this book and I'm having some trouble deciding whether to finish it or not. Mr. Earnshaw walks thru the rural areas of China and characterizes himself as someone who enjoys integrating himself into the culture (he congratulates himself on planting a few seedlings in a rice paddy) but at most stops along the way he makes snarky comments about how he was able to best the local authorities and he goes out of his way whenever English text is around to display the ignorance of Chinese rural peasants who can't read English. He also seems to enjoy pointing out that these people characterize themselves as being poor but still have cellphones. Very nice of him to dismiss the rural/urban earnings gap with such a penetrating insight (sarcasm here) and at the same time painting these people as being ingenuous. In general I found his attitude a bit patronizing and elitist.

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.
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