Books to inspire your holiday in China
The ancient country of China is unique in so many ways, inspiring everything from stunning paintings to novels with the mystery and majesty of its culture and landscape. Be moved to travel around its vast and varied landscapes by these books which capture the country’s spirit, as chosen by our travel experts.
China: Portrait of a People by Tom Carter
Photographer and journalist Tom Carter backpacked around China for 2 years in order to experience the full extent of the country. Covering a total of 35,000 miles by train, boat and bus, he visited all 33 provinces and met people of 56 different ethnicities. His photographs are an insight not just into his journey, but also into the fascinating cultures and views he encountered along the way. This book is a labour of love by Tom Carter, faithfully documenting the beauty of the country he devoted himself to uncovering. You’re sure to come away inspired to embark on your own adventure.
Wild Swans by Jung Chang
This intensely personal first-hand account tells the story of China from a unique perspective: that of its daughters. Jung Chang tells the story of three generations of women in her family, beginning with; her grandmother’s life as a warlord’s concubine. Her mother, once a powerful member of the Communist party, portrays the cultural revolution, while Jung herself documents the self-discovery afforded by her love and subsequent disillusionment with the same movement. This award-winning best seller takes a broad sweep of history and personalises it, resulting in a readable yet passionate account that readers can’t help but be touched by.
A Thousand Years of Good Prayers by YiYun Lin
The short story is an undervalued art form, which this collection from young writer YiYun demonstrates beautifully. The stories are set both in China and in Chinese American communities in the US, giving both a unique perspective on the culture and customs of modern China, and a glimpse into the lives of ordinary Chinese citizens around the world. The reader is whisked from smoggy, busy Beijing, to the unending plains of Mongolia, via keenly observed characters who at once educate and inspire.
Three Hundred Tang Poems
This collection of poetry, first published in the nineteenth century, contains nearly 300 poems on every topic imaginable: from romance, to the wisdom of age, from the beauty of the Chinese countryside to the hardships of life at the time. Despite being over 300 years old, the book offers plenty of parallels with modern life, while also giving a glimpse of ancient traditions you can still see on tours of the nation today.
A Bitter Revolution by Rana Mitter
China’s recent history is a fascinating time to explore, both because of the complexity of the country’s situation and its profound effect on the modern world as we know it. In his book, Rana Mitter describes this uniquely complex historical moment with an unrivalled clarity of style and meaning. This book’s central thesis, that the revolution of 4th May 1919, when young radicals rejected traditional culture and Confucianism, paved the way for modern China, is compelling and intriguing, providing a fascinating lens through which to view Chinese culture.
China: A History by John Keay
This comprehensive history breaks China’s long and complex past into an engaging journey through time, covering events from the time of the Three Dynasties to Mao’s reign in the 20th century. Drawing on China’s vibrant tradition of historical literature, John Keay writes in an illuminating style which brings the past to life. This book is a perfect introduction to the length and breadth of Chinese history, providing the perfect insights into how the nation we visit today came to be.