The Great Walk of China: Travels on Foot from Shanghai to Tibet
What kind of people would you meet if you decided to walk across the world's most populous country? The Great Walk of China is a journey into China's heartland, away from its surging coastal cities. Through surprisingly frank conversations with the people he meets along the way, the Chinese-speaking author paints a portrait of a nation struggling to come to terms with its newfound identity and its place in the world.
stopped me and walked over to a side table and brought back a pack of three thick incense sticks. He lit two candles on the altar table as the children sang along with the amitofo song, burned the plastic covering off the incense sticks and handed them to me. He taught me how to place the sticks between my hands and bow three times to Buddha. I took some more photos of the incense coils and started to leave, but Mr. Liu became agitated. “You must give some donation,” he said anxiously. Damn. I
she's crazy, mentally deranged. I looked back and the old woman was staring intently into my eyes and talking at me using clear sentences and structure. “Do you understand what she is saying?” I asked Ms. Ling. She shook her head. The lady moved round and sat down right beside me on the bench, still looking at me. These crazy people in the mountains seemed to be attracted to me and it may be because, like them, I am different. I wondered what the best way is to communicate with these people
who live partly in our world, and partly somewhere else. In my normal life, I rarely came across people like this. How to break through to them? How to dig through to the sentient core hidden under the damaged mental layers? I started to talk to her. I looked straight at her and answered her in standard Chinese with phrases that seemed appropriate based on what she seemed to be saying. “Really?… That is interesting… I didn’t know that… Why did you do that?… Do tell me more…” And she talked on
saw. I began to notice quite a number of black caterpillars crawling about on the ground, only a couple of inches in length but fast on their suckers. I spied one striking off boldly across the asphalt road, heading from one slab of fields to another. I stood and watched as it wiggled quickly towards the centre line. Two bicycles passed, missing the caterpillar by inches, and I breathed more easily. Then a bus came past and squashed it flat. How sad. I walked on and soon came upon another
sat with some children, including a six-year-old girl who looked exactly like the late Taiwan singer Teresa Teng. I pointed out the likeness and her mother strenuously disagreed. Teresa was one of Nationalist Taiwan’s most potent ideological propaganda tools in the early 1980s. I passed a suspended optical fibre cable prominently marked as being part of the National Defense communications network. I made a mental note to call MI5. ‘Education and birth control – teachers are the key!’ announced a