Saturday, August 18, 2007

Five best guides to China and its history

Oliver August, author of Inside the Red Mansion: On the Trail of China's Most Wanted Man, selected a five best "guides to China and its history" list for Opinion Journal.

One title from his list:
River Town by Peter Hessler

Peter Hessler was on occasion called a "foreign devil" on the streets of Fuling, the town along the Yangtse River where he taught English for two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in the mid-1990s. But in his fascinating and touching account of the experience he doesn't come across as very foreign, much less a Mephisto intent on leading his students astray. He sketches the gentle rhythms of life along the Yangtse -- under the shadow of the looming Three Gorges dam project -- with the sureness of someone who might have lived by the river all his life. In a telling moment, he asks his students what would happen if Robin Hood came to China today. "A few followed the Party line," claiming that in the economic paradise of the People's Republic, Robin Hood would have nothing to do. "But most of them kept Robin Hood busy stealing from corrupt cadres and greedy businessmen," Mr. Hessler writes. Even in the upper valleys of the Yangtse, it seems, Chinese now prefer wanted men to Party men.
Read about Number One on August's list.

See the Page 69 Test: Oliver August's Inside the Red Mansion.

--Marshal Zeringue