Book: The River at the Center of the World

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The River at the Center of the World: A Journey Up the Yangtze, and Back in Chinese Time

Author: Simon Winchester
Publisher: Picador

Rising in the Mountains of the Tibetan Border, the River That many regard as the symbolic heart of China pierces 3,900 miles of rugged country before debouching into the oily swells of the East China Sea. Connecting China’s heartland cities with the volatile coastal giant Shanghai, the Yangtze has also historically connected China to the outside world through its nearly one thousand miles of navigable waters. To travel the vast extent of the river is to travel back in history, to sense the soul of China, and this Simon Winchester does, taking us along with him as he encounters the very essence of China—its history and politics, its geography, climate, and culture, and above all its people, many of them in remote and almost inaccessible places. This is travel writing at its best: lively, informative, and thoroughly engaging.


British born author Simon Winchester lived in Hong Kong before setting off on a journey up the Chang Jiang or Yangtze River as it is most often referred to in the West. In The River at the Center of the World: A Journey Up the Yangtze and Back in Chinese Time, he chronicles his adventures across China along the 3,964-mile River. Employing nearly every mode of transportation—including boat, train, jeep and shoe leather—Winchester recalls his passionate exploration of the countryside, while providing important and engaging historical information. His recollections of the Chinese people are often less complimentary, as he exudes an air of disgust at the country’s apparent disregard for pollution, its awkward modern architecture and decaying historical monuments.

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