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Memories or impressions of China

(Updated January 29th, 2014.)

“…despite constant media coverage, increased tourism and rampant foreign investment, the cultural distance between China and the West remains as vast as the oceans that separate them.” –Promotional copy from Tom Carter’s photography collection China: Portrait of a People

We asked Red Roomers who have lived in or visited China to share their memories on their blog. If they'd never been, we asked for a memorable impression received from talking to Chinese people, or from books, articles, documentaries, or movies. 

A few posts stood out:

  • Susan Blumberg-Kason's debut, a memoir about her five-year marriage to a man from Central China, comes out later this year. In her entry "Trains, Plains, and Mianbao Che: My First Trip to China," this Red Room member recounts, with lots of great photos, her 1988 journey, when China was open to the world but hadn't become the economic and technological powerhourse it is today.
  • From that time to this, "China Blog" is member Jack B. Rochester's description of his and his wife visit to the hustling China of today. From "dirty, brilliant, exciting, industrial, modern, conservative, colorful, architecturally awesome" Shanghai to Lijang near the border with India, Jack tells personal anecdotes and makes larger observations about how China's sheer scale make capturing the country satisfactorily is impossible.
  • Just one night in "in a drafty, Tibetan-style wooden house where (she) had invited myself for the night" introduced member Li Lovett to the rugged reaches of western China, the area "also known as Shangri-la after James Hiltons' fictional Himalayan town." The locals' long history contending with China's 20th-century upheavals is vividly described in "The Widow of Shangri-la."

Books about China—whether by Chinese authors like The Flowers of War’s Geling Yan and Twin-Sun River’s Shouhua Qi; diaspora authors who write about China like Amy Tan (The Valley of Amazement), Maxine Hong Kingston (The Fifth Book of Peace), and Belle Yang (Forget Sorrow); or foreigners writing about historical figures (like Antonio Garrido, with his fictionalized version of the historical Cí Song The Corpse Reader) or what they saw when they went to China like Carter and John Paddison—all contribute to promoting understanding across the distance Carter describes. 

Several bloggers will receive books by Red Room authors:

 Portrait of a People

Tom Carter spent two years backpacking 56,000 kilometers (35,000 miles) across all thirty-three provinces in China, including some of the most remote locations in the country. En route, he discovered and photographed immense geographic and ethnic diversity, with a focus on the people he met along the way. See what he saw in China: Portrait of a People.

Retired college professor—and co-author of the novel The Brothers’ KeepersJohn Paddison took what he calls a “grassroots” approach when compiled his own photo collection into the eBook China Photos and Reflections, available from Smashwords for just $1.99.

Forget Sorrow

When Belle Yang was forced to take refuge in her parents’ home after an abusive boyfriend began stalking her, her father entertained her with stories of old China. The history she’d ignored while growing up became a source of comfort and inspiration, and narrowed the gap separating her—an independent, Chinese-American woman—from her Old World Chinese parents. In Forget Sorrow: An Ancestral Tale, Yang made her debut into the graphic form with the story of her father’s family, reunited under the House of Yang in Manchuria during the Second World War and struggling—both together and individually—to weather poverty, famine, and, later, Communist oppression. The parallels between Yang’s journey of self-discovery and the lives and choices of her grandfather, his brothers, and their father (the Patriarch) speak powerfully of the conflicts between generations—and of possibilities for reconciliation.

I hope you'll read all entries in this blog challenge, and leave comments telling the bloggers what you liked about what they shared. All of Red Room's past blog topics are here. Thanks as always for blogging!

Huntington Sharp, Senior Editor, Red Room