China: A Travel Adventure Review

China: A Travel Adventure
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China: A Travel Adventure ReviewChina, A Travel Adventure
I was so delighted to have come across this beautifully produced book written by Lorien Holland. I first met the author in 1993 while we were both living in Beijing. She was studying Chinese then. Upon her request, I introduced her to a Chinese family that she could stay with, an ordinary Beijing couple who lived in a very cramped two bed-room apartment with their newborn baby. How she managed to fit into this family and communicate with them in her beginner's Chinese, I didn't know exactly. I did know that she drastically improved her Chinese. Even as a stranger in a new land, I was very impressed with the way she had always managed to find unusual and interesting places to visit. For example, after hearing of a temple dedicated to the Goddess Nuwa in Henan, an obscure place few have heard of, she made a trip there and came back with some amazing pictures to prove so.
Here in this book, she is once again making use of her talent for discovering unknown and unusual sights. She takes the reader through the wonderfully hidden and not so hidden corners of China, from Yangshuo down in the south with its poetic river and limestone pinnacles, up to Jiayuanguan in the north, marking the beginning of the famed Silk Road and the ending of the Great Wall; from the glittering grids of skyscrapers in Shanghai, to the layered fortress of the Forbidden City in Beijing. Interestingly, the book doesn't focus on the more `exotic' areas of China such as Tibet or Xinjiang, but rather, mainly on the Han areas where the majority of population resides. In the last chapter on travels off the beaten track, Holland suggests Wolong, hometown to China's giant pandas. I recently visited this region with an Austrian TV crew, chasing a panda that has been released back to the wild. I very much enjoyed its unspoiled scenery and the rustic charm of the Tibetan villages that dot the land. I doubt a writer without much China knowledge would have recommended a place like Wolong.
The stunning photos and well-written captions complement each other like green leaves and red flowers. The essays explaining China's long history and rich culture are insightful and evocative. Again, I love the little personal touches Holland includes in the book. For instance, she describes the way locals stared at the tall blond girl upon her arrival in China, the first of many novel experiences she would collect over the years. Many westerners find such curiosities exhibited by Chinese people off-putting or annoying. Holland obviously looked beyond such annoyance and found the fascinating aspects of China. One that she now generously shares with us.
This is a wonderful work, which has captured the spirit of China. It is a joy to read and a treat for your eyes. For those who have not been to the Middle Kingdom, it will wet your appetite; and for those who have been, it serves as a beautiful reminder of you China adventure.
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