The Search for a Vanishing Beijing weaves the genres of travel
essays and travel guides into a comprehensive narrative about the
cultural mosaic of the capital of China. The author leads the
reader through palaces, temples, back streets and markets while
bringing back to living memory forgotten or overlooked Peking
customs, stories and beliefs.
The text touches on everything under the sun as the reader walks
from Tian An Men Square through the surrounding neighborhoods and
further to sights in rustic settings. The narrative relates stories
about imperial customs, street food, temple festivals, historic
trees, Red Guard struggle sessions, Tibetan and Mongolian customs,
hiking trails, political clashes, residences of famous Chinese and
foreigners, ghosts, prisons, classical Chinese poetry, ice-skating,
espionage, burial customs, old and new embassy districts,
courtesans, restaurants and (even) Chinese liquor. Interspersed
throughout the book are stories told by such diverse sources as
Marco Polo and Bernard Shaw as well as 20th century Sinophiles like
Juliet Bredon, George Kates and David Kidd. Commentary from Ming
and Qing era travel guides are brought out for a Chinese
perspective on celebrated locations in the city.
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