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Green Dragon, Sombre Warrior: A Journey Around China's Symbolic Frontiers [Hardcover]

Liam D'arcy Brown
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
RRP: 18.99
Price: 17.63 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
You Save: 1.36 (7%)
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Book Description

6 Mar 2003
The ancient Chinese divided the zodiac into four quadrants, each with its own ruler - the Green Dragon of the East, the Scarlet Phoenix of the South, the White Tiger of the West and the Sombre Warrior of the North. They believed that these, and the interaction of the five elements - wood, fire, earth, metal and water - governed human affairs and that together they demonstrated a unity in multiplicity, a harmony in divergence. Taking the same frame of reference, Liam d'Arcy Brown set out to travel to the four corners of the People's Republic in an attempt to reconcile modern China's seemingly irreconcilable extremes. His 10,000-mile journey took him to an isolated fishing community in the East China Sea, a tropical holiday resort on the tip of Hainan Island, a Muslim city on the Silk Road and a riverside village in remote Manchuria. In each, he discovered aspects of China that the wider world seldom glimpses. Yet despite the astonishing contrasts of her physical and social geography, the variety of her peoples and the tangled web of her many histories and possible destinies, some constants remain. Pork buns steaming in a bamboo basket, gold Chinese characters pasted to a doorway on a red paper diamond, empty crates of beer bottles, a battered thermos flask stencilled with the Double Happiness symbol - all these endure.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: John Murray (6 Mar 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0719560381
  • ISBN-13: 978-0719560385
  • Product Dimensions: 22 x 14.8 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,510,414 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Historical insight, Chinese mythologies, modern commentary are all deftly interwoven with the narrative of his own odyssey ... This is an impressive debut (Daily Telegraph)

D'Arcy Brown proves himself to be an intrepid traveller as he goes by train, bus, motorbike and foot where few Westerners have gone before. Into his travelogue he weaves some of the history of China, and he turns out to be a very good historian ... His debut is a moving and chilling book. Let us hope there are many more to come (The Times)

This familiar type of book is enriched by the depth of Liam D'Arcy Brown's sinology and the acuity of his observations (Observer)

D'Arcy Brown marshals an enjoyable selection of anecdotes and legends to set his destinations in historical context. But by far the most absorbing part of his travelogue consists of conversations with travelling companions ... An engaging combination of travelogue and history (Times Literary Supplement)

The four corners motif lends a quiet cohesion to his journey, but far more integral is his exploration into the ways in which China has responded to the rapid infiltration of Western culture ... This is a beautifully written travelogue attaining the perfect balance between social comment and personal experience (Wanderlust)

His penetrating, often funny observations ... make for a fascinating read (Daily Mail)

Alongside vivid description of landscape and people, Brown discreetly works in insights into the highly complicated history of this enigmatic country (Bolton Evening News)

A fascinating account of China's extremes, interwoven with historical insight ... The beautifully written narrative is highly descriptive and provides a depth of personal experience (East Anglian Daily Times)

This accomplished report from the four corners of a diverse nation (The Times)

The author observes China intimately, regularly conversing with people he meets. This gives readers an insight into what life in China is like. D'Arcy Brown is also knowledgeable about Chinese history and culture. And he meets an interesting mix of people; the author's descriptions are memorable and vivid ... Green Dragon, Sombre Warrior is a well-written, intelligent account of contemporary China through the perspective of ordinary people (South China Morning Post)

A voyage to the extremes of the Chinese universe sounds like a wondrous if slightly terrifying experience, and this vivid account matches up to those hopes and fears ... A short but incisive book that deftly weaves in some fascinating historical background. The author has a lightness of touch that makes it a highly evocative read (China Review)

Book Description

Liam d'Arcy Brown set out to travel to the four corners of the People's Republic in an attempt to reconcile modern China's seemingly irreconcilable extremes. His 10,000-mile journey took him from an isolated fishing community in the East China Sea to a riverside village in remote Manchuria.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A lonely trek to the ends of China 3 April 2011
Format:Paperback
In his travel adventures, Brown is bent on accuracy. He's not one to stint on depicting the grubbiness of Chinese trains, the ugliness of slums, or the crudity of inter-ethnic prejudices. If you too traveled to the four ends of China, this is basically what you'd see.

Brown has lots of report-worthy conversations on his way, and he speaks good Mandarin. But the relationships he forms come and go between trains. They arn't like the months- or years-long friendships Peter Hessler or Leslie T. Chang write about. At one point, passing through Shanghai, Brown says with typical honesty, "Leaning on the stern handrail, muffled against the morning cold, I was utterly alone in a city of perhaps 15,000,000 souls."

Still, it's a well conceived adventure. Brown covers parts of China (like the goddess Guanyin's island of Putuoshan, Hainan, or Kashgar), that I'd wanted to know about. He digs into the local past wherever he goes, and shines his flashlight far off the beaten track.

--author of A Galaxy of Immortal Women: The Yin Side of Chinese Civilization
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars entertaining and educational 28 Sep 2011
Format:Paperback
The author has great powers of description and seems to know his subject inside out. As an example of great travel writing I am hard pushed to think of any better. His details and insights bring contemporary China to life. He is unsentimental and unsensational. A great read and an education too.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A lonely trek to the ends of China 3 April 2011
By Brian Griffith - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
In his travel adventures, Brown is bent on accuracy. He's not one to stint on depicting the grubbiness of Chinese trains, the ugliness of slums, or the crudity of inter-ethnic prejudices. If you too traveled to the four ends of China, this is basically what you'd see.

Brown has lots of report-worthy conversations on his way, and he speaks good Mandarin. But the relationships he forms come and go between trains. They arn't like the months- or years-long friendships Peter Hessler or Leslie T. Chang write about. At one point, passing through Shanghai, Brown says with typical honesty, "Leaning on the stern handrail, muffled against the morning cold, I was utterly alone in a city of perhaps 15,000,000 souls."

Still, it's a well conceived adventure. Brown covers parts of China (like the goddess Guanyin's island of Putuoshan, Hainan, or Kashgar), that I'd wanted to know about. He digs into the local past wherever he goes, and shines his flashlight far off the beaten track.

--author of A Galaxy of Immortal Women: The Yin Side of Chinese Civilization
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