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The Forbidden Game: Golf and the Chinese Dream Paperback – 19 Jun 2014


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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Oneworld Publications (19 Jun. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1851689486
  • ISBN-13: 978-1851689484
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 14 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 34,462 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dan Washburn is an award-winning reporter and managing editor at the Asia Society. His first book, The Forbidden Game: Golf and the Chinese Dream, comes out in the summer of 2014. Dan's writing has appeared in FT Weekend Magazine, Slate, Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, The Economist, Golf World, Golf Digest, ESPN.com, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. His work has been featured in the anthologies Unsavory Elements: Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in China and Inside the Ropes: Sportswriters Get Their Game On. Dan is also the founding editor of Shanghaiist.com, one of the most widely read English-language websites about China. After almost a decade in China, he now lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife Bliss and their dogs Ozzie and Tux. Visit him online at http://danwashburn.com.

Product Description

Review

"Engrossing...a marvellous and subtle book." - Spectator

"Strikingly original...this is a tale of modern China." - Wall Street Journal

"Excellent...[a] colourful account of the rise of golf in China." - Financial Times

"Tackles great themes...brings China to life...Gripping and revealing." - Economist

"An illuminating portrait of modern China." - New Statesman

"I know of no narrative that surpasses The Forbidden Game [on the subject of Chinese corruption]...vivid [and] revealing." - Literary Review

"Washburn's extensive research and his breezy, reporter's style make this insightful book both educational and delightful." - Shelf Awareness for Readers

"The Forbidden Game offers a thoroughly new window onto the 'Chinese Dream.' As veteran 'China watcher' Dan Washburn engrossingly reveals, it transpires that the game of golf is a barometer for all China’s current concerns—economic growth, 'social harmony,' corruption, the growing wealth gap and, most absorbing, the hopes and aspirations of at least one Chinese man who’s daring to dream of a better future." - Paul French, bestselling author of Midnight in Peking

"The Forbidden Game is an important and fascinating work. By taking us deep into China's secret golf culture, Dan Washburn brings to life the contradictions and complications of this unique nation’s struggles with modernity—as well as an inspiring group of home-grown players who have paved the way for the rising generation of Chinese pros." - Alan Shipnuck, senior writer at Sports Illustrated and author of Bud, Sweat and Tees

"I’m not a golfer or a Sinophile, but The Forbidden Game spoke to me. At its core, it is classic storytelling–underdog tales of struggle, perseverance and overcoming adversity. The men in this book may not be perfect, but they are real people you can root for. It’s like the quintessential American Dream story, only it’s set in China.' - Brian Grazer, award-winning producer of television and film, including Best Picture Oscar winner A Beautiful Mind

"Sometimes the best way into the heart of an enigma is through a backdoor. With The Forbidden Game, Dan Washburn has opened just such a portal for anyone finding the People’s Republic of China’s unexpected progress perplexing to understand, much less to explain. By giving us a grand tour of the surprising boom in the game of golf in China, he not only illuminates a very concrete slice of life, but gives us a graphic and readable sense of both the energy and inertia that lay at the center of the contradictory phenomena that has come to be known as 'China’s rise.'" —Orville Schell, Director of the Center on US-China Relations and author of Wealth and Power: China’s Long March to the Twenty-First Century

"From a bourgeois pastime denounced by the Communist Party of China, golf became the embodiment of the new Chinese dream. The Forbidden Game speaks volumes about how much this country has changed. You can learn more from this engaging, well-written book about golf than from weightier tomes that have tried to tackle China’s transformation. A hole in one from Dan Washburn." - Barbara Demick, author of Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea and Logavina Street: Life and Death on a Sarajevo Street

"In his revealing and witty new book, Dan Washburn unearths a story that nobody knows: how the game that Chairman Mao denounced as the “sport for millionaires” stirred the dreams of farmers and soldiers, tantalized foreign pioneers, and provoked a Chinese crackdown. This is a tale about golf no more than Seabiscuit is a story about horseracing. This is twenty-first-century China in all its vivid, surprising, and human contradictions." - Evan Osnos, staff writer for The New Yorker and author of Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China

"Every bit as energetic and ambitious as the burgeoning China it so evocatively portrays, The Forbidden Game is a truly memorable feat of reporting and storytelling. By chronicling the ascent of golf in a nation whose newfound affluence has brought it as much turmoil as joy, Dan Washburn gets to the heart of what makes China's messy rise one of the century's most compelling tales. A book this richly observed and deeply humane is an all-too-rare beast these days; read it, and then cherish it." - Brendan I. Koerner, author of The Skies Belong to Us

"The stunning rise of China is usually told through upheaval in the country's politics and the economy. Dan Washburn has been smart enough to spot a much underestimated way to tell the tale – the phenomenon of golf – a sport which has thrived even as it has been repressed. The story of golf ("green opium: in the words of some government officials) has it all in China – from the wild west developments of courses to inspiring stories of success and dark politics." - Richard McGregor, author of The Party: The Secret World of China's Communist Rulers and Washington Bureau Chief for the Financial Times

The Forbidden Game is a propulsive chronicle of an old pursuit thrust into a country undergoing colossal change. But more than that, it's a richly drawn, deeply felt portrait of human striving – a great story.’ - Tom Vanderbilt, bestselling author of Traffic and Survival City

About the Author

Dan Washburn is an award-winning reporter and managing editor at the Asia Society. His writing has appeared in the FT Weekend Magazine, the AtlanticThe EconomistESPN.comForeign PolicyGolf WorldSlate, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. He is also the founding editor of Shanghaiist.com, one of the most widely read English-language websites about China. After almost a decade spent living in China, he now lives in Brooklyn, New York.


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Here's a fun fact for all you expat putters in Shanghai: upon assuming power in 1949, one of Mao Zedong's first directives was to denounce golf as a "sport for millionaires" and plow all existing courses in China; Hung-Jao Golf Club became Hongqiao's Shanghai Zoo, and a nine-hole course at the city center was turned into People's Square.

The Forbidden Game, the new book by Shanghaiist founder Dan Washburn, is not another Chinese history tome, though, and in many ways it's not even a book about golf. Instead, the game is but an apt allegory for the corruption, land grabs, environmental issues and escalating economic disparity that have become hallmarks of New China. This "sport for millionaires" thus offers readers a deluxe tour of a nation that now has more millionaires than any other country but America.

But all is not soulless in today's PRC. The Forbidden Game is also an uplifting story about the underreported yet very-real Chinese Dream, and how the proletariat of a rapidly-developing society stand a greater chance than generations past of rising up in this vast field of dreams. "While many in China still rightfully believe the deck is stacked against them, it's true that more Chinese than ever before are not only able to dream, but are also in a position to expect some of their dreams may come true," writes Washburn.

In three entwined profiles, the book traces the lives of three men who unwittingly "stumbled into a sport that for most of their lives they never knew existed."

American executive Martin Moore's story of stop-and-start projects funded by eccentric Chinese tycoons with "dreams as big as their bank accounts" will resonate with foreign businessmen here.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Alf on 17 Sept. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Fantastic book, deep insight into the lives of different people associated with the golfing industry in China. You don't need to love golf to enjoy reading this book, as it covers a range of topics such as the development of China, inequalities and what buisness is like in the Middle Kingdom.
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By SY on 1 Mar. 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book is much deeper than the title may imply. A lovely read that takes the reader on a journey through the rise of golf and its effect on three incredible real life characters. Thoroughly recommend!
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By T Monk on 6 Sept. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Excellent .. Good read
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 23 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A real insight 23 Jun. 2014
By Cory D - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The book is ostensibly about golf, but what it really explores is China and the lives of the individuals making their way there. As a long term China-resident I found the story to be captivating and one of the best looks at the reality of post-reform PRC. This is not just a book for golfers; it is a book for anyone with an interest in the region and a highly entertaining read.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Another Book Review from the Aleph Blog 22 Jun. 2014
By David Merkel - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I'm not a golfer, but I really liked this book. The charm of the book is that it takes us through the lives of three men, and a host of lesser characters, and shows us how the growth of golf in China shaped their lives. Two of the protagonists are Chinese, and one American.

The American, Martin Moore, was a promising golf course designer who did increasingly well designing courses in the US, Thailand, and China. He learned how to get things done amid demanding bosses and ambiguous regulation. Is building a golf course forbidden or not? What if we call it a "health club?" What if many locals object to their land being expropriated?

He succeeded amid many obstacles. The next protagonist, and the one who had the most dramatic success was Zhou Xunshu, a man who went from not knowing anything about golf -- an industrial worker, a common man, to being a golf professional. His efforts were significant, and he underwent many hardships as he pursued his dream.

Then there is Wang Libo, a man who gets displaced by his home getting taken from him to build a golf course, and he takes the opportunity and builds a store/bar/restaurant near the complex to profit from the opportunity.

Three engaging characters amid the ambiguity of changing regulations, and whether it was legal to build new courses or not.

You will learn a lot about China in the process... what it is like dealing with an all-powerful Party whose machinations are secret. And yet, one where if enough people protest, you can't do anything, even if you have all of the permits in place.

You will get a behind-the scenes look at creating the world's largest golf course twice, and the ambition of those who wanted to see it done quickly.

You will also experience the Chinese Dream, as the book's subtitle suggests... the dreams and goals of those who want to live a life similar to middle-class Americans, but all the more poignant, because the path to getting there is often unclear.

To those reading me at Amazon.com, please Google "Aleph Blog Washburn" and you will be able to read a special Q&A with the author that I will post after writing this post.

This was an enjoyable book to read, and I think most people would learn something from it.

Quibbles

None.

Summary

This is a great book. It will make a great gift to friends of yours who are golfers.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Caddyshack with Chinese Characteristics 9 Nov. 2014
By Thomas Carter - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Here's a fun fact for all you expat putters in Shanghai: upon assuming power in 1949, one of Mao Zedong's first directives was to denounce golf as a "sport for millionaires" and plow all existing courses in China; Hung-Jao Golf Club became Hongqiao's Shanghai Zoo, and a nine-hole course at the city center was turned into People's Square.

The Forbidden Game, the new book by Shanghaiist founder Dan Washburn, is not another Chinese history tome, though, and in many ways it's not even a book about golf. Instead, the game is but an apt allegory for the corruption, land grabs, environmental issues and escalating economic disparity that have become hallmarks of New China. This "sport for millionaires" thus offers readers a deluxe tour of a nation that now has more millionaires than any other country but America.

But all is not soulless in today's PRC. The Forbidden Game is also an uplifting story about the underreported yet very-real Chinese Dream, and how the proletariat of a rapidly-developing society stand a greater chance than generations past of rising up in this vast field of dreams. "While many in China still rightfully believe the deck is stacked against them, it's true that more Chinese than ever before are not only able to dream, but are also in a position to expect some of their dreams may come true," writes Washburn.

In three entwined profiles, the book traces the lives of three men who unwittingly "stumbled into a sport that for most of their lives they never knew existed."

American executive Martin Moore's story of stop-and-start projects funded by eccentric Chinese tycoons with "dreams as big as their bank accounts" will resonate with foreign businessmen here. His recounting of contract negotiations, "Byzantine Chinese politics" and playing in the guanxi-gray explain how contractors have grown wealthy building courses that are technically illegal. "To get around the restrictions, savvy developers would label their projects as `resorts.' Plant some flowers and trees...maybe some people grab a club and hit a ball. That's just leisure."

Wang Libo, a farmer in rural Hainan, sees his rightful land legacy devoured by golf developers with the help of unscrupulous local officials. "The decision to sell or not to sell had already been made for them." Wang, however, realizes this might be a golden opportunity to realize his dream of a "cement home near a cement road."

Zhou Xunshu, a Guizhou peasant turned golf pro, escapes to the big city to carve out a living as a security guard on something called a golf course. In a Caddyshack-like moment, Zhou breaks club rules and, in front of disbelieving executives, knocks his first-ever ball 280 yards!

Washburn is not only a gifted writer, cleverly sketching out interconnected, character-driven portraits, but an empathetic reporter. These stories have heart, and it is clear from the first passage that the author has taken a deeply personal interest in the people he is profiling. The Forbidden Game is China writing at its most thoughtful.

###
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Uses golf to provide insight into today's China 18 July 2014
By BobG - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed how the author uses golf as a lens that brings focus to many cultural, sociological, and political challenges facing modern day China. I have had the opportunity to do business in China and also to play golf in Kunming and I believe he is pretty spot on. There is so much more to China than meets the eye. It is a complex world and this will provide great insight into the challenges that a society with 1.3 billion people faces on many levels.
Dan Has Caught the Chinese Psychology Right in the Heart 14 Jan. 2015
By L. Chen - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I was born and raised in China until I was twenty one. I have to confess, Dan knows China much deeper than I do. I have learned a great deal about my country from him. This book is truly delightful and satisfying to read. Thank you Dan for making me laugh so hard--at some touching point I tear hard too.

Besides Dan's knowledge, intelligence and brilliant mastery of storytelling, his care, compassion, authenticity, thoughtfulness, respectfulness, and humor are the real gem to me. Dan put himself behind the scenes, presenting the complexity of his characters––that is, the complexity of China––without being judgmental; never condescending.

I can only imagine how much time and effort Dan has committed, and how much personal sacrifice he has made. In order to follow the changing mentality of his characters, he has gone through the most crowded city streets to the most forlorn mountains in different parts of China over the dramatically changing years.

Dan collected small and big information from a small village dinner table to the largest golf courses playing deadly Tai Ji with the central government. He plowed through a myriad of local dialects and customs, changing and unpredictable circumstances, different fates of villagers and citizens, trying to demystify the very essence of Chinese psychology. He has caught it right in the heart.
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