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The Emperor Far Away

Travels at the Edge of China
Narrated by: Corey Snow
Length: 10 hrs and 40 mins
4 out of 5 stars (49 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Far from the glittering cities of Beijing and Shaghai, China's borderlands are populated by around one hundred million people who are not Han Chinese. For many of these restive minorities, the old Chinese adage "the mountains are high and the Emperor far away", meaning Beijing's grip on power is tenuous and its influence unwelcome, continues to resonate. Travelling through China's most distant and unknown reaches, David Eimer explores the increasingly tense relationship between the Han Chinese and the ethnic minorities. Deconstructing the myths represented by Beijing, Eimer reveals a shocking and fascinating picture of a China that is more of an empire than a country.

©2014 David Eimer (P)2014 Audible Inc.

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Engrossing Stories of an Unfamiliar China

Journalist David Eimer gives us a fascinating book that covers ground rarely discussed in the usual Westerner-Goes-to-China genre, that of the far-flung regions of China and the minorities who live there. The title comes from one of the famous Chinese chengyu (short sayings) that translates as "The mountains are high and the emperor is far away". It is used to describe remote, lawless regions. And for some places the Eimer journeys to, the description is still apt. Eimer travels to the far Northwest - Xinjiang, the Southeast - Yunnan, the Northeast - collectively known as Dongbei. These are not regions that are particularly easy for tourists. For the most part, Eimer is traveling to small towns where even the basic amenities of a hotel room, of sorts, and restaurant can be few and far between, not to mention his often inventive means at obtaining transport.

Eimer is a keen observationalist, and his humor-inflected writing flows naturally. One observation about certain dire pit toilets and how they could induce constipation in one suffering from dysentery; well, you don't get an image much more vivid then that.

Narrator Corey Snow is a pleasure to listen to except for his pronunciation of Chinese names and words. He uses English syllable sounds instead of Chinese pinyin. So, those familiar with the proper pronunciation cringe each time we hear the mispronounciation of a word.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Profile Image for Adrian J. Smith
  • Adrian J. Smith
  • 06-24-19

Excellent Travel Memoir

An excellent travel memoir, full and complete, The Emperor Far Away adequately covers all the mysterious far reaching regions of China, wherein what can be defined as China becomes increasingly blurred.
As a veteran China traveler, this work provides déjà vu to previous China travel experiences, and an inspiration for further travel, particularly in the far reaches of the North East that I have yet to explore.
The Emperor Far Away provides insight into the seeming paranoia that grips Beijing with regard to its far reaches in Xinjiang, Tibet and the comparatively less familiar North East where China and Russia collide.
The book opens with a very informative account of Xinjiang, providing both a detailed memoir and an insightful history of this troubled far Western territory one sixth of China’s territory in total. The book then proceeds to the very familiar area of Tibet, and then to the accounts of Yunnan and the eye opening account of human trafficking from Myanmar to provide brides for China’s left behind males.
The real strength of the book is the final chapter on China’s North East, which details how North Korea is technically a vassal state of China (no secret to anyone familiar with the region) and the increased tensions between China and Russia’s Far East, as many Chinese are flocking into the declining Russian region. The author details Russian concerns that China is stealthily annexing the territory, an inconceivable notion to some, but a very real fear among Russians.
The author has gone out of his way to encounter dwindling numbers of almost unknown ethnic minorities in Heilongjiang province, and dared lengthy journeys to the harshest reaches of China’s Northeastern reaches, recalling memorable encounters of ethnic minority weddings, and tense commercial activities between Northeastern Chinese and Far Eastern Russians.
The Emperor Far Away is an insightful account of the very far reaches of China, an excellent travel memoir and one that is distinct from the many China travel memoirs that are available.
The performance is excellent and maintains the listeners interest, the only complaint being that the narrator is clearly not familiar with the basics of Pinyin and frequently pronounces almost all Chinese place names incorrectly. But other than that, an excellent narration.