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For your safety invite fasten good safety belt

I'm writing this on my way to Hangzhou from three days spent on Putuoshan. I'm on a long distance bus, the outside temperature display is reading 37 C, and I have my seatbelt on. Ordinarily, this last point wouldn't warrant much of a mention. But in a country in which wearing a seatbelt is seen as more of an option than a necessity, the fact that I have a seatbelt to wear is itself something of a novelty.

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24 Zhujia Hutong, Beijing

I visited Beijing for the fourth (or maybe fifth) time earlier this year and set myself the task of getting some photographs of hutong life and hutong people. In my previous visits I'd been too busy being a tourist to spend much time immersing myself in the ebb and flow of local Beijing life. This time ...

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Xiangqi (象棋), Shanghai

Usually referred to as Chinese Chess in the West, xiangqi is as common a sight in China as mass public dancing and random bouts of karaoke. Anywhere you see a group of guys gathered in a park or on a street corner, you can be pretty sure they're playing xiangqi. Failing that, they'll be playing cards, because that's just what guys do.

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First breakfast in Shanghai

So here we are, my first breakfast in Shanghai - a lovely bowl of congee (zhōu 粥) and eight tasty guōtiē (锅贴). It's pretty much the typical Chinese breakfast - fried pork dumplings and a rice porridge that came to around Y9. A bargain in anyone's language.

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The Search for Modern China by Jonathan D. Spence

In the late sixteenth century, after two hundred years of rule, the Ming Dynasty seemed at the height of its achievement. From science and the arts, to governance and technology, China at this time was as advanced, if not superior to any of its counterparts in Europe.

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West Lake in the Snow

How many times did I go to Hangzhou last year? Two? Three? I'm not sure. But it seemed every chance I had I was back there, trying once and for all to put to bed my earlier impression of the city as being "nothing but a lake and tourists".

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Sunsets and Summits: China in Silhouette

After the success of last week's Hong Kong in silhouette series, I thought it was about time I gave my China photos a little more blog time after a couple of months of neglect. I may not have finally made the move to the mainland just yet, but after returning almost every chance I've had over the past few years, on more than a dozen trips ...

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God is Red by Liao Yiwu

A centenarian nun, a martyred minister, a blind musician and a Yi village ceremony, God is Red by Liao Yiwu, is not so much a book about Christianity, but a book about the struggle of those who practice it in the world's largest Communist state.

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The Corpse Walker by Liao Yiwu

Ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Modern China has a history of elevating the carefully chosen everyman to hero, sometimes even mythic, status. Think Wang Jinxi, better known as Iron Man Wang, the oil driller who became a symbol of proletarian perseverance in the fledgling People's Republic after ...

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