In Manchuria

  • by Michael Meyer
  • Narrated by George Backman
  • 13 hrs and 20 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

In the tradition of In Patagonia and Great Plains, Michael Meyer's In Manchuria is a scintillating combination of memoir, contemporary reporting, and historical research, presenting a unique profile of China's legendary northeast territory. For three years Meyer rented a home in the rice-farming community of Wasteland, hometown of his wife's family, and their personal saga mirrors the tremendous change most of rural China is undergoing in the form of a privately held rice company that has built new roads, introduced organic farming, and constructed high-rise apartments into which farmers can move in exchange for their land rights. Once a commune, Wasteland is now a company town, a phenomenon happening across China that Meyer documents for the first time; indeed, not since Pearl Buck wrote The Good Earth has anyone brought rural China to life as Meyer has here.
Amplifying the story of family and Wasteland, Meyer takes us on a journey across Manchuria's past, a history that explains much about contemporary China, from the fall of the last emperor to Japanese occupation and Communist victory. Through vivid local characters, Meyer illuminates the remnants of the imperial Willow Palisade, Russian and Japanese colonial cities and railways, and the POW camp into which a young American sergeant parachuted to free survivors of the Bataan Death March. In Manchuria is a rich and original chronicle of contemporary China and its people.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

China's Northeast. An undiscovered gem

Michael Meyer has provided an approach to travel writing with which I was previously less acquainted. While my travel writer of choice, was, and is, Robert D Kaplan, Meyer provides a style and narrative in contrast, in the sense that a greater portion of the novel is personal recollection of interactions with people, but not just any people, people who form the human and personal accounts of China's transformation.
Having previously lived in Jilin Province, and having personally explored the cities described in this book, namely Harbin, Changchun and Shenyang, Meyer brings the places to life in the form of a journey through history, worthy of any previous travel writing I have encountered.
The transformation of rural China of the subtitle, is largely the corporatization of rural China. Meyer takes us through a journey, from the Qing Dynasty, to subordination in the Japanese puppet state of Manchuguo, to collectivization in the Mao era, to the abolition of the latter and the introduction of the household contract responsibility system in 1984, and eventually the abolition of all agricultural taxes in 2006.
The people described in the book are faced with the dilemma of the conglomerate of East Fortune Rice who were effectively buying up the land, and redeveloping the town, a development with mixed views. As Meyer describes, this may offer the chance for the urbanisation of the village, the chance to live in 2 bedroom apartments with central heating, rather than the Kang, but perhaps some people are content with the life they have.
Meyer provides an insight into Chinese culture one is unlikely to gain from scholarly history or current affairs books because he intimately interacts with the ordinary people themselves, therefore, the book is educational, and educational in a warm and personal way.
Definitely recommended to those with an interest in China, and particularly those with an interest in China's much overlooked Northeast. The Northeast is a charming, unique place of beautiful forests, and lively people, and is well worth a visit, or even living for an extended period, as I have done. For those considering the Northeast, Meyer's book is a very good prelude.
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- Adrian J. Smith

Book Details

  • Release Date: 17-02-2015
  • Publisher: Audible Studios for Bloomsbury