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Beijing: Portrait of a City

"Beijing Portrait of a City" is a captivating collection of stories, essays, poetry and reminiscence by leading China authors, storytellers and academics, about a city they know from the inside. The book is the shared work of some of the city's finest writers who lead us through 'hutong' alleys, antique markets, artists' communities, gay bars, parks and the nostalgic streets of memory. They beguile with poems, amuse with camel anecdotes and thrill with two murder stories - one a genuine antique, the other a fictional contemporary. They take us back to the often-ignored Mongolian roots of the city and project forward to ask whether spectacular modern architecture will suffice to return Beijing to what it sees as its ancient place at the centre of the world. Compiled by Alexandra Pearson and Lucy Cavender, the book interweaves its written work with a collection of wry and telling photographs of different aspects of the city, creating a compelling portrait of Beijing. The contributors - including Zhu Wen, Adam Williams, Roy Kesey, Ma Jian, Alfreda Murck, Tim Clissold, Catherine Sampson, Peter Hessler, Karen Smith, Paul French, Michael Aldrich, Hong Ying and Rob Gifford, all published authors and experts in their field - have spent many years living in Beijing and know it from the inside. Their individual contributions combine to leave a highly original and unforgettable impression of one of the world's oldest and most fascinating cities.
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About the Author

Alexandra Pearson spent her teenage years in China in the early eighties, and returned to Beijing in 1992 to study ethnomusicology at The Central Conservatory of Music. In 2002 she established a little book bar in Beijing called The Bookworm, which has since evolved into thriving hubs of literary activity in three cities across China. Lucy Cavender first came to Beijing in 1985 as a student, and later followed a career in development for the European Commission and the United Nations in Brussels, Mongolia, Central Asia, Malaysia and China. She has lived in Beijing for the past ten years with her husband, James Jynge, and three children, Tom, Ella and Ollie.


A gloriously idiosyncratic mix of form and flavor that takes us into territory no guidebook can reach. There is immense substance here, but that is almost beside the point. This is not just a book to learn from; it is a treat to be savoured. (Jonathan Watts, Guardian)

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