Top 10 Traveler’s Tales from China

With a landmass of 9.6 million km², China is the world’s 3rd largest country, and its oldest civilization. Inhospitable topography and a complex culture have historically made China one of the most daunting places on Earth to travel. An intricate rail system, new roads and modernized infrastructure are changing this, but to date only a handful of western authors have traveled through – and written about – this vast country in its entirety.

1. Riding the Iron Rooster by Paul Theroux

Riding the Iron RoosterRiding trains all across China for a year, legendary author Paul Theroux’s sympathetic musings and colorful descriptions of the Chinese whom he observes along the way is classic travel writing at its best.

2. The River at the Center of the World by Simon Winchester

The River at the Center of the WorldJournalist Simon Winchester surveys, by boat, China’s meandering 4,000-mile Yangtze River and its surrounding countryside, scholarly annotations punctuated by his trademark witty remarks on the Chinese populous.

3. Behind the Wall by Colin Thubron

Behind the WallOne of China’s pioneering western travel writers, Colin Thubron’s examination of 1980s-China, from village to city and everywhere in between, is a must-read for those who appreciate a historic glimpse into New China on the cusp of modernization.

4. Country Driving by Peter Hessler

Country DrivingExpat Peter Hessler, who lived in China for over a decade, gets out of his river town and takes to the modern roads by car to give us keen insight into contemporary Chinese society.

5. CHINA: Portrait of a People by Tom Carter

CHINA Portrait of a PeopleTravel photographer Tom Carter backpacked a ground-breaking 35,000-miles across 33 provinces, his snapshots of the multitudes of people and places he encountered providing a rare visual glimpse into ordinary, daily Chinese life.

6. China Road by Rob Gifford

China RoadNational Public Radio reporter Rob Gifford hops in his car for a 3,000-mile drive from Shanghai to Xinjiang, interviewing random people spotted during the journey and conveying their stories to the reader.

7. The Ancient Tea Horse Road by Jeff Fuchs

The Ancient Tea Horse RoadMountaineer Jeff Fuchs explored the 5,000-mile Tea Horse Road in the Himalayas for over 7 months, retracing the ancient trading route of muleteers and documenting Tibet’s traditional way of life.

8. The Middle Kingdom Ride by Ryan and Colin Pyle

The Middle Kingdom RideTwo brothers and their motorcycles on an 11,000-mile road trip, taking them from one end of China to the other in 65 days.

9. The Longest Way by Christoph Rehage

The Longest WayBased on the popular YouTube video about his 4,000-mile walk across China, Christoph Rehage converts his photos and stories into this book.

10. The Great Walk of China by Graham Earnshaw

The Great Walk of China Travels on Foot from Shanghai to TibetShanghai-based businessman Graham Earnshaw has been walking at intervals across the length of China for nearly a decade. This fun travelogue weaves insightful commentary and humorous interactions with curious locals met along the way.

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