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Cormorant fishing
The emperor's river : travels to the heart of a resurgent China
Liam D'Arcy-Brown.
London : Eye Books, c2010.
A look China's recent cultural reinterpretation¬ of the oldest canal in the world, dug when Confucius was alive, along which has¬ traveled not only cargo but ideas, customs, and dialects ¬  The face of modern China is changing. Liam D'Arcy-Brown travels the length of the Grand Canal, a symbol of national identity, Chinese pride, and cultural achievement. For those with an interest in China¬ and¬ its culture, people, or heritage, this book provides an exciting, fascinating, and well-written account of the navigation of the lifeblood of a rising power-the Grand Canal of China. At more than¬ 1,100 miles long, and dating back to the 5th century BC, the Grand Canal of China is the world's longest artificial waterway and its oldest working canal. Though a source of great national pride to the Chinese, one of China's most economically important transport routes, and the possible savior of a rapidly desiccating Beijing, it has never been investigated by foreign writers and travelers. The first non-Chinese to have made this journey since the 1780s, Liam D'Arcy-Brown traveled from Hangzhou to Beijing along the Grand Canal by barges, boats, and road and here tells his tales.
     
To the Diamond Mountains : a hundred-year journey through China and Korea
Tessa Morris-Suzuki.
Lanham, Md. : Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, c2010.
This compelling and engaging book takes readers on a unique journey through China and North and South Korea. Tessa Morris-Suzuki travels from Harbin in the north to Busan in the south, and on to the mysterious Diamond Mountains, which lie at the heart of the Korean Peninsula's crisis. As she follows in the footsteps of a remarkable writer, artist, and feminist who traced the route a century ago_in the year when Korea became a Japanese colony_her saga reveals an unseen face of China and the two Koreas: a world of monks, missionaries, and smugglers; of royal tombs and socialist mausoleums; a world where today's ideological confrontations are infused with myth and memory. Northeast Asia is poised at a moment of profound change as the rise of China is transforming the global order and tensions run high on the Korean Peninsula, the last Cold War divide. Probing the deep past of this region, To the Diamond Mountains offers a new and unexpected perspective on its present and future.
     
For all the tea in China : how England stole the world's favorite drink and changed history
Sarah Rose.
New York : Viking, 2010.
Rose's remarkable account follows the journey of Robert Fortune, a Scottish gardener, who was deployed by the British East India Company to steal China's tea secrets in 1848. This thrilling narrative combines history, geography, and old-fashioned adventure.
     
Country driving : a journey through China from farm to factory
Peter Hessler.
New York : Harper, c2010.
From the bestselling author of Oracle Bones and River Town comes the final book in his award-winning trilogy, on the human side of the economic revolution in China.In the summer of 2001, Peter Hessler, the longtime Beijing correspondent for The New Yorker, acquired his Chinese driver's license. For the next seven years, he traveled the country, tracking how the automobile and improved roads were transforming China. Hessler writes movingly of the average people-farmers, migrant workers, entrepreneurs-who have reshaped the nation during one of the most critical periods in its modern history.Country Driving begins with Hessler's 7,000-mile trip across northern China, following the Great Wall, from the East China Sea to the Tibetan plateau. He investigates a historically important rural region being abandoned, as young people migrate to jobs in the southeast. Next Hessler spends six years in Sancha, a small farming village in the mountains north of Beijing, which changes dramatically after the local road is paved and the capital's auto boom brings new tourism. Finally, he turns his attention to urban China, researching development over a period of more than two years in Lishui, a small southeastern city where officials hope that a new government-built expressway will transform a farm region into a major industrial center.Peter Hessler, whom The Wall Street Journal calls "one of the Western world's most thoughtful writers on modern China," deftly illuminates the vast, shifting landscape of a traditionally rural nation that, having once built walls against foreigners, is now building roads and factory towns that look to the outside world.
     

Huck Finn notwithstanding, fishing is not always a matter of cane poles and shaded river banks.  In parts of China and Japan, a diving aquatic bird called a cormorant has been used for centuries to catch fish.  The birds are fed and housed by their owners, then taken out on the water and released to catch fish. 

A band is fastened around the cormorant's slender neck, so that decent-sized fish cannot be swallowed.  When the bird has a throat full of fish, it returns to its owner, who takes the lion's share of the catch.  A well-trained bird--still a valuable asset--can catch enough fish daily to feed a family.

A traveler in China can see cormorant fishing in person.  Fishing is presented as a performance for a riverside audience, both by daylight and by torchlight at night.  Some tours allow people to get on the boats with the fishermen and the cormorants.  Either way, it's memorable.

In China, the Lijiang River in Guilin still sees serious cormorant fishing.  It is an area that is practically a stereotype of a certain popular image of China:  rice paddies, water buffaloes, coolie hats, impossibly shaped misty blue mountains. 

A closer look is startling.  The fisherman with his string of prehistoric-looking birds can often be seen to have a cell phone tucked in his belt.  The birds' roosting place can be shadowed by a satellite dish.  The cormorants have remained occupiers of an unlikely niche in a  nation whose economy is evolving at breakneck speed.

It was the Chinese who formulated the classic humanitarian proverb:  "Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."  It can be just as true, even if you sub-contract.

Article by: St. Louis Public Library staff