Riding the Iron Rooster: By Train Through China
by Paul Theroux
If you want to understand China, take the train: as the Chinese do. The author decided to do just that - from the searing hot Gobi desert to the ... Show synopsis If you want to understand China, take the train: as the Chinese do. The author decided to do just that - from the searing hot Gobi desert to the Western Xinjiang of the ice-bound cities of the Siberian border, along the South China Sea and to the edge of Tibet - and this book is an account of that year. Paul Theroux joined a tour that made its way by rail from London to Mongolia, stopping in Paris, Warsaw and in the Soviet Union. Reaching China by this unconventional overland route provided the author with much material for his book and details about who goes to China and why. Then, to Inner Mongolia and Peking and Shangai, he rode trains and discovered that in some ways China is changing radically, and in others it is still ancient and bound by tradition. An example was the Iron Rooster - an aged rattling train that continues to shudder along a four day route between Peking and distant Urumchi in China's far west. While the country produces Kentucky Fried Chicken and atom bombs, most trains still go everywhere, and the trains are crammed with Chinese tourists, who are on the move, studying and sightseeing. The book is full of Theroux's encounters with people and their talk - about Chairman Mao and the Cultural Revolution, about rising prices and student unrest, about their work and their worries and the possiblity of a better life elsewhere. Paul Theroux is author of "The Great Railway Bazaar", "The Old Patagonian Express", "The Kingdom by the Sea", "The Mosquito Coast" and "Doctor Slaughter". The latter two have been made into films and his novel "Picture Palace" was winner of the Whitbread Prize for Fiction.