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6 Books You Should Read Before Traveling to China

If you’re planning a trip to China, a little armchair travel beforehand is something to consider. A country that is completely unique, travel to China can be overwhelming.

The distinct smells, strange tastes and unusual social cues are apparent everywhere. However, having read up a little bit about the culture and the experience of traveling to China can help ease you into your trip.

Plus, brushing up on a little history and culture before you even step foot on the plane can help you understand the country deeper and know what to look for as you spend your days sightseeing.

If you’ve got your plane ticket booked, head to the book store now to get ready for your journey with these fantastic reads.

#1 Lost on Planet China: By J. Maarten Troost

This comedy fuelled novel follows travel writer, J. Maarten Troost as he tries to make sense of what he believes to be the most mysterious country on Earth.

He travels all around the country from Shanghai and Beijing to Tibet and the Gobi Desert having misadventures and revelations along the way.

Readers can learn about the modern world of China by following Troost as he visits Tibet to eat Yak, has a brush with death by taxi drivers in Shanghai, hikes up the Tai Shan mountain and visits the grave of Chairman Mao. His journey is filled with insights that help uncover the real China.

Source: Google Image

Source: Google Image

#2 A History of China: By John Keay

To fully understand modern China, it’s important to delve into the country’s history.

With over 5,00 years of information, this book breaks it down by chronologically categorizing the different dynasties and what happened during them.

The time periods are broken down to include major events such as famine, medical advancements, new technologies and inventions, cultural revolutions and significant philosophers. The book also goes into different aspects of Buddhism and Confucianism for a deeper understanding of culture.

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The time periods are broken down to include major events such as famine, medical advancements, new technologies and inventions, cultural revolutions and significant philosophers. The book also goes into different aspects of Buddhism and Confucianism for a deeper understanding of culture.

Source: Google Image

Source: Google Image

#3 China-Portrait of a People: By Tom Carter

This photo heavy book will appeal to all the travel lovers and wanderlusters out there. A working photojournalist, Carter sets out on a slim budget to backpack around the country and see China from every view point possible.

His journey had him roaming around to 33 provinces and covering over 35,000 miles from Hong Kong and Yunnan to Xinjiang.

As he traveled by boat, bus, motorcycle and train, he met locals from more than 50 different ethnic backgrounds and collected around 1,000 photographs showing off the different aspects of the country as a whole.

Source: Google Image

Source: Google Image

#4 Fried Eggs With Chopsticks: By Polly Evans

Follow this solo female as she travels around China finding herself in strange situations and battling the culture head on. This hilarious compilation of tales lets readers follow Evans as she experiences the overnight trains, rides a mule through the mountains and takes a ferry down the Yangtze river.

She has fought six year old kung-fu masters, got a glimpse of Chairman Mao’s body, drank yak butter tea and endlessly tried to solve her dilemma of successfully eating fried eggs with chopsticks. Learn about the difficulties, insights and rewards of traveling through modern China and trying to figure it all out on your own.

Source: Google Image

Source: Google Image

#5 Age of Ambition: By Evan Osnos

Finding unusual characters all over the country, Osnos brings the reality of Chinese citizens to the forefront. Using his engaging style of writing, he relays the struggles and lives of various people who represent the fear, hope, insecurity, success and optimism of the Chinese people as a whole.

From meeting the famous artist Ai Weiwei in Beijing and a World Bank Chief Economist to befriending a student striving to learn English, he offers a well rounded view of the population while uncovering the historical events that helped propel them forward.

Source: Google Image

Source: Google Image

#6 Factory Girls: By Leslie Chang

China has been known for decades as a country that builds things for others. With this reputation that has little signs of letting up, it has become a huge part of the country’s culture and identity.

Chang takes readers into the unknown world of the factory girls that run the show behind the scenes. Learn about what life is like for these workers from the factory and dorms to the eatery, karaoke hall and hospital.

Source: Google Image

Source: Google Image

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Shannon Ullman

Hey! I'm a published American travel blogger and teacher. My travel writing has been featured on Huffington Post, Elite Daily, Matador Network and Thought Catalog. I spent over a year living and traveling around China while I taught English there. I have also visited dozens of other countries around the world.