What We’re Reading: September

When you’re planning a trip to China, doing a little research reading books about China and doing other background research can pay off in spades in terms of enhancing your cultural understanding while you’re on the ground. Plus, everyone needs something to read on that long plane ride. Here’s what we’re reading & recommending this month:

Shanghai: The Rise and Fall of a Decadent City is a fascinating history of concession era Shanghai. 

Transformed from a swampland wilderness into a dazzling, modern-day Babylon, the Shanghai that predated Mao′s cultural revolution was a city like no other: redolent with opium and underworld crime, booming with foreign trade, blessed with untold wealth and marred by abject squalor.

Journalist Stella Dong captures all the exoticism, extremes, and excitement of this legendary city as if it were a larger-than-life character in a fantastic novel.

For All The Tea in China tells the story of how Scottish botanist Robert Fortune posed as a Mandarin from northern China, spending several years within the country when it was closed to foreigners. He stole tea plants to start cultivating tea in Darjeeling.

A dramatic historical narrative of the man who stole the secret of tea from China

In 1848, the British East India Company, having lost its monopoly on the tea trade, engaged Robert Fortune, a Scottish gardener, botanist, and plant hunter, to make a clandestine trip into the interior of China—territory forbidden to foreigners—to steal the closely guarded secrets of tea horticulture and manufacturing. For All the Tea in China is the remarkable account of Fortune’s journeys into China—a thrilling narrative that combines history, geography, botany, natural science, and old-fashioned adventure.

Disguised in Mandarin robes, Fortune ventured deep into the country, confronting pirates, hostile climate, and his own untrustworthy men as he made his way to the epicenter of tea production, the remote Wu Yi Shan hills. One of the most daring acts of corporate espionage in history, Fortune’s pursuit of China’s ancient secret makes for a classic nineteenth-century adventure tale, one in which the fate of empires hinges on the feats of one extraordinary man.

Tai-Pan is a riveting historical novel, telling a fictionalized account of European trading with China, set in Hong Kong immediately after its cession to Britain.

It is the early 19th century, when European traders and adventurers first began to penetrate the forbidding Chinese mainland. And it is in this exciting time and exotic place that a giant of an Englishman, Dirk Straun, sets out to turn the desolate island of Hong Kong into an impregnable fortress of British power, and to make himself supreme ruler…Tai-Pan!


If you’re looking for a true foodie experience, join a walking food tour in China’s top cities, discovering the  best neighborhoods, hidden culinary gems, dumplings, hotpot, noodles, and more. UnTour Food tours offers tours in Shanghai, Beijing, Chengdu & Hong Kong – we’re your one stop shop for the best of the best in China’s walking food tours.

For the best foodie reading and trip planning, we always recommend Glutton Guide Beijing & Shanghai, the e-guidebooks we publish that help uncover the city’s best hidden gems and authentic dining.



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