A travel memoir with photos that explores one of the most fascinating regions of China.
A thousand years ago, the Yangtze River replaced the Yellow River as the center of Chinese civilization, and today the region known as Chiangnan remains a meaningful and evocative presence in the nation’s imagination. Ask a dozen Chinese what Chiangnan means, and they’ll give you a dozen different answers. For some the word conjures forests of pine and bamboo. Others envision hillsides of tea, or terraces of rice, or lakes of lotuses and fish. Or they might imagine Zen monasteries, or Taoist temples, or artfully constructed gardens, or mist-shrouded peaks. Oddly enough, no one ever seems to mention the region’s cities—which include some of the largest in the world.
Whatever else it might mean to people, Chiangnan is a landscape and a culture defined by mist, lacking the harder edges of the arid North. This memoir recounts Bill Porter’s travels there in 1991, following the old post roads that still connected its administrative centers and scenic wonders, its most famous hometowns and graves, its factories and breweries, its dreamlike memories and its mist. Joined on this journey by his poet and photographer friends, Finn Wilcox and Steve Johnson, he created South of the Yangtze, a record in words and images of an extraordinary time and place.