Ellan Read

sometimes witty book reviews

China: Portrait of a People

First published: 2010
Found: At work. My fabulous work at a library. Yes, it is wonderful.
Pages/read time: 638, two night’s bedtime perusing


Two years back-packing around China. 33 states and provinces. 56 official ethnic groups. 900 images. 1.3 billion people (at the time of publication). One magnificent book.This dimensionally small but very thick ‘coffee-table’ book is one of the most fascinating takes on Chinese anthropology I have ever seen. I found it, perchance, while re-shelving the 900s (Dewey decimal system) at work. I borrowed it immediately, and forced myself through the remainder of my shift before opening it.

Young kung fu student at Shaolin Temple, Henan. (© Tom Carter)

Tom Carter tramped back and forwards through cities, rice paddies and deserts riding motorbikes, buses, mules and bicycles in order to capture the face of China. Divided into chapters by province, Carter attempts a truly objective view of China and its people. Though an impossible ideal, the minimal commentary provided avoids any political or sociological rhetoric. Descriptions are as neutral as possible.

Hipster from Hunan’s capital city, Changsha. (© Tom Carter)

If you are not familiar with the geography and racial demographics of China, this is an excellent visual introduction. Though not every image is an Archibald-level portrait, each is certainly genuine and very rarely contrived.

tom carter china image 2

(© Tom Carter)


Reading suggestion: Sip jasmine green tea in a quiet space while you explore this small but powerful little book.

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This entry was posted on November 13, 2017 by in biography, China, Non-Fiction and tagged , , , , , , .

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