Travel book “China. The Illustrated Guide” – the review – journey


As great as the geographical distance is, Giulia Ziggiotti aptly writes in the introduction to her volume with the simple title “China” that China is becoming “economically and culturally ever more present” in our everyday lives. The Winter Olympics in Beijing, which are about to begin, will certainly reinforce this development.

Measured against China’s geopolitical importance, however, knowledge of the country in the West is underdeveloped, suggests Ziggiotti, who has lived in China for around ten years. Reason for her, together with the graphic artist Sabrina Ferrero, to provide some information. Your “illustrated guide”, as the genre is called, is intended to guide readers into this country and make them more familiar with its history and society.

travel book

North of the Forbidden City there are a number of lakes where Beijing residents spend their leisure time at any time of the year.

(Photo: Sabrina Ferrero/Prestel Verlag)

The two have chosen a hundred topics and present each of them on a double page. Space enough for some information and illustrations that either illustrate or supplement what Ziggiotti describes. The two start in the capital Beijing, they do not leave out the familiar, such as the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace and the Temple of Heaven. But they also keep coming back to things that are not immediately familiar. Orientation in Beijing works very well using the cardinal points, for example the exits of the subway stations are still named after them. However, with the spread of smartphones and map services, this skill is becoming less important.

travel book

Since imperial times, China has been giving away panda bears to foreign powers to foster diplomatic and economic relations.

(Photo: Sabrina Ferrero/Prestel Verlag)

That is a stronger side of the book: Ziggiotti and Ferrero do not stick to tradition, but repeatedly tell the tremendous upheavals that have gripped the country. They point out that the theory of harmony Feng Shui has long been a business worth millions and that less and less used items are being offered at the Panjiayuan flea market in Beijing, which is becoming increasingly popular with tourists, and instead more and more junk produced especially for this purpose. In the chapter on ethnic minorities, however, Ziggiotti does not mention a word about their sometimes brutal oppression.

In the end, you were presented with a hundred tidbits that broken down China into lots of little information. Country studies in Twitter format. In order to actually benefit from it, you have to know very little about China.

Giulia Ziggiotti, Sabrina Ferrero: China. The Illustrated Guide. Translated from the Italian by Barbara Neeb and Katharina Schmidt. Prestel Verlag, Munich 2021. 220 pages, 24 euros.


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