The Emperor Far Away

51R5YJklcyL._SL150_The Emperor Far Away: Travels at the Edge of China
by David Eimer
2014 / 336 pages
read by Cory Snow – 10h 42m
rating 7.5 / travel

China is ruled by the Han descendants on the east coast,  but what is going on in the far west, north and south?  This is the area with huge growth potential in terms of oil and tourism.  Eimer visited these places and more, from southern Yunan to Tibet and Xinjiang in the west and across to Heilongjiang in the far north. China maintains it’s grip on these territories while the ethnicities who live there react in different ways.  This is his eye-opening account of his journeys.

There are about 55 different minorities (non-Han) in China but that’s only about 8% of the total population. For the most part they live near the inland borderlands where China’s imperialist policies of the 19th century conquered territory beyond their Great Wall and towards Tibet and Myanmar and they are under the assumption that land is still theirs.



Eimar traveled first northwest to the Uighur areas of Xinjiang where he explored the land and people,  ate the food and tried to talk a little politics.  The Han Chinese are resented by the Uighur people,  but the Han also resent the Uighur.  The Han get the benefit of the economic growth although it’s the Uighur who are native. There is a movement to establish their own independent country not unlike the “-stans” around them – Ubikistan, Pakistan, Afghanistan .

Uighur picture essay (Time)

Kashghar is large and busy –  but he talks about other towns, too, especially those along the old / new  Silk Road.

Through a tip of Pakistan and on to Tibet where it seems that the Tibetan Buddhists “…have fought the Han ever since they started pushing into their homelands.”  The tensions continue.  Monks are supposed to be free from government control but under the Han that’s not happening.  There are parts of Tibet which are only very loosely controlled although travel, especially by journalists is hard.  Tourism is up though –

I had a great time googling for photos as I listened -it  felt like a real tour!  🙂  The map in the physical book is probably better than this one.

Xishuang Bana – Hmong who resist all attempts to assimilate.  The frontier in the south is porous – Yunan border is a line on a map – unsecured, rivers, easy travel – exotic tourist trade (with sex) but  no nationalist movement – no single leader could ever unify the numerous minorities.

Eimer took chances to go where, and see what, he wanted.

But I was mostly interested in the border with North Korea and how China works with these ethnic groups as well as the government of North Korea to keep both areas happy. If something serious happened in North Korea, China might be deluged with way more immigrants than she could handle.

Overall it was a very interesting book – a bird’s eye view of what’s happening all along the land-borders of China and of how Eimer survived the trip.



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