Long Peace Street

A walk in modern China

By Jonathan Chatwin

Long Peace Street


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Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-3157-7
  • Pages: 264
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £20.00
  • Published Date: July 2019
  • BIC Category: Humanities / Social & cultural history, History, Society & social sciences / Social & cultural anthropology, ethnography, Travel writing, Beijing, TRAVEL / Essays & Travelogues, TRAVEL / Asia / China, HISTORY / Asia / China, China, Lifestyle, sport & leisure / Travel writing, Modern History


Through the centre of China's historic capital, Long Peace Street cuts a long, arrow-straight line. It divides the Forbidden City, home to generations of Chinese emperors, from Tiananmen Square, the vast granite square constructed to glorify a New China under Communist rule. To walk the street is to travel through the story of China's recent past, wandering among its physical relics and hearing echoes of its dramas.

Long Peace Street recounts a journey in modern China, a walk of twenty miles across Beijing offering a very personal encounter with the life of the capital's streets. At the same time, it takes the reader on a journey through the city's recent history, telling the story of how the present and future of the world's rising superpower has been shaped by its tumultuous past, from the demise of the last imperial dynasty in 1912 through to the present day.


'Filled with insights, observations and anecdotes, Chatwin brings to life the past - and present - of one of the world's great cities in an account that is as thoughtful as it is informative.'
Peter Frankopan, Professor of Global History, Worcester College, Oxford

'Bringing together past and present, personal and political, Jonathan Chatwin gives readers a thoughtful and deeply-informed account of modern China through the marvellous device of a stroll down Beijing's longest avenue - and all in lucid and compelling prose.'
Rana Mitter, Director of the University China Centre, University of Oxford

'Even the most dedicated flâneur has to work hard to find the charm in Chang'an Avenue, the main thoroughfare of, as Jonathan Chatwin rightly describes it, the "glorious mess of Beijing". Industrial relics, bankrupt theme parks, rabbit hutch housing, paranoid Communist Party elite boltholes and Tiananmen's ghosts all loom large. But Chatwin walks the walk and, along the way dissects the street, its denizens and its enduring role in China's history and collective modern traumas. '
Paul French, New York Times bestselling author of Midnight in Peking and City of Devils: A Shanghai Noir

'Jonathan Chatwin offers a distinctive window onto Beijing's past and present by taking readers along with him on a long trek down an important thoroughfare. An appealing mix of anecdotes from a journey and digressions backward in time make Long Peace Street a novel addition to the rich literature on China's sprawling capital.'
Jeffrey Wasserstrom, Chancellor's Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine, coauthor of China in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know

'This three-dimension, moving timeline along the heart of imperial and contemporary Beijing made me want to head out the door and follow Chatwin's flaneur footsteps. "Long Peace Street" seamlessly blends history and reporting, shining a light on both the capital's neglected bookends and its dense core. I couldn't put it down.'
Michael Meyer, author of The Last Days of Old Beijing, In Manchuria, and The Road to Sleeping Dragon

'Long Peace Street is a brilliant achievement. To read this book is to travel with an engaging writer as he explores the China of today and the raw pathos of its past. Long Peace Street gives its readers an insight essential for a sophisticated understanding of Chinese society today.'
M. A. Aldrich, author of The Search for a Vanishing Beijing: A Guide to the Capital of China through the Centuries

As a dive into Beijing's history and an excursion through its present, Long Peace Street is entertaining, informative, well-written and companionable.'
Post Magazine



Day one: Shougang Iron and Steel to Tiananmen
1 Capital Iron and Steel - origins - the Great Leap Forward - a bad neighbour - future plans
2 New suburbia - the city in history - the hutong - Shijingshan Amusement Park
3 Change - ring roads and the New Beijing - Great Olympics
4 Babaoshan ghosts - the cemetery - the life of Peng Dehuai - return to Hunan
5 A diversion - straightness - the road as metaphor
6 Military markings - Tomb of the Princess - new regime, new capital? - the Military Museum
7 Diaoyutai State Guesthouse - December 1980 - 'To Rebel is Justified' - Chairman Mao's dog
8 Big roofs - Capital Museum - pailou - some history
9 Muxidi Bridge - petitions and protests - May Fourth - Democracy Movement - 1976 - 1978 - 1989 - the aftermath
10 Rainbows - walls, walls, and yet again walls - breaches - New Year's Day in Xi'an - demolition - socialist core values
11 A hungry refrain - little grey streets - reform and opening-up - state owned enterprises
12 An assassination - Middle and Southern Seas - imperial pretensions - Xinhuamen - paranoia - hidden places - Mao at Zhongnanhai

Day two: Tiananmen to Sihui Dong subway station
13 The middle of the Middle Kingdom - hidden tales of Tiananmen - the Great Helmsman
14 A walk to Tiananmen - into the Forbidden City - intruders
15 Four days in the Forbidden City
16 Out of the Forbidden City - scholar trees - dislocation - destruction - impressions of Beijing - going native - Legation Street today - fireworks over Tiananmen
17 The man who died twice - Wangfujing - a literary traveller - the end of the Qing - Morrison and Yuan Shikai - a sad coda - Palm Sunday in Sidmouth
18 Oriental Plaza - walking in cities - the Imperial Observatory - origins of the Chinese calendar - the Jesuits - the Republican calendar - time in modern China
19 Outside the wall - the Grand Canal and the eastern suburbs - 22nd August 1967 - all palaces are temporary palaces - Forsan et haec olim - red
20 One city - the east is rich - weird architecture - mall life - underground
21 G103 - the story of a nation - the end



Jonathan Chatwin is a travel writer and journalist. His essays and articles on Chinese history and culture have been published by CNN, the South China Morning Post and the Los Angeles Review of Books amongst other publications. He is the author of Anywhere Out of the World, a literary biography of the traveller and writer Bruce Chatwin. He has lived and travelled widely in China.

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