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Top 5 books about China, chosen by Xinran Xue

The British-Chinese author, journalist and activist selects five books that explore Chinese history and culture

The Great Wall of China. Image: Hanson Lu on Unsplash

Author Xinran Xue selects her top picks when it comes to books about China.

1 Cherries on a Pomegranate Tree by Li Er

This tells the story of one woman’s above and beyond leadership through the anxious times of one-child policy crackdowns. Li Er’s admiration for the unheard voices of those impacted by these regulations are nimbly elevated through an unforgettable cast of characters.

2 Faces in the Crowd: 36 Extraordinary Tales of Tianjin by Feng Jicai

The port of Tianjin is where the ancient Chinese empire met the sea. The turn of the 20th century was a tumultuous time for the city, with the Qing dynasty on its last legs and the Boxers unleashing their ill-fated rebellion against the European trading concessions that had colonised its streets.

3 Getting Things Done by Feng Tang

The best book on eastern management wisdom, combining Chinese historic perspective and McKinsey style of management thinking.

4 Cloud Chamber by Tim Clissold

This is a selection of medieval Chinese poems relevant to contemporary life in the West; ancient Chinese poets writing of the dangers of excess logging of forests, social inequality, homelessness, tax evasion and substance abuse. It provides a bridge between the wisdom of these ancient masters and our preoccupations today.

5 Souls Left Behind by Fan Wu

During the First World War, 140,000 Chinese labourers supported France and Britain’s war effort in Europe. They conducted arduous work, but their contribution has barely been recognised. Fan Wu’s well-researched novel depicts this little-known history. It’s a story of hardship, survival and love, as well as of belonging and how history shapes us. 

Xinran Xue is the author of nine books published worldwide, including The Good Women of China, Sky Burial and The Promise. You can buy them from The Big Issue shop on Bookshop.org, which helps to support The Big Issue and independent bookshops.

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income.

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