A walk in the hills
July 4, 2010 10:16 PM   Subscribe

Where does this anecdote about China come from?

I read this in a nonfiction book maybe 10-15 years ago. Some westerners, Americans probably, are in China, and they are chatting with some Chinese people, including a very old man, who is extremely serene. They ask him what he did during the Cultural Revolution (to avoid getting caught up in it, or something – a bit vague here) and he says simply, "I went for a walk in the hills."

The book might have some Buddhist side to it, e.g. the old man might've been implied to be hiding out because he was a Buddhist. The book was not about Tibet though.
posted by zadcat to Religion & Philosophy (10 answers total)
Or was he referring to the Long March?
posted by chillmost at 1:11 AM on July 5, 2010

I know that when older Chinese say "when I was doing work", they are referring to working in forced labour camps during the Cultural Revolution. "A walk in the hills" sounds like a similar euphemisim to me.
posted by molecicco at 2:01 AM on July 5, 2010

I think zadcat is looking for the name of the book the anecdote comes from, not the meaning of the sentence, "I went for walk in hills."
posted by bearette at 3:07 AM on July 5, 2010

Response by poster: bearette is correct. I wondered if anyone would recognize the anecdote and could identify the book.
posted by zadcat at 4:49 AM on July 5, 2010

Best answer: Is this it? Bruce Chatwin, the Songlines
posted by acidic at 6:15 AM on July 5, 2010

Best answer: The specific quote, available via Amazon, is:
The man was wearing his Grand Master’s blue robes and high hat. He and his young disciple had walked the length and breadth of China.
But what, Paddy asked him, did you do during the Cultural Revolution?
I went for a walk in the Kun L’ung Mountains.
posted by acidic at 6:19 AM on July 5, 2010

This sounds familiar to me, too, so I looked on my bookshelves and found "Bones of the Master" by George Crane. It was published in 2000 so just fits within your timeframe. Cannot find the exact quote, but I am now going to re-read what I remember as a wonderful true story. On preview, maybe acidic has the correct source, but I pass this along, in case.
posted by Hobgoblin at 6:29 AM on July 5, 2010

Best answer: I think it must be the Chatwin. Just in case the Google Books link works for you, here it is.
posted by languagehat at 8:43 AM on July 5, 2010

(D'oh, I see now acidic provided almost the same link!)
posted by languagehat at 8:44 AM on July 5, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks acidic (and languagehat)!
posted by zadcat at 2:14 PM on July 5, 2010

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