seeking information on visiting china
May 10, 2019 12:42 PM   Subscribe

I'm making a week long trip with work to Beijing and Shanghai next week. Metafilter has been so awesome in fleshing out the background of history, politics and contemporary culture on previous trips to non-european destinations, it's been immensely informative and useful.

So in a similar vein I'd love to hear recommendations for the lead up to the trip or on the plane, specifically

books on contemporary China
any great podcast series or individual podcast episodes
any must see films or documentaries I can cram in before I head off.

I am open to everything that you've found enlightening or informative. It's my first time in China and I am wide open.
If forced to narrow it down I could say I am particularly interested in politics, literature, music, contemporary culture, history, TCM, qiGong and tai chi.

I would also be interested in knowing about any apps I should have on my device (iPhone) for translation and paying for things.
posted by stevedawg to Travel & Transportation around China (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If you need access to google products, get a reliable (and verified to work from China) VPN installed on your computer and phone before you get there. I think I used express VPN when I was there late last year, but they tend to crack down on these things intermittently.

Google translate works fairly well (assuming you have a working VPN!). Everybody there uses WeChat to pay for stuff, but you need a local bank account to make that work properly.
posted by Jobst at 2:15 PM on May 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

While it's getting a bit long in the tooth, Jonathan Spence's The Search for Modern China is a classic introductory text to twentieth-century Chinese history. Very readable.
posted by praemunire at 2:24 PM on May 10, 2019

Here’s a few books I found interesting before going to Beijing and Shanghai a few years ago:
The Last Days of Old Beijing
Country Driving: A Journey Through China From Factory to Farm
posted by bajema at 2:39 PM on May 10, 2019

I haven't read The Last Days of Old Beijing, but I did really enjoy The Road to Sleeping Dragon, by the same author. If you enjoy learning a culture through cookbooks, Fuchsia Dunlop does an excellent job interpreting Chinese cuisine for a Western audience. Shark Fin and Sichuan Pepper is her travel memoir and Land of Fish and Rice covers the cuisine of the the greater Shanghai region. Ha Jin is a renowned writer of literary fiction. He's been self-exiled since the late 1980s and writes in English. (I find his language kind of stilted, though.)

Us And Them is a recent romantic film set in Beijing, that my wife and I liked, and I think my Chinese friends did too. It's available on Netflix, with subtitles.
posted by serathen at 3:19 PM on May 11, 2019

History of China podcast is great and extremely thorough.
posted by chainsofreedom at 6:34 AM on May 12, 2019

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