16 January 08 | Chad W. Post

Along with a few other independent booksellers and librarians, Karl Pohrt—owner of the amazing Shaman Drum Bookshop in China for the Beijing Book Fair, where he’ll be giving this speech on independent bookselling in America.

Additionally, he’s writing a daily blog about the trip, which can be found in its entirety here.

January 12, 2008, Part 1: The Great Wall

“There are no straight roads in the world; we must be prepared to follow a road which twists and turns . . .” —Mao Zedong

It’s a clear, beautiful day. We throw in with the Brits and rent a minibus (200 RMB/$14.38 U.S.) for a trip to the Great Wall.

We drive north and west from Beijing across flat farmland toward the mountains. This landscape conforms to the images I carry in my head of rural China—neat walls around long single-story buildings with traditional tile roofs, trees planted in symmetrical lines, sheep and cattle. The road signs are in Chinese and English: Imperial Apricot Park, Moman Forest, Golf Hills . . . Golf Hills?

We hike the Wall for a few hours. This is a fierce, beautiful place and I feel my meager powers are not up to describing what it’s like here.

Mountains over and over again
fade into a blue haze in the distance.
The world goes on and on—
wind, the sun, silence.

I purchase a large calligraphy scroll in the gift shop at the Great Wall with the Chinese character representing Dragon. Dragons are fierce beings (see Ursula LeGuin’s Tehanu) and this will be a fine souvenir from the Great Wall. The dragon is also an important role model for independent booksellers. We’re sure not going to survive in the current retail environment if we’re not fierce.


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