DON QUIXOTE IN CHINA: THE SEARCH FOR PEACH BLOSSOM SPRING
"You can't go wrong with de Tocqueville, Paul Theroux and Bill Bryson among others. They are acerbic, witty, insightful, capturing the essence of the countries they visit and the people they encounter on the way. Dean Barrett follows in this tradition with Don Quixote in China. And it doesn't hurt that he's fluent in the (Chinese) language, too. Comparison to the hapless knight's adventures is cleverly devised, such as blaming his setbacks on Freston the Magician. Don Quixote in China is a travel book I won't hesitate to advise you to read. Get Barrett's other books of non-fiction and fiction. You'll be glad you did."
- Bernard Trink, Bangkok Post
If you've been waiting for Bill Bryson to "do" China, here's a book you're sure to enjoy. DEAN BARRETT expresses admiration for the travel writing of Paul Theroux, but DON QUIXOTE IN CHINA: THE SEARCH FOR PEACH BLOSSOM SPRING rather brings Bryson, or even P.J. O'Rourke, to mind: "The second you walked in the door, the experienced staff made up its mind about what it was you desired and either led you to a table and brought you a menu or else led you to a cubicle and brought you a woman. Either way, you would most likely to end up with Hunan crabs."
Don Quixote in China is Barrett's account of two trips to some of China's second line tourist attractions, notably Zhangjiajie and Lu Shan, in 2001 and 2002. Despite an impressive familiarity with Chinese literature and ancient history, Barrett is as bewildered as any first time visitor about how modern China works, and this too he uses to good comic effect.
"I confess I have never understood the meaning of the expression "cash crops." Does it mean the other crops the farmer grows are just for fun? Or does he use the other crops for barter only? Do Hunanese farmers accept frequent flyer miles and gift certificates in lieu of cash for certain products?"
Don Quixote in China is an enjoyable stumble through the less visited reaches of China's tourist industry. ...a lighthearted read that any fan of travel literature will enjoy.
The Asian Review of Books
Barrett, the author of five novels set in Asia and a mystery novel set in New York City, explains that the concept of Peach Blossom Spring comes from the poetry of T'ao Ch'ien, who lived during the Eastern Chin dynasty (317-420 C.E.). Peach Blossom Spring is the poet's description of a utopia, which a fisherman enters to find great beauty and mystery. Though the utopia's residents treat the fisherman like royalty, he requests to leave. He attempts to find utopia again but fails to retrace his steps. Barrett has decided to take up the hunt, and this book chronicles his search on two separate ventures into China. The author speaks Chinese and has lived in Asia for 20 years, so he readily enters the lives of the people he meets, and readers end up feeling as if they have gotten an inside look at the world's most populous country. Barrett is insightful, knowledgeable, compassionate, spontaneous, and humorous, and he has produced an entertaining and perceptive book. Recommended for all libraries with Asian studies or travel collections.- Melinda Stivers Leach.
- Library Journal
“Dean’s account of his search is often filled with hilarious episodes leaving the reader longing for more…entertaining and full of Chinese witticisms. I recommend this book to anyone having an interest in China.”
“The premise is intriguing. Taking an ancient description of utopia by one of China's most beloved poets, T'ao, as fact, Dean Barrett sets out to actually find Peach Blossom Spring. The first to admit that his theory might be "crackpot", Barrett nonetheless grasps the reader firmly by the hand and starts.
His eye for detail results in some priceless toss-aways: a nightclub drummer encased in bulletproof glass; men who fish in tiny bodies of water between rice fields; word-for-word copies of literature found in hotel rooms like "The Sobering Peppermint Spray (necessary for all drivers, shareholders and writers)...."
Barrett's ability to speak Mandarin, self-described immaturity and pervasive sense of humor leads to laugh-out-loud scenes, the ultimate being his off-the-cuff comedic performance on a remote mountain path for a bunch of coolies and Tujia female singers.. ...incredible wit and unapologetic, self-deprecating honesty.
- Curled up with a Good Book Reviews
“In Don Quixote in China, Dean Barrett sets out to explore 21st century China with an impossible goal: to find Peach Blossom Spring, an idyllic village described in the famous 4th century poem by T’ao Yuan Ming. Of course, the journey quickly turns into something else entirely, and the results are often moving and hilarious and tremendously entertaining. With his empathy, keen eye for the absurd and the knowledge of China, Dean Barrett will entertain many, many readers.”
- Mia Yun, author of House of the Winds, Translations of Beauty
“…I found myself captivated. Barrett has a deep and considered knowledge of things Chinese…and has a gift for expressing his passion for the country’s history and art. The characters he describes are fully fleshed out and fit nicely into the narrative. Although the book takes a while to get going, when Barrett finds his stride the book becomes a pleasant tale of an often ill-fated quest through baffling, modern China, packed with history and finely wrought details.”
- Daniel Cooper, Untamed Travel Magazine