Invisible China 1

A Journey Through Ethnic Borderlands
by Colin Legerton and Jacob Rawson
244 pages
Hardcover, Chicago Review Press

Glendale-raised Colin Legerton and traveling companion Jacob Rawson spent several months during 2006 and 2007 traveling to minority enclaves in all corners of China. Their theme – that diversity in China is not appreciated within the country or by the outside world – is well documented in their experiences but also confirmed by events that occurred in the Uyghur region just this year.

Legerton is fluent in Uyghur, Rawson in Korean, but both also speak Mandarin, and they traveled through many multilingual areas where regular inhabitants used three or more languages in everyday transactions.

The tone of the book is warm, personal, and open, while the pace is active but leisurely. The authors don’t complain about traveling from one place to the next, even if it involved four bus rides over sixty hours on bumpy roads. Brief descriptions, though, give the reader a real sense of the vast distances and poor traveling conditions of their journey.

Their encounters with farmers, monks, officials, soldiers, entrepreneurs, students, and tour guides provided the raw material for the book, which they pieced together expertly. This is a page-turning adventure that brings the reader alongside the travelers as they approach unfamiliar cultures, identify key issues in each region, and establish friendships with ordinary people along the way.

While organized tours feature highlights China would like tourists to see, Legerton and Rawson provide a completely different perspective on the incredible ethnic, economic, religious, cultural, and political diversity in this vast country.

A September 2009 Glendale News Press interview with Colin Legerton has more information on the Glendale author of the book, his journey, and his interest in China.