South of the Clouds

Travels in Southwest China

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Book Description

While flipping through the atlas of Chang Ch’i–yun, one of China’s most famous geographers, distinguished translator Bill Porter (Red Pine) developed a curiosity about the southwestern province of China. Dubbed Yun–nan, “South of the Clouds,” this was the last area modern China to come under Chinese control. Originally conquered by the Mongols and eventually introduced to foreigners as a vibrant setting for trade, Yun–nan became a critical crossroad connecting East and West.

In 1992, Porter left his home in Hong Kong to tour the small towns and major cities of Yun–nan, studying each of their local cultures and larger impacts on the trajectory of Chinese history. Here, he shares his encyclopedic knowledge of the nation’s beautiful legacy while introducing new insight about the province’s landscapes, people, and recent state of affairs. He visited Bulang Mountain, where the local people had no written language of their own, so they sent their children to live as monks in nearby Tai temples to learn Tai script. He saw women in Lijiang who wore traditional sheepskin jackets that bore seven frogeyes without clear explanation. In Dali, a small town turned urban center, he recalls a massive museum built to show off the city’s new wealth, only to have half of its halls left empty and unvisited.

The first of a series of three China travel memoirs to be published by Soft Skull, Bill Porter’s book tells the incredible story of a spread of land with a thousand years of human history. His remarkable insight and unparalleled understanding of China place this book at the forefront of East Asian travel literature.

About the Author

Praise For This Book

Praise for South of the Clouds

Winner of the 2018 Thornton Wilder Prize for Translation

"The perfect choice for anyone and everyone interested in all things Chinese."—Library Journal

"Porter uses his personal charm and fluency of the language to uncover hidden gems . . . His journal–like entries will spark curiosity about this varied region, filled with warm and very human inhabitants . . ."—Booklist

"the journey is absorbing . . . As satisfying as any trip by Paul Theroux"—Kirkus

Praise for The Diamond Sutra:

"[Bill Porter] went beyond the 'usual' Chinese versions to translate the more poetic, and meaning–laden, Sanskrit. Here, he well presents that translation, his comments, and excerpts from commentaries classic and modern." —Library Journal

"[A] useful and beautiful translation of one of Buddhism's central texts." —Publishers Weekly

Praise for The Heart Sutra:

"A meticulous line–by–line interpretation that was radically deepened readers' understanding of not only the sutra but also Buddhism's underlying structure." —Booklist