The Countries

On a Misty Morning, Fresh Out of Jail

On a misty morning, fresh out of jail, while the sun was still rising and with police still spying on me, I followed the rail tracks down to a trash-filled river and saw a rusty coal-powered train, loading supplies. spewing black smoke and charging its belly with pieces of coal the size of a watermelon. […]

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Alone in Winter

This first journey into Shennogjia would yield vanilla-flavored Decasnea, Viburnums that tasted like cherries, multiple Akebia species with their tapioca-like pudding, but end abruptly with my arrest by police and the three-day interrogation that followed. I had been caught trying to enter a cave sixty feet off the valley floor. My camera dangling from the […]

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Jumping Ship

One night near the city of Wuhan, Xia and I boarded a river barge plying the Yangtze on a three-day journey to Chongqing. Dazzling 2,000-foot cliffs appeared in the morning, soaring above us and seemed to go for hundreds of miles. According to our maps, we were in the first of China’s great three rivers’ […]

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Hunting the Mythical Fruit

Xia and I frequently rode the rails across central and north China. Our primary hunting grounds were the vast Daba Mountains for Citrus, Kadsura, Xantholylum and Schisandra at their most northerly range, craggy and steep Qinling of Shaanxi province with its specialized cuisines based on local plants and developed by monks over a thousand years. […]

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Great Plans are Afoot

That day, we began to formulate a plan to send Xia into cartographers’ offices and government agricultural buildings to secure road maps and botanical publications, and to gain inside information by calculated “gift-giving”. We would turn my few hundred dollars into thousands of Chinese Yuan. We could use these newfound riches of “People’s Money ” […]

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Friendship Stores and a Friend

Foreigners therefore often referred to FEC as fecal matter. This pejorative term was warranted because FEC was a key to China’s elaborate system of financial control all over the country and effectively restricted the movements of foreigners in China. The only advantage for Americans carrying FEC notes, however, was that the Chinese wanted them to […]

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Setting Off and Currency Matters

At the beginning of my first venture- and before setting off from the Emerald City of Seattle- I had received a series of handwritten letters with a formal invitation to be a guest at the Palace of China’s Former First Lady, Soong Mei Ling, in Nanjing China which was under the direction of Professor He […]

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