studies in travel writing

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Wong, Jan, Chinese Whispers: Searching for Forgiveness in Beijing (London: Atlantic Books, 2009).

The distinguished Canadian journalist Jan Wong returned to Beijing with a quest: to confront a secret in her past. She must find someone she betrayed in 1973, and whose life she is certain she has ruined forever.

In the early 1970s, Jan Wong travelled to China to become one of only two Westerners permitted to study at Beijing University. One day a fellow student, Yin Luoyi, asked for help in getting to America. Wong, then a starry-eyed Maoist, immediately reported Yin to the authorities. Thirty-three years later, Jan Wong returns to begin her search for the person who haunts her conscience. She wants to apologize, to somehow make amends. At the very least, she wants to know if Yin survived.

As Jan Wong hunts through the city, she finds herself travelling back through the decades, back to her experiences of the Cultural Revolution. She has changed, of course, but not as much as Beijing. One of the world’s most ancient cities is now one of its most modern. In this real-life detective story, Jan Wong searches out old friends and acquaintances in this now unfamiliar city, uncovering the truth about the woman she wronged.

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