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Why Walk Through China?
By Michael Violette
Posted on 1/30/2014 11:16 AM

The Year of the Horse and a Year of Walking Through China

According to Chinese tradition, a qian-li ma, or one thousand li horse can cover a thousand li--about 311 miles--in a single day. That would be like hoofing it, so to speak, between the very edge of Garret County in the Allegheny mountains nearly to Assateague Island on the Atlantic.

A Thousand Li Through Maryland

A more modest four hundred li journey around Maryland would look something like this, in hundred-li increments, a lop-sided diamond that links a good portion of our members and friends together. Another hundred li gets one from the State Capitol to Easton (not to leave out the Eastern Shore).

(Many of us have commutes longer than a hundred li, but we have the advantage of several hundred "horses" to propel us around).

Four Hundred Li Journey Around Maryland

A Walking Tour of China

Speaking of getting around, Edwin J. Dingle, an English journalist based out of Hong Kong, penned an amazing travelogue about his 1909 walking tour in Across China on Foot*. Dingle ventured over 2,800 miles, some of it by boat and much of it over primitive roads and paths, from Shanghai to Burma, relaying commentary on China's physical and societal conditions in numerous anecdotes about his experiences through remote regions of Anhui, Hefei, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces.

Dingle eschewed horse and donkey and refused to be carried on a palanquin during the walking part from Chongqing to the Burmese border. His companions included his "boy" Lao Chang and two porters who carried his supplies, his typewriter and film for his Eastman camera. He spoke not a word of Chinese--all communications going through Lao Chang--but he was a keen observer and correspondent of life and customs in the Middle Kingdom in the early part of the last century.

Edwin Dingle's Route: Shanghai to Burma. Edwin J. Dingle
February 1909-February 1910

Many of Dingle's encounters were with common folk in isolated areas, far from the hectic seaports of Hong Kong, Xiamen and Qingdao and several minority peoples are described in great detail. The twenty-eight year old Brit wrote of hardships, brutality and local unrest, and the landscapes: "The gardens, the fields, the skies, the mountains, the sunset, the light itself--all were full of color, and earth and heaven seemed of one opinion in the harmony of the reds, the purples, the drabs, the blacks, the browns, the bright blues and the yellows."

His account also relates in great detail the effects that expiring dynastic influences and competing outside forces had on China's early 20th century experience, expressing the view of a foreigner and greeted with a mix of wonder and mistrust (the Boxer Rebellion was a scant nine years before).

In Sichuan "It was my misfortune each day at this stage to come into a town or village where market was in progress. Catching a sight of the foreign visage, people opened their eyes widely, turned from me, faced me again with a little less of fear, and then came to me, not in dozens, but in hundreds, with open arms. They shouted and made signs, and walking excitedly by my side, they examined at will the texture of my clothes, and touched my boots with sticks to see whether the feet were encased or not. 

For the time I was their hero. When I walked into an inn, business brightened immediately. Tea was at a premium, and only the richer class could afford nine cash instead of three to drink with the bewildered foreigner.

When I slowly rose to move, the crowd looked disappointed, but allowed me to go forward on my journey in peace."

"Thus the days passed, and things were never dull" [p. 60]

Indeed, in China still, things are never dull.

Skipping forward to 2014, MCBC brings our community together to explore the modern conundrums, challenges and opportunities that Maryland and China business interests face together.

We have arranged a calendar of events that will fit into our four thousand li Maryland diamond. We invite you to join us and we invite you to consider Membership in MCBC to share our interests, learn from our successes (and failures) and enjoy access to information and convivial people that share the same enthusiasm for China as had Dingle.

Finally, enhance your membership by being a Sponsor for MCBC, with co-branding at events and recognition in print and on the web. Contact us for more information:

The 2014 MCBC Calendar

January 15
February 12
March 26-28
US-China Sister City Conference. Washington, DC
May 1
Xi Jinping's Worldview. Washington, DC
June 18
The Real World Series: 
Food Safety Imports and Due Diligence 
July 26
Summer Picnic & Boat Ride with the Chinese Embassy
September 18
China and Africa: Doing Business Together
Asian-American Business Conference
November 20
Holdridge Lecture. Washington
December 10
Holiday Party! Chevy Chase

Join us for our upcoming New Year's Banquet in February. Click on the flyer to register!

Wishing you a happy and bountiful 2014!


Mike Violette, President
Maryland-China Business Council

*Across China on Foot. Edwin J. Dingle (c) 2008 China Economic Review Publishing (HK) Ltd for Earnshaw Books. Hong Kong. (First published in 1911).

Dingle Endnote:

From the forward by Graham Earnshaw (2008 Edition): Dingle draws "macro geo-political conclusions from what he sees, basically concluding that the region [southwest China] had huge potential that simply required a rail line from Hanoi to the south." He saw the rail line as a key to connect the backward provinces to the seaports and commerce.

But "Dingle didn't stick around to see whether his predictions would come true. He was in Shanghai in the early 1920s and was the proprietor and presumably founder of China and Far East Finance and Commerce." Shanghai, at the time, was a hot-bed of print, periodicals and publishing.

"In the mid-1920s, he headed to the United States and wrote a number of books including one called Your Sex Life: Womanhood, Manhood, Marriage. An Inspirational Treatise on Sexology And Parenthood and Divorce. He founded his own health and sex cult in 1927 around the concept of Mentalism, which kept him occupied until the ripe old age of 91 in a world far away from the one he found in this book."

Dingle died on January 27, 1972, three weeks before the historical meeting between Richard Nixon and Mao Ze Dong.

To join or for membership information, please see our membership page.