Back in the early 2000s, most China guidebooks contained a familiar list of mostly metropolitan destinations, although even then it was the countryside that often offered experiences of considerably more charm. There was less comfort, but fewer cons, fewer crowds and fresher air.But the coffee-table books on ancient Chinese architecture that had begun to fill the bookshops of Beijing offered new ideas for rural exploration. In among familiar images of the great Hakka earth fortresses of…



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