The Yangtze Valley and Beyond

Isabella Bird
Illustrated by the author
Introduced by Dervla Murphy

A landmark edition of Bird’s monumental journey down the Yangtze river in 19th-century China, featuring over 100 photographs, each carefully restored by Folio.

‘Her admiration for the country and its people shines through.’

  1. Independent

Isabella Bird was the most remarkable female traveller of the 19th century, and her subsequent travel books have become classics of the genre. Famed for extraordinary journeys which would be impressive even by today’s standards, her expeditions culminated, aged 65, in her seven-month solo exploration along the Yangtze river in China in 1896.

Journeying from Shanghai to Somo, Bird completed much of the expedition in a traditional junk, sharing the same hardships that beset her hired crew: hunger, cold and loneliness. Her no-holds-barred account of this ground-breaking voyage remains unsurpassed to this day.

Following just 30 years after the end of the Second Opium War and the opening of China’s ports by British forces, foreign visitors were certainly not always welcome. Frequently verbally and physically attacked, Bird writes freely of the fear she experienced and recounts an incident when she was chased by two thousand angry, stick-wielding locals crying ‘Beat her! Kill her! Burn her!’ Another occasion saw her sitting astride a stool in her room, armed with a pistol that she was fully prepared to use for self-preservation; but Bird was also at times welcomed and treated without suspicion, able to provide stunning depictions of towering mountains and vast rivers, tranquil villages and ornate palaces.

Bird was elected to the Royal Photographic Society in 1897 and this book was published two years later, offering one of the earliest photojournalistic accounts of China at the end of the nineteenth century. From the traditional dress of soldiers and labourers, to the hospitals, villages, guesthouses and temples visited along the route, the images provide a valuable record of China on the cusp of change and under pressure from foreign influence. 

This new edition features over 100 original photographs, including some previously unpublished. The selection was sourced from the archives of original pictures, plates and lantern slides held by the Royal Geographical Society and National Library of Scotland. First developed by Bird in her tiny quarters on the bobbing houseboat and washed in the Yangtze river itself, the images have been painstakingly reproduced by Folio to increase clarity and ensure consistency of tone. The original map charting Bird’s route across the Yangtze basin has also been beautifully reproduced on a larger, fold-out scale, and is presented in a corner pocket at the rear of the book.

Bound in printed and blocked cloth

Set in Dante

448 pages

106 duotone photographs and 4 mono drawings

Fold-out map in corner pocket

Blocked slipcase

11˝ x 7¼˝

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