cover image Treasures of China

Treasures of China

Robert Dolezal, Reader's Digest. Reader's Digest Association, $30 (336pp) ISBN 978-0-7621-0565-6

With the world's largest population inside its borders, it's easy to imagine China as an urban wasteland swarming with people. This overview of some of the country's most magnificent sights, updated from a 1989 edition, shows that nothing could be further from the truth. The ""stair lakes"" at the abandoned Yellow Dragon Monastery in the mountains of Huanglong sparkle in bright sunshine; the Yuanmou Earth Forest of China's southern region calls to mind the southwest desert of the United States with its jagged, colorful rock formations; and a view over the source of the Yangtze River in the Tanggula Mountains features such spectacular greens, blues and snowy whites as to make one think the photo is a painting. In addition to these natural landscapes, classical pagodas and splendid palaces also grace the pages, with glimpses of the 900-year-old Sakya Pagoda and the inside of the legendary Forbidden City. The book provides a general history and overview of the five major regions (Northern, Western, Central North, Central South and Southern) and contains showpiece sections highlighting landmarks like the Great Wall and the Silk Road. The descriptions that accompany each ""treasure"" are mostly dry, giving only the bare essentials, but the many breathtaking photos make up for the uninspired text. This book will both impress people and leave them wanting more; some armchair travelers may even be tempted to visit the many gorgeous geographical and historical sites depicted here.