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Profs Author China Survival Guide
March 17, 2008

Two Calvin College professors of Asian languages have written an unconventional travel guide to China.

China Survival Guide coverLarry Herzberg, who teaches both Chinese and Japanese at Calvin, and his wife Qin, who teaches Chinese, have authored China Survival Guide (Stone Bridge Press, $9.95) a pocket-sized book that contains no directions to the Great Wall, but plenty of advice about toilet paper (Take your own) and black taxicabs (Never take them).

“It occurred to us that there are plenty of guidebooks out there that tell you where to stay and what to eat,” said Larry Herzberg, “but none that tell you about the nitty gritty problems that you encounter in China as a traveler every day—how to handle toilets in a culture quite different from our own, how to haggle over prices when you make a purchase, how to obtain clean drinking water and how to cross the street without getting killed.”

The books also contains chapters on, among other things, “What to Expect (and Inspect) at Your Hotel,” “Encountering the Unusual,” “Mass Protests and General Mayhem” and “A Basic Guide to Chinese Etiquette.”

This advice is timely, Herzberg insists, given China’s raised profile on the world scene. “China has some of the world’s most spectacular scenery and fascinating history, and we can argue that it’s the world’s oldest continuous civilization,” he said. “China has seen incredible growth, and it’s so much more tourist-friendly than it was 10 years ago.”

Currently the number three travel destination in the world, China attracts around 100,000,000 tourists a year. China Survival Guide will be useful to a large cross section of those folks, Herzberg maintains, especially those who prefer to travel away from large groups and off the beaten path. “We also wanted to make it fun and entertaining,” he said. “You have to keep a sense of humor when you travel anywhere—especially in a developing nation.”

One tourist population Herzberg hopes will take advantage of the book is the likely throng of world travelers who will make the Beijing Olympics a destination this summer. “We didn’t write the book with the Olympics in mind,” he said of the games which will be held August 8–24 in that city, “but we realized that the timing was perfect in terms of helping the largest number of people who would be traveling  there.”

As pioneers of Calvin’s Chinese language study program (the only such program at a Christian college that offers four continuous years of language study in both Chinese and Japanese), the Herzbergs themselves have taken numerous trips to China, many times with students in tow.

Indeed, the college’s many China connections served as an inspiration to write the book, he claimed. Currently Calvin maintains a semester program in Beijing, Calvin philosophy professors regularly teach in China and scholars from that country regularly visit the Calvin campus.

Herzberg hinted at another Calvin connection that has a financial incentive: The campus store is carrying China Survival Guide for $8.50, a dollar and forty-five cents off the retail price. “It’s priced to sell,” he said.

~written by Calvin staff writer Myrna Anderson


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