Rising from the mountains of the Tibetan border, the river that is the symbolic heart of China courses through 3,900 miles of rugged country before emerging into the oily swells of the East China Sea. Connecting China's heartland cities with the volatile coastal giant, Shanghai, the Yangtze has throughout history also linked China to the outside world through its nearly 1,000 miles of navigable waters. To travel those waters is to travel back in history, to sense the soul of China, and Simon Winchester takes us with him as he encounters the essence of the nation--its history and politics, its geography and climate. nbsp; He engages with the country's culture and its people in remote and almost inaccessible places. Winchester recalls his passionate exploration of the countryside-- employing nearly every mode of transportation, including boat, train, jeep and shoe leather--while providing important and engaging historical information. This is travel writing at its best: lively, informative and thoroughly enchanting.