Changan Jie, or Long Peace Street, stretches across central Beijing. Along it are several critical historical sites, including Zhongnanhai, Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City: all important to Beijing’s history as the center of Imperial, Republican and then Communist China.
Jonathan Chatwin, in his book Long Peace Street: A Walk in Modern China (Manchester University Press, 2019), recently published in paperback, uses the road as a way to present the modern history of Beijing and China. Starting at the street’s beginning at the former Capital Iron and Steel works, Chatwin takes the reader on a journey along Long Peace Street and through China’s political history, as it changes from a declining empire to a fast-growing and increasingly confident Communist state. The centerpiece of the book is the Forbidden City, which Jonathan recently wrote about for CNN: “Forbidden City at 600: How China's imperial palace survived against the odds”.
In this interview, I ask Jonathan to chart this journey along Long Peace Street for us, talking about both the major sites we may have seen on our own journeys to Beijing, and some of the less well-known yet equally interesting points along this road. We talk about some of his own personal experiences writing the book, and Beijing’s relationship to its past.
Jonathan Chatwin is a travel writer and journalist. His essays and articles have been published by the South China Morning Post, the British Film Institute, The Los Angeles Review of Books amongst other publications. He is also the author of Anywhere Out of the World: The Work of Bruce Chatwin (Manchester University Press: 2017), as well as the host of The Southern Tour Podcast, which examines China's reform and opening, through the prism of Deng Xiaoping's legendary 'Southern Tour' of 1992. He can be followed on Twitter at @jmchatwin.
Nicholas Gordon is a reviewer for the Asian Review of Books. He is also a print and broadcast commentator on local and regional politics. He can be found on Twitter at @nickrigordon.
Nicholas Gordon is a reviewer for the Asian Review of Books. In his day job, he’s a researcher and writer for a think tank in economic and sustainable development. He can be found on Twitter at @nickrigordon.