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While tricycling peasants gossiped about the escaped hammer murderer, Mrs Ho had her home razed in exchange for a job and Mrs Ping’s husband ran off with the noodle seller. Chang Wen plotted vainly to turn himself from a scholar to a businessman, while Lou Da preyed on spoiled youngsters from the countryside. Amongst hawkers, prostitutes, and the sign proclaiming ‘Have a Dog!’ the material girls and boys of the one child generation - the author's students - searched to find their niche in this: Hangzhou, the city of heaven. In a year of China, from the Korean border to the Himalaya, the author met hawking police officers and nationalist tea planters; subversive abbots and pro-democracy communists; drunken sages, indestructible porters, terrorist tour guides. One thing was certain: Change would cease for none of them.

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