The Great Wall Through Time: A 2,700 Journey Along The World’s Greatest Wall illustrated by Du Fei

The Blurb On The Back:

Embark on a time-travelling adventure along The Great Wall of China, spanning 2,700 years and more than 21,000km (13,000 miles).  From the first defensive forts built in the 7th century BCE to modern-day tourist sites, discover the fascinating secrets of one of the world’s greatest landmarks and the people who helped build it.

Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book

You can order THE GREAT WALL THROUGH TIME illustrated by Du Fei from Amazon UK, Waterstone’s or UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

The Review (Cut For Spoilers):

Du Fei is Professor of Mural Painting at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, China.  His illustrations depicting numerous scenes from the history of the Great Wall of China for readers aged 7+ (part of a series) are gorgeous – packed with detail and information and reminding me of Bruegel.  Sadly he is let down by text that is less rich in detail, offering a patchy and uncontextualised history of the wall and its significance.

The book takes a number of periods of time in the “life” of the Great Wall and also takes different locations along it.  Du Fei’s illustrations are genuinely great as he provides snap shots of the lives of soldiers and civilians living and working on and near the Wall.  They are amazingly detailed and the text that frames each picture directs you to specific things to look for, e.g. individuals or animals within the wider picture and he also includes cut-aways to show the inside of the structures and what would have happened in there.  There’s also a game you can play to spot a time-travelling fox who is in each picture (the answers being given at the end). 

The big problem with the book is that the text explaining what’s happening is really poor and doesn’t provide the reader with any context behind each of the scenes.  All you get is a heading offering a time, place and date and then a short paragraph saying, e.g. that one set of people are attacking another without attempting to explain how this ties back to the previous period or where this sits in wider Chinese history.  Given that this book is aimed at readers aged 7+, the text is also really dry and without anything fun or interesting to say I do fear that it will put readers off.  In my opinion, it’s really better aimed at readers aged 10+ because it’s more mature in its expectations of reading ability.

I do think that it’s worth checking out the book purely for the quality of Du Fei’s work on it – I could have spent hours pouring over the pictures and still wouldn’t have taken in everything he’s put into them.  It’s just a real shame that he’s let down by poorly thought through text.

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