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Book Presentation : Alone Among 1.3 Billion

The second EU-China Literary Festival is coming to an end. On May 27th, the last day of the festival, the German writer Christian Y. Schmidt talked about stories of him with China and introduced his travelogue Alone Among 1.3 Billion to Chinese readers relaxedly on the symposium.


Why did he decide to write this book?

He said that it’s about love.

In 2002, a Chinese woman appeared in his life. She took him to Singapore, where they married. Later, he moved to Beijing with his wife naturally. At the beginning, he thought that learning Chinese was not a big deal, but he had to postponed this plan after he failed several times to communicate in Chinese with his wife. At that time, he was not a good English speaker as well. Because of language barriers, he had to depend on his wife for everything in his life. Finally, in 2017, he decided to learn Chinese and become more like a Chinese, even to be a real Chinese people.

He then asked himself what should he do to carry out his plan. The final answer is: to travel by himself. After that, he took a long time to determine the schedule. A map accidentally shed light on his way by marking 318 National Highway, starting from Shanghai towards the China-Nepal border. This is what he wants.


What happened to his journey?

He remembered that the villagers in the countryside greeted him with great enthusiasm. Besides, he had to prepared to be noticed every time he went out in the country because villagers were curious about him. That was also a rare experience for him.

While what impressed him most was the trip to Tibet. Once he lost in the mountains with his guide, and found the sky was so blue and very, very close, as if he could reach out with a hand. This is the most memorable moment on his journey.

There is another moment he also wants to share. When climbing a snow-capped mountain, he felt extremely uncomfortable because of the altitude sickness. However, he was very shocked and felt it was worthwhile when he saw the towering Himalayan peak. In a word, hard work will always pay off.

There were some people memorable on his journey as well. Though, unfortunately, he have not been able to keep in touch with many of them, he really felt connected with the minds of strangers in the course of just a few hours of communication. That is a precious experience.

This three-month trip across China changed Christian. At the last destination of his journey, Kathmandu, he was shocked by the underdevelopment there and talked about politics with the locals. He still remembers that people there joked with him and said that only Chinese people would speak like the way he did. Hearing this words, he realized that the original intention of the journey had been achieved and he had already become a Chinese.


As a German who is known for his rigorousness, what does he think of the Chinese people’s “almost” attitude?

Christian thinks that people of the two countries have different attitudes towards the issues. The Germans tend to immediately resolve problems once they encounter them, while the Chinese prefer to bypass them. Also, his attitude towards problems has changed through years life in China and he become calmer than before. He found that some difficulties would be resolved as time passes, so Chinese attitude is reasonable.


What kind of difficulties he faces in everyday writing?

In addition to writing travel notes, Christian also tried to write novels. By contrast,  the latter is harder, like driving on a road with various choices. Writers will come across many crosses, and they can go left, go right, or go straight. But each choice plays an important role in the development of the story. So when you choose the wrong way, you have to go back to the original point.


In the last session for questioning, when asked if the foreign life experience had an impact on personality development, he nodded his head and said that it was extremely important. Only by truly understanding the world can a brand new perspective be obtained. Christian’s answer precisely pointed out the significance of the EU-China Literary Festival.