The Mountains Are High: a year of escape and discovery in rural China
What is it like to radically change your life? Writer Alec Ash meets the Chinese who are doing just this, ‘reverse migrating’ from the cities to the remote countryside of southwest China — and joins them himself, in an extraordinary and inspiring journey of self-discovery.
In 2020, Alec Ash left behind his old life as a journalist in buzzy Beijing, and moved to Dali, a rural valley in China’s Yunnan province, centred around a great lake shaped like an ear and overlooked by the Cang mountain range. Here, he hoped to find the space and perspective to mend heartbreak after a broken engagement and escape the trappings of fast-paced, high-pressured city life.
Originally home to the Bai people, Dali has become a richly diverse community of people of all ages and backgrounds, with one shared goal: to reject the worst parts of modernity and live more simply, in tune with the natural world and away from the nexus of authoritarian power. It is into this community that Alec embeds himself, from political dissidents to bohemian hippies, charting his first year of life in Dali among these fascinating neighbours.
The Mountains Are High is a beautifully written, candid memoir about how reevaluating what is really important and taking a leap of faith to reach it can genuinely transform your life. As one of the ‘new migrants’ tells Alec when he arrives: it is easy to change your environment, far more difficult to change your mind.
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