The politics of guidebooks (Re: China)





A new book for travellers to China plans to make no mention of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Should travel guides tell the whole history of a place, or bow to local sensitivities?

Hotels are a must. So are tips on the local cuisine. A few key phrases. Some maps. A list of the best tourist sites and their opening hours. Perhaps some cultural do and don'ts.

All are key ingredients of a typical guide book. And yet many also feel the need to offer something more - a grounding in the history of the place that can help flesh out its culture, architecture and art.

Take Nuremberg. You could describe the city's medieval architecture, its beautiful perch on the River Pegnitz and its role in the German Renaissance.

But many travellers might find it strange if you didn't mention the Nazis' Nuremberg rallies. At least once.

And one might find it a little surprising that HarperCollins is to publish a guide entitled Travel Around China to coincide with 2008's Beijing Olympics that will make no mention of the Tiananmen Square massacre.


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