Beijing: A Symmetrical City – Book Review

Written and Illustrated by: Dawu Yu
Adapted By: Yan Liu
Translated By: Crystal Tai
Genre: Children’s: Non-Fiction
Pages: 42
Published on: April 30, 2020

It’s not often I select a non-fiction book to read, but this one sounded so interesting I had to try it. First, I am not as familiar with Beijing as I would like to be. Second, I had no idea the city was symmetrical and it made me very curious to learn a little about that why it was made that way. Beijing: A Symmetrical City focuses on the city during the Qing Dynasty.

One of the main features of the book are the illustrations, which are in a familiar Chinese style and one that helps draw you into the culture and city being presented. Depending on what is being described within the narrative the drawings may be of a map, or a particular part of the city, such as what the city may look like once you pass through the Noon Gate. The pages show many colors, but red and gold – the colors of the emperor – are very prominent.

The information on the pages describe what you may see when you walk through a certain gate or go along a certain path. Descriptions include what type of buildings are in certain sections as well as their purpose, such as how the gate tower stores ceremonial supplies.

After the story moves from how the city was designed, it also goes on to show how it now influences the modern city of Beijing, which is not symmetrical and how parts of the city nearby are laid out.

Within the pages are Fun Facts and Knowledge Tips and then at the end is a more highlighted view of certain points of the city. Because of some of the terminology used, such as ‘central axis’ or occasionally uses of more difficult words like ‘cosmopolitan,’ the age range I recommend is for older middle grade through adult.

Overall, a very informative book for those wanting to learn a little more about one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. I can also see this as a terrific book for libraries to have on hand as well. I did find some of the font size a little small for me, but it is probably how I viewed it.

Rating: 4 stars

Description:

The first ever children’s book based on the design philosophy and architectural details of Beijing, China! This captivating read provides readers an immersive exploration into a unique city layout. Perfect for children with an interest in design history, or Asian culture, Beijing: A Symmetrical City:

Features gorgeous illustrations in typical Chinese style
• Teaches the historical significance of the names and placement of the most important buildings in the city
• Provides background on the architect and builders that changed the course of history
• Unearths ancient Chinese philosophy behind the city layout, rooted in harmony, balance and order.

The layout of Beijing is deeply rooted in the ancient culture of China. Award-winning illustrator, and author Dawu Yu has created captivating images that highlight the little-known symmetry of one of the world’s most aesthetically pleasing cities. Children can become mini experts on the historical hub. Each page features “Fun Facts”, providing knowledge overlooked not only by tourists, but also many residents of Beijing.

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