I stumbled upon this book in a bookstore, but initially didn't pay it any attention. It was only when my friend mentioned that the author, 馬伯庸, was gaining fame that I became interested. The book, filled with calculations and deeply rooted in history, intrigued me, and I decided to give it a try. It was a fantastic read.
As a fan of historical fiction, which combines real events and imaginative elements, I appreciated how this genre brings history to life. Prior to this, I had read books like "Romance of the Three Kingdoms", but not much else in this genre. This book taught me a lot about China's geography and the challenges people faced in the past due to limited technology.
The book is a short story with just six chapters. I finished the book in two days. It tells the story of a Tang dynasty government official tasked with transporting lychees from Guangzhou to Xian. As a native of southern China, where lychees are abundant, I found it hard to grasp how much this fruit meant to Yang Guifei, the imperial consort of that era. The assumption is that the emperor could satisfy any desire for his consort, but it appears that what seems simple today was incredibly difficult back then. While reading, I found myself immersed in the protagonist's thought process, even trying to figure out the lychee transport route myself. How quickly can a horse run? What's its stamina like? Would traveling by boat be faster than land? How can the freshness of the lychees be preserved? The story involved numerous calculations and engineering considerations.
The story details the protagonist's efforts to complete this seemingly impossible task using available resources and technology. The book provides an excellent illustration of the creativity that arises from limited resources. It also mentions many ancient city names along the transport path. After reading, I found myself researching these cities on Google maps, gaining a better understanding of their locations and connections.
The book was wonderfully written, and I plan to read more from 馬伯庸. My next choice will likely be 太白金星有點煩, which seems to be touted as equally good as 長安的荔枝.