In A Bittersweet Journey Through Culture Yu Qiuyu travels across the Chinese mainland to visit the country's national heritage sites and unlock the mysteries of China's cultural and historical legacy. As he winds his way through the countryside, cities, and ruins, Yu Qiuyu ruminates on the places, people, and moments that have shaped his and the Chinese way of life. He also reflects on his own personal history, weaving into his tale the histories of his literary heroes and the great works that have shaped him as a writer. First published in 1992, A Bittersweet Journey Through Culture popularized the literary concept of the meditative essay, establishing a new tradition in Chinese prose.
Born in 1946 in China's Zhejiang province, after graduating from the literature department of the Shanghai Theatre Academy in 1968, Yu Qiuyu became the youngest art professor in mainland Chinese history at age 39 in 1985, causing a great stir at the time. Later, he became the head of Shanghai Theater Academy and published a series of academic works for which he received numerous national awards. Although successful in his academic career, Yu felt he need to focus on Chinese culture and began a journey across China, visiting most of the cultural heritage sites in the country. His ensuing publication, A Bitter Journey Through Culture, became a huge hit immediately following its first publication in 1992. The book became a cultural icon for Chinese readers, and his reflections on Chinese culture and his emotional writing style popularized a new literary style called the cultural meditation essay and a new phenomenon termed YU Qiuyu culture . Yu then embarked on another journey to visit the cradles of three great civilizations of the world. In 1999, Yu, along with Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV, visited a dozen countries, including Greece, Egypt, Israel and India. His travel notes and personal reflections of these civilizations were collected into another book called A Sigh Of a Thousand Years. In the six months after that, he traveled to another 26 countries on his own and completed his book Travel No End. In 2004, he was selected by Beijing University and China Talent Editorial as one of the top ten artistic talents of China and the representative of Chinese culture. In 2005, he was the only Chinese scholar invited to attend UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Forum. His book tours in Taiwan in 2005 attracted thousands of readers and the Taiwan media described his arrival as 'the unimaginable YU Qiuyu tornado. In recent years, he has been invited to lecture on Chinese culture and world civilization at prestigious institutions, including Harvard University, Yale University, University of Madrid and Washington Congress Library.