China Beat Archive



Panic Room


Date of this Version


Document Type



August 16, 2010 in The China Beat


Copyright August 16, 2010. Used by permission.


On my (continuing) walk across China, I have occasionally come across the kind of construction featured in the attached image — a farmhouse with a door half way up the wall, no stairs attached. I have previously assumed the house was still under construction, or perhaps they ran out of money before doing the stairs. But as I passed his one, in Guang’an county in the middle of Sichuan, last Saturday, it struck me that this is in fact a “panic room”, a way to seal off and protect the family and its assets in the top room, safe from marauders. A man I met on the road asked me how the law and order situation is in England compared to China. I replied: “I really have no idea.”

— Graham Earnshaw, author of The Great Walk of China: Travels on Foot from Shanghai to Tibet

To read an excerpt from The Great Walk of China, click the link above; to listen to Graham Earnshaw in dialogue with Jeffrey Wasserstrom and Zhang Lijia in Shanghai last month, check out this podcast at Popup Chinese.