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Journey of a Thousand Miles: My Story
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“Number One” was a phrase my father—and, for that matter, my mother—repeated time and time again. It was a phrase spoken by my parents’ friends and by their friends’ children. Whenever adults discussed the great Chinese painters and sculptors from the ancient dynasties, there was always a single artist named as Number One. There was the Number One leader of a manufacturing plant, the Number One worker, the Number One scientist, the Number One car mechanic. In the culture of my childhood, being best was everything. It was the goal that drove us, the motivation that gave life meaning. And if, by chance or fate or the blessings of the generous universe, you were a child in whom talent was evident, Number One became your mantra. It became mine. I never begged my parents to take off the pressure. I accepted it; I even enjoyed it. It was a game, this contest among aspiring pianists, and although I may have been shy, I was bold, even at age five, when faced with a field of rivals.

Born in China to parents whose musical careers were interrupted by the Cultural Revolution, Lang Lang has emerged as one of the greatest pianists of our time. Yet despite his fame, few in the West know of the heart-wrenching journey from his early childhood as a prodigy in an industrial city in northern China to his difficult years in Beijing to his success today.
Journey of a Thousand Miles documents the remarkable, dramatic story of a family who sacrificed almost everything—his parents’ marriage, financial security, Lang Lang’s childhood, and their reputation in China’s insular classical music world—for the belief in a young boy’s talent. And it reveals the devastating and intense relationship between a boy and his father, who was willing to go to any length to make his son a star.
An engaging, informative cultural commentator who bridges East and West, Lang Lang has written more than an autobiography: his book opens a door to China, where Lang Lang is a cultural icon, at a time when the world’s attention will be on Beijing. Written with David Ritz, the coauthor of many bestselling autobiographies, Journey of a Thousand Miles is an inspiring story that will give readers an appreciation for the courage and sacrifice it takes to achieve greatness.

Customer Reviews:

  • commerce vs. art
    Okay... Lang Lang is a phenomenon; Young, talented and entertaining. Be that as it may, wanting to be "Number One" is a reasonable pursuit for an athlete---NOT for an artist. It's a shallow aim, and speaks nary a word about vision, individual expression, or artistic integrity. ...more info
  • I loved this upbeat book!
    What a wonderful, inspiring, upbeat story! And I am very glad to have gotten to know Lang Lang through his writing. I now plan to listen to some CDs of his music. My late mother was a pianist...and I thought today as I finished listening to the audio version of the book, how my mother, Virginia, would have loved reading this book and hearing his music like I plan to do. It is also wonderful that he didn't forget his impoverished youth...and is now the youngest Unicef Ambassador (for children). Good luck Lang Lang in everything you do!...more info
  • OK. But don't buy both books
    I have both books about Lang Lang.
    Buy just one. They seem to be written from the same interview transcripts. This book has more details. The other books covers mroe events....more info
  • Hollow and clunky - a missed opportunity
    While recognizing that he is still early into his career, and as someone who appreciates the piano work of Mr. Lang, I was surprised at how hollow, clunky, and one-dimensional this autobiography came across -- even with an English-speaking co-writer. The difficult relationship between Mr. Lang and his father, who overzealously pushes his son to an almost abusive level, is the predominant narrative here -- while there is little about Mr. Lang's love of particular pieces of music, his vision for bringing Chinese musice to Western audiences, or anything of depth written about his art itself.

    Too bad. I would have liked to have read those things. Mr. Lang does so well in interviews in making classical music accessible to audiences, often his enthusiasm doing most of the talking! That doesn't come across here.

    Nor does one really get a sense of Mr. Lang as a person. One gets the sense that his father has trained him to be a piano-playing machine -- cut off from anything resembling real life, asexual, and flat. Where is the living, breathing man? One fears that the sterility of life as depicted in "Journey of a Thousand Miles" will only have a negative impact on his art in the long run -- unless there's much more to Mr. Lang than what is conveyed here in this autobiography. If so, it's a missed opportunity, and doesn't make for an interesting read.
    ...more info
  • Most Outstanding Autobiography I've Ever Read
    This book absolute blew me away by the powerful experiences related by this equally brilliant musician. I read it 3 x times within the first 3 weeks after release. I will cherish and read this book over and over again. It feels to me as if Lang Lang is standing or sitting next to me telling me his life story personally.

    I believe reviewer "G. Hansman "jakebc" (Vancouver, Canada)" was reviewing an altogether different book when he wrote his review of this same phenominal title. I hope to have Lang Lang sign my book in the near future to cherish even more for years and decades to come. I have and will continue to recommend this outstanding book to any possible real reader of good books. Not only is the content extremely moving and moved me to tears on every reading whether Lang Lang achieved success or whether he failed, but the presentation style is extremely accessible and of a deeply personal nature.

    Lang Lang absolutely bared his soul to readers and lovers of his brilliant music CDs & performances. I will also forever in future when I see, watch or hear any other talented person - not only in music - remember that the artist I'm enjoying may have gone through an often brutal training and preparation phase to produce that which I'm enjoying now.

    To every person who loves reading good Non-Fiction: Buy this book immediately - I can hardly imagine anyone not getting his/her value for their money and time reading this amazing book!!...more info
  • awed by the power of his father's love
    I picked up the book reluctantly, expecting it shallow and celebratory. Loving Lang Lang's music, I had no intention to idolize him however. But the book turned out to be well written and surprisingly rich in meaingful details.

    The book is more about human bonding amid struggles, the power of passion, the cut-throat but still humane environment in today's China, than about parading the gamut of Lang Lang's musical feelings. The tone of the book is honest and sincere.

    I am moved particularly by the character in Lang Lang's father. The book depicts him as relentless, maniacal, absurd, but utterly committed to his son and capable of all-out self-sacrifices. He represents a familiar truth that has terrified many people in the past - a father's love is most revealed in his despair. When he despairs, he is at the most destructive.

    ...more info
  • A Fuller Picture of Lang Lang
    When he burst into the classical music world as a seventeen-year old pianist from China, it was more than his piano playing versatility, and repertoire that caused a sensation; it was also Lang Lang's personal history and background. That a seventeen year old student at the Curtis Institute of Music, alone with his father in America, and away from his mother, etc, etc. This book is Lang's answer to the thousands of times he has been asked the same questions. He did a credible and honest job of describing his life and hardship in China. However, his telling of his growth and maturation in America in the last quarter of the book is superficial and shallow, as what one would expect from a 26-year old.

    However, as a Chinese-American reader I am also struck by several aspects of Lang's book. First, it must have been a catharsis for him to retell the relationship with his father, the conflicts and mental and physical abuse (in American eyes, but not necessarily to the Chinese) he suffered. He has violated one of the most important Chinese canons, that is: "don't publicize family dirt." It must have taken a tremendous amount of courage and maybe some American rebelliousness to write a tell-all book about his father. Second, he appears to be challenging the musical, maybe even the artistic hierarchy of China, that winning competitions, especially international competitions is not the measurement of musical or artistic achievement. Third, Lang Lang's fierce personal drive and desire to succeed is not often evidenced in Chinese-American artists. This book explains his love of fashion, hairstyles as well his flamboyance and showmanship (good or bad) and, in turn, his success in America.

    I highly recommend this book, especially to Chinese-Americans and readers who wish to better understand and appreciate Lang Lang.
    ...more info
  • A Bit Megamanical, and sometimes false facts - But still worth reading
    Although in my view Lang Lang is highly overrated as a pianist, Lang Lang does a great service popularizing piano, and I like his personality a lot. But I've heard some of his master classes and seen him perform in person and DVDs, and am not greatly impressed. He has a lot of potential, and talent (if Lang Lang stopped his charlatnism on the piano -- which every top professional like Josef Hoffman and Sergei Rachmaninoff abhorred -- he would certainly focus more on the keyboard and bring greater performances). Here is one example of incorrect "false facts" in Lang Lang's book. Lang Lang tells the story of how the Goldberg Variations were created by Bach because "Goldberg" had trouble sleeping. This is a false account, and will certainly be repeated by others because people assume that Lang Lang knows what he's talking about.

    Here's the correct story from "The Book of Musical Anecdotes" by Norman Lechert: "Count Kaiserling, formerly Russian Ambassador at the Court of the Elector of Saxony...brought with him Goldberg (organist and composer) to have him instructed by Bach in music. The Count was often sickly, and then had sleepless nights. At these times, Goldberg, who lived in the house with him, had to pass the night in an adjoining room to play something to him when he could not sleep. The Count once said to Bach that he should like to have some clavier pieces for his Goldberg, which should be of such a soft and somewhat lively character that he might be a little cheered up by them in his sleepless nights. Bach thoguht he could best fulfill this wish by variations, which, on account of the constant sameness of the fundamental harmony, he had hitherto considered as an ungrateful task. Bu as at this time all his works were models of art, these variations alsom became such under his hand. This is, indeed, the only model of the kind that he has left us. The Count thereafter called them nothing but his variations. He was never weary of hearing them; and for a long time, when the sleepless nights came, he used to say, `Dear Goldberg, do play me one of my variations.' Bach was, perhaps, never so well regarded for any work as for this: the Count made him a present of a golden goblet, filled with a hundred Loouis d'ors."

    In master classes, one can tell Lang Lang is more interested in showing off before audiences, instead of communicating with the young children he allegedly wishes to teach. And when he teaches, the content of Lang Lang's so-called teaching is often mediocre. In his demonstrations, he is sloppy, again more focused on showing off than teaching.

    In short, one wonders why such a young and limited pianist has become so famous, and dares to consider himself "number one" pianist in the world. To be sure, every generation has had such a pianist. Padereski was scorned by the top pianists, yet Paderewski filled the piano halls, and became prime minister. Lang Lang is today's equivalent of Paderewski and Blind Tom -- a musical attraction pushed onto American and international audiences because of his showmanship and the backing of the Chinese government, which wishes to propel itself into the minds of the world as a highly cultural nation.

    Yet despite of these reservations, Lang Lang fulfills an important task: popularizing piano. In this respect, I have great admiration for Lang Lang. Like Mohammed Ali -- who also proclaimed himself to be "the greatest" (but lost 5 times, and is now punch-drunk) -- Lang Lang fulfills a vital role in popularizing piano. In this sole respect, he really is the greatest advocate for piano today.

    I would love people to come out with a DVD of Arcadi Volodos, the great Russiang young pianist. Volodos needs to lose 70 pounds so he can avoid sounding fat at the piano; he's simply the real great young virtuoso that Lang Lang is advertised as....more info
  • An incredible story
    This book is an amazing story. I read the first 100+ pages while my flight was delayed. Probably the best time I've ever had an an airport. Most biographies are bland and try to climax small events. This story is incredible with how much emotion their is and keeps up all the way to the end. The story is about him as much as it is his father and you will laugh and be awed by some of the events that take place. I highly recommend this book even if you are not so interested in classical music. Lang Lang really brings back light to what classical music really is....more info