Rau often makes you feel that you're touting China with an official guide--as she repeatedly compares today's conditions to the deplorable ones in ""the old China,"" points along the way to all the items, services, and pleasures that cost ""just a few pennies,"" and populates each village, commune, and city en route with paragons of right thinking. ""You are a lucky girl,"" Hsi-fan's grandparents remind her, while apprentice Ming-li and her friends ""are proud of the great forests which clothe the hills, for they have helped plant them""--and teenage Pao-lang, touring the once-Forbidden City in Peking, ""is grateful that in the new China no one starves while others live in luxury."" But even an official tour has much to show us of Chinese life today, and Rau exposes us to the malls of small family shops (whose owners are not allowed to hire outside employees), the carefully layered system of medical care, the accounting procedures followed when the village rice harvest is sold, the leisure activities which revolve around participants' places of work, the primitive but efficiently managed sanitary facilities, the cultural provisions for children who adopt very early the overriding wish ""to serve the people."" And--far more than Hsi-fan and the other named young people whom we never really meet, even in Rau's numerous photos, her passing glances at a street-cleaning trio's 9 a.m. knitting break, or a child-created puppet show demonstrating the importance of cleanliness, give some very human interest to a once-forbidden culture. The travelogue twin to Rau's historically ordered People's Republic of China (1974), which covers much of the same socio-cultural ground.