The sweet red bean soup Rhodes talks about is only one of many variations of "sugar water" (a literal translation of the term "tong sui")--sweet soups--that we Chinese serve as desserts. And they are, contrary to what Rhodes notes, not unusual at all. In fact, some fo the common ones include:
1. Sweet Mung Bean and Barley soup flavoured with dried orange peel.
2. 8 treasures sweet soup including dried lotus seeds, dried white wood ears, beancurd sheets, barley, gingko seeds, dried flower petals etc in a clear sugar broth.
3. Black glutinous rice soup--thick, comforting and topped with rich coconut cream.
4. Sweet wheat porridge--served hot with palm sugar and rich coconut cream.
5. Peanut sugar water--peanuts ground into fine powder and cooked into a thick and rich sugary treat.
6. Almond soup--same principle as peanut sugar water
7. Dark 8 treasures soup--dried longans, dried lotus seeds, dried red dates etc in a clear but dark sugary broth.
Other Chinese desserts include fried pancakes stuffed with sweet red/aduki bean paste, mooncakes, light-as-air cookies called "soh" (many different types) and candied fruit and seeds.
Here are a couple of interesting articles:
one on Chinese biscuits (what you guys call cookies): http://www.shiokadelicious.com/shiokadelicious/2004/01/you_say_cookies.html
and one on Chinese sweets: http://www.shiokadelicious.com/shiokadelicious/2004/01/making_a_list_a.html
It's partly a photoblog too so I guarantee you'll be salivating madly