Event Detail


River Town to Open Roads

Peter Hessler
Wednesday, 9 Mar 2011
1F, Duke of Windsor Building, 15 Hennessy Road, Hong Kong
American Journalist Peter Hessler talks on his writings and shows stunning photography of contemporary China

The Royal Geographical Society – HK in conjunction with the Hong Kong International Literary Festival are organising this event.

6.30 pm onwards drinks ; 7.30 pm Lecture

Members and non members HK$130, tickets available on the door, there is no advance booking via RGS however advance booking can be made through Literary Festival Website www.festival.org.hk/

Peter Hessler to lectures on "From River Town to Open Roads ". In this lecture, Mr Hessler, who gained fame for his first book, River Town, speaks on the subject of his third book, Country Driving: A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory. Through the tales of his travels driving through China, together with his village and factory narratives, in this lecture he provides a unique insight into the peoples and places of modern China, laced with his trademark humour, insight and empathy.

In the summer of 2001, Mr Hessler acquired his first Chinese driving license. For the next seven years he travelled the country, tracking how the car and improved roads were transforming China. He speaks of the local people nationwide, the farmers, the migrant workers and the entrepreneurs who are reshaping the nation during one of the most critical periods of its modern history.

Mr Hessler's 7,000 mile road trip in a jeep across northern China followed roads along the path of the Great Wall, from the East China Sea to the Tibetan Plateau, including superhighways, local paved roads and dirt paths. Along the way, he picked up hitchhikers, farmers on their way to market, truckers whose rigs had broken down and dozens of young people who were in the process of migrating to the cities for work. Mr Hessler not only learned about the erratic Chinese driving system, driving alone in his rental cars, but above all, about the pervasive business development culture spreading across the country.

Then, in the small farming village of Sancha near Beijing, in which he resided for six years, Mr Hessler bought a house. About Sancha, he tells a vivid story of change when the local road to the village is paved and Beijing's vehicle boom brings growing tourism and suburbia to a rural area, studying the way the village is changed by the nation's rapid development. Then moving to urban China, he tells of factory development in Lishui, a small southeastern city which officials hoped that a governmentbuilt expressway would transform into a major manufacturing centre, which becomes the country's centre for making bras.

Peter Hessler read English Literature at Princeton University, following which he won a Rhodes Scholarship to read English language and literature at the University of Oxford. Mr Hessler joined the US Peace Corps in 1996 and was sent to China for two years to teach English at a teachers' college in Fuling, a small city near the Yangtze River in Sichuan Province. He then worked in China as a freelance writer for numerous publications such as the Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe, the South China Morning Post and National Geographic. Mr Hessler joined The New Yorker as a staff writer in 2000 and served as foreign correspondent until 2007. He has written three awardwinning books on China: River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze, about his experiences teaching English in Fuling, A Journey Between China's Past and Present, a collection of journalistic stories he wrote while in Beijing and Country Driving: A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory. Mr Hessler is a recipient of the coveted US National Magazine Award for excellence in reporting.

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