The days of discovering new lands and filling in blank spaces on the world map have long passed. Today exploration connotes drilling for oil or the discovery of a new planet. But for Chinese explorer Wong How Man (黃效文), Earth still hides cultural and environmental riches that are worth exploring and preserving.
Wong will speak about his life and work tomorrow at Taipei’s Zhongshan Hall (台北市中山堂) as part of the Taipei Salon, a series of lectures hosted by the Lung Yingtai Cultural Foundation (龍應台文化基金會).
“Everywhere I went I encountered people and customs that I knew were going to vanish almost as soon as I’d photographed them. I realized that to be an explorer in today’s world you can’t escape becoming a conservationist,” he said in an interview with Time magazine, in an article that hailed him China’s most accomplished living explorer.
Beginning in the late 1970s as a journalist for National Geographic magazine and then as an expedition leader, Wong has photographed and written extensively about China’s remote regions, diverse peoples and delicate ecology.
His adventures led him to discovering a new source of the Yangtze River, identifying the world’s northernmost rain forest and using NASA technology to locate lost cities along the ancient Silk Road.
Although exploration satisfied Wong’s thirst for knowledge and adventure, he soon found himself charting more difficult territory. In 1986, he founded the nonprofit China Exploration and Research Society to explore China’s remote regions, conduct research and implement conservation projects for China’s natural and cultural heritage.
The Hong Kong-based society operates more than a dozen projects in China. One project seeks to preserve the so-called “hanging coffins” of Yunnan, some of which are 1,000 years old, while another is restoring the crumbling murals of a Tibetan nunnery.
Rewriting the Wonders of Global Geography is at Zhongshan Hall, 98 Yenping S Rd, Taipei City (台北市延平南路98號) tomorrow from 2pm to 5pm. Admission is free, but those attending must register in advance by calling (02) 3322-4907 or logging on to www.civictaipei.org. The event will be conducted in English with simultaneous translation in Chinese.