Event Detail

12
Nov
2019

Xinjiang: China's Turkestan

Ryan Pyle
Tuesday, 12 Nov 2019
Complimentary Drinks Reception 6.30 pm; Talk 7.30 pm
UBS, 52/F, Two International Finance Centre, 8 Finance Street, Central
Pre-payment is required.

Ryan Pyle talks about his eight years documenting China's remote and currently topical Xinjiang Region.  For centuries criminals, holy men, and traders tramped across this extraordinary region, and it was out of this tradition that the Silk Road was established.  Surrounded on three sides by some of the highest mountain ranges in the world, with the Gobi desert blocking the forth, what was Chinese Turkestan is one of the most isolated places on earth. 

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Ryan Pyle talks about his eight years documenting China's remote and currently topical Xinjiang Region. For centuries criminals, holy men, and traders tramped across this extraordinary region, and it was out of this tradition that the Silk Road was established. Surrounded on three sides by some of the highest mountain ranges in the world, with the Gobi desert blocking the forth, what was Chinese Turkestan is one of the most isolated places on earth.

From 2006, Ryan decided to “focus his camera” on this mysterious and remote part of the world. During his time in the region he has documented places like: Kashgar, Aksu, Kuche, Hotan, Khotan, Urumqi, Turpan and all the remote and stunning places in-between. This vast expanse of deserts, mountains, river basins and grasslands, has seemingly always been at a crossroads between cultures and time.

Sparsely populated, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China has also had a turbulent history. Many of the events that have occurred there during the last 2,500 years have been inextricably associated with its geographical position in north-west China, on a crossroads between Europe and Asia. Ryan describes how it is traversed by branches of the series of trade routes that formed the ancient Silk Road, and how the region has been fought over and controlled by a succession of warlords and empires.

With the most recent influx of Han Chinese have also come transformations in the character of Xinjiang’s cities: shopping malls now replace ancient bazaars and new apartment blocks rise above what remains of the old laneways. The people of Xinjiang are thus facing many changes. Ryan argues that their future, as well as the future of this culturally and geographically unique territory, may depend on how those changes are dealt with.

Ryan Pyle was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. He obtained a degree in International Politics at the University of Toronto in 2001 and then travelled to China on an exploratory mission. In 2002, Mr Pyle moved to China permanently and became a regular contributor to the New York Times. PDN Magazine listed him as one of the 30 emerging photographers in the world in 2009.

In 2010, Mr Pyle began working on television and documentary film production. He obtained the Guinness World Record for Adventure Motorcycle Riding, was awarded the Gold Medallion by the Governor General of Canada in 2013 and titled Explorer of the Year by the Geographical Society of Philadelphia. Since 2013, he has published 6 books, two of which are photography books and he has presented and produced 9 large television series for major broadcasters in Canada, the US, the UK, China and Europe. His series were filmed in 18 countries globally, including Tanzania, Oman, Iceland and Peru.

He is a Columnist for the South China Morning Post and was previously a regular contributor to Time, Newsweek, Fortune, Forbes, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Spiegel and the Sunday Times Magazine.


Members of the RGS, their guests and others are most welcome to attend this event, which is HK$150 for RGS Members and HK$200 for guests and others, including a complimentary glass of white or red wine. This event is free of charge for Student Members.

The Royal Geographical Society - Hong Kong wishes to express its thanks to UBS as our Venue Sponsor of this talk.

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