Country Driving: A Road Trip through Ancient China

Country Driving: A Road Trip through Ancient China

September 29 through October 6 was this year’s Golden Week in China. Students had off-time from class to work on theses, sightsee in Nanjing, or travel. For Golden Week 2023, Sam Trizza, his roommate Jack 周峰, Brock Mullen, and Sam Parmer took a road trip through nearby provinces, visiting ancient towns and rural areas.  

Before I arrived at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, I was recommended a book by Peter Hessler called Country Driving: A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory. I picked it up at the HNC library and, with my roommate Jack’s overwhelming kindness, we planned a road trip through Jiangsu 江苏, Zhejiang 浙江, and Anhui 安徽––a circle around Taihu Lake––for Golden Week. Here are notes from our journey: 

Day 1: We left Nanjing for the Number #1 Road 一号公路 in Yixing, Jiangsu to have lunch with one of Jack’s students and her family. Besides being an HNC student, Jack is primarily an English teacher helping students focus on their oratory skills. Yoyo (10), Andrew (7), and their parents were generous hosts. We had a large meal with tea and conversation covering Yoyo’s questions about America, why we thought it was important to study at the HNC, and our questions about life in Yixing and the Chinese economy. We finished our visit with a stroll in a countryside park where locals were hanging out with their sugarcane-eating kids. We spent the night near Wuxi 无锡 where one young Chinese boy was fascinated with the American military and asked us if we knew his school friend who visited America last year.  

Day 2: We traveled to Suzhou 苏州, the “Venice of the East”, to see the Pingjiang Road and the Grand Canal, which was dug during the Sui Dynasty (581 - 618 AD). Never did we see more people during Golden Week than at Pingjiang. It was truly a 人山人海 experience. Then we headed for Tongli 同里古镇, a preserved ancient town with more dense waterways than Suzhou. We stayed in the heart of town in a hotel owned by a local family­­––it felt more like we were staying in their house. The hotel had furniture that was over a hundred years old, Mao memorabilia, and 3 courtyards in a long-line fashion that symbolized prosperity in Chinese architecture and home design. 

Day 3: We left Tongli and headed for Moganshan 莫干山. We passed by Hangzhou 杭州 Posted on October 10, 2023  |  Johns Hopkins University