In Person

From the Big Apple to the West Lake: A New Yorker’s Encounter with China’s Hidden Gem Hangzhou

November 9, 2023
6:30 - 8:00 PM EST

As the ancient Chinese adage goes: “In the sky there is Heaven. On Earth are Suzhou and Hangzhou (上有天堂,下有苏杭).” In China, the city of Hangzhou occupies its own special place in the country’s history and culture, which persists to be one of the nation’s most cherished cities and among its most popular tourist destinations. As the southern terminus of the Grand Canal, it was a capital city of imperial China for 150 years. Home to a million people at a time when London and Paris each barely reached 80,000, it was described by Marco Polo as “the greatest city which may be found in this world.”

Stephen Koss, a gifted storyteller and New Yorker who fell in love with Chinese culture and “disappears” to China regularly, is bringing to us his new book By the Hills Embraced: A Social and Cultural History of Hangzhou, China, after his success in publishing Beautiful Su: A Social and Cultural History of Suzhou, China in 2015. No single book in the English language introduces the city in such a comprehensive way as he did. Join us on November 9 with Stephen Koss for a pageant of history and his unique encounters in Hangzhou.

Copies of By the Hills Embraced: A Social and Cultural History of Hangzhou, China will be available for purchase on site with discount and can be signed by the author.

This program is made possible through the support of the Chinese International Education Foundation, and generous supporters of China Institute.
This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.


Stephen Koss
Stephen Koss

After a twenty-year management consulting career in corporate America and seven years as a public high school mathematics teacher in New York City, Stephen Koss first visited Suzhou in the summer of 2000. Since that time, he and his Suzhounese wife Ping have visited Suzhou repeatedly for up to six months at a time, walking and bicycling the city streets and lanes, exploring its historical sites and courtyard homes, savoring its cultural and culinary fare, researching its history, and meeting old friends. He has been a regular guest teacher at local high schools and served as a full-time English and undergraduate business instructor at Suzhou University.

In 2015, Mr. Koss published Beautiful Su, A Social and Cultural History of Suzhou, China, the first modern book in the English language book to present a full range of Chinese history and culture as seen through the lens of a single city. Since that time, Stephen has created and conducted a series of eighteen different, history-oriented “walking tours” of Suzhou to help expats and English-speaking locals appreciate more fully the heritage of the 2,500-year-old city in which they live.

Stephen and Ping continue to divide their time between residences in New York City and Suzhou New District.

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