Peter Hibbard sits in a classroom with his students in China in 1988.
In class with my students in 1988.

I had a spirit of adventure from an early age.

After working in a planning office in London, I decided that an office life was not for me. I wanted to experience the world.

Whilst I was working as a researcher in the tourism department of what is now Bournemouth University, I was excited to learn that China had opened up for tourism.

I travelled to the mainland in February 1986 and arrived in Shanghai by boat. I remember my first view of China being the Western buildings along the Bund - no temples or pagodas in sight."

That’s why in 1983 I made a singular decision to become an ‘expert' on the Chinese travel industry, and in 1985 became a Visiting Scholar at the Centre of Asian Studies at Hong Kong University with the aim of looking at some of the cultural and economic impacts of this new business.

However Western it looked, the sounds, smells and frenzied activity on the streets were unlike anything I had experienced elsewhere and I was hooked!

I woman sitting by Lake Tianchi, Xinjiang, China in 1988.
Cheese on the mountain, Lake Tianchi, Xinjiang, 1988.
Group photo of Peter Hibbard and fellow teachers, China, 1988.
Group photo with fellow teachers, 1988.
Yellow Yao minority woman in costume, taken on Rongshui Mountain in Guangxi during the Spring Festival in 1990.
Yellow Yao minority woman in costume, taken on Rongshui Mountain in Guangxi during the Spring Festival in 1990.
Debating monks in Labrang Monastery, Xiahe, Gansu, 1988.
Debating monks in Labrang Monastery, Xiahe, Gansu, 1988. Travelling in this part of China was really uplifting and the energy and joy from these radiant monks in the act of debating was a memorable event.   

I found the China of my dreams and all its radiant colour in remote regions including Tibet and the Burmese border area of Yunnan.

Wherever I went, there were smiles and fantastic hospitality - there was an overwhelming sense of excitement, expectancy and pride, mixed with fantastic industriousness and resilience.

I spent six months travelling overland, interviewing tourism officials along the way, and when I returned to Hong Kong I had already made the decision that I wanted mainland China to be my life and my home."

Whilst working as a tour director in 1993, I met my wife in Guilin. She was working as a tour guide for the China International Travel Service and we moved to Shanghai in 2001.

Since then, I have been very concerned with promoting links with the past and in 2007 I was the founding president of the reconvened Royal Asiatic Society China in Shanghai, first established in 1857.

I was awarded an MBE for my services to heritage conservation in Shanghai in the New Year Honours List of 2010.