Meet the Author with Dan Washburn

John Delury (left) with Dan Washburn (right)

By Matthew Fennell

SEOUL, March 25, 2015 – Dan Washburn was the guest speaker of the Asia Society Korea Center’s second “Meet the author” event of the year. Washburn is an award-winning journalist and Chief Content Officer at the Asia Society, and was in town to talk about his new book, The Forbidden Game. The event was moderated by John Delury, renowned Chinese and North Korean historian and expert, current professor at Yonsei University in Seoul, and a fellow of the Asia Society’s Center for U.S.-China Relations. Washburn explained how The Forbidden Game follows the lives of three men intimately involved in China's bizarre golf scene, where new golf courses are at once banned and booming.

Washburn had been travelling around the world talking about his book at Asia Society Centers, and in Seoul, he explained how the book explores a unique path through China by following the lives of three men heavily involved in China's bizarre golf scene. These are the chain smoking, blue-collar type who pursued an interest in golf as an alternative to working as farmers or in agriculture. He introduced the main character of the book, a peasant turned golf pro named Zhou, who fell into the game when he won a job as a security guard at a high end golf club. While following Zhou’s career on the fledging China Tour in 2006, Washburn was able to get a unique insight into the emerging Chinese middle class. The second character in the book is Wang, a farmer whose life is turned upside down when a golf resort moves in next door to the small village in which he was living; and the final character was Martin, an American golf course designer who did increasingly well designing courses in the US, Thailand, and ultimately China. Washburn explains how through these 3 personal stories the reader gets a glimpse into China’s transformation from an inside perspective.

Washburn, who lived in China from 2002 to 2011, talked about how he spent more than seven years researching and writing the book described as "strikingly original" by The Wall Street Journal and "gripping" by The Economist. He spoke about how he wanted to give a ground level view of the golf scene in China, one that was true and real to the reader. After explaining the book and giving background on the three main characters, Washburn then engaged in a question and answer session with the invited guests before signing copies of the book that were snapped up on the night.

Read Dan Washburn's interview with MK Daily here.