Long before actually visiting China, I had, in common with so many before me, been fascinated by Chinese culture, history and religion. In fact, growing up, I was so inspired by Eastern philosophies that on my 21st birthday I added ‘Tao’ as a middle name. Later, in 2004 on a family road trip through California, I remember devouring a pocket edition of the Tao Te Ching, that beautiful and wise book of poetic philosophy ascribed to Lao Tzu, the reputed founder of Taoism who lived in China in the 6th century BC. Not only was I intrigued by China’s ancient philosophies, but I was also seduced by the artistic beauty of its calligraphic writing and impressed by its impending economic rise to power as one of the ‘waking dragons’ of the East. I even registered for a correspondence course in Mandarin through the University of South Africa in 1994, but never completed the course.