When I first found out I was going to be travelling to Asia I went out of my way to try to consume as much literature about the region that I could find. Books on China were scarce at my local library and I was forced to turn to works of fiction that took place in the Pacific Rim. To my surprise I stumbled across a book that has become a Must-Read at our company for any new employees traveling to Asia.
Tai-Pan (Sequel to Sho-Gun) is a book by James Clavell that starts out with the founding of Hong Kong. It details a few months in the life of Dirk Struan as he founds the Noble House, a trading/smuggling company in the new Colony.
What makes this book such an important piece (in my opinion, of course) is that Clavell has done a great job explaining the interactions between the Chinese and the Westerners. There is a lot of attention spent on the concept of "face" (as in "he lost face") and how important it is in that society. It is also very interesting to read about the longevity of the Chinese culture and how they consider all Westerners "Barbarians"
This book is a work of fiction, but for anybody interested in the East-West relationship I highly recommend this book. If you are up to it read the entire Saga (in Chronlogical order) But Tai-Pan can be taken completely on it's own and still be an outstanding read.
Check out your local used book store, where you can probably buy this for $1.00, and immerse yourself in the rugged and rough history of Hong Kong.