I first went to China in 1977 on a tour with a group of overseas Chinese. We were some of the first tourists to be allowed into China after the Gang of Four were arrested in 1976.
In 1984 I went back to live and stayed until 1986.
I was studying Chinese painting in Nanjing, then in Hangzhou at the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Art. There was very little to buy except for food items. Heating was rationed, even though it was snowing outside, and so was the hot water for showers.
But there was always a plentiful supply of art materials – paper, brushes, inkstones and inksticks.
In the 80’s there was nothing to buy. We couldn’t even get instant coffee, so each month we would take the train to Shanghai, to the famous Peace Hotel to purchase a supply which was kept in a glass cabinet at reception.
As foreigners, we were always closely watched, and had to be careful what we said in public. My friends, who were local students, had to be particularly on their guard.
No local Chinese were allowed into the big hotels unless they had special permission to meet relatives. There were guards on the gates and big fences surrounding the property.
How different it is today!
Who could have imagined…
Twenty five years on, this TED talk, given by the brilliant Yang Lan, otherwise known as the Oprah of China, demonstrates what China is like today and the attitudes of young people. There may be no Twitter, but social blogging is alive and well and playing an important part.