Fang Li Bangqin: San Francisco's Steel Hua Mulan

April 18, 2012
By Lou XiaoEditor: Zhu Yanhong

Fang Li Bangqin: San Francisco's Steel Hua Mulan

Fang Li Bangqin, also known as Florence Fang, is the first Chinese person in American history to own a mainstream English newspaper.[]

As the first Chinese person in American history to own a mainstream English newspaper, Fang Li Bangqin, also known as Florence Fang, is famous in San Francisco. The mayor of San Francisco even named September 8, 2000, as 'Florence Fang Day'  to celebrate her acquisition of the San Francisco Examiner newspaper, an event that caused a great sensation in the media industry.

An established entrepreneur and social activist, she is also the permanent honorary president for the Northern California State Peace and Unification Promotion Committee.

When interviewed by the China News Service correspondent, Fang opened up about her life experiences, comparing her life to a piece of iron that is constantly being forged. 

Recalling the hardship of her early years in America, Fang said that when she first arrived, she took no notice of her husband's printing business and made no attempts to assimilate into American society. She focused solely on taking care of her family. It was not until her husband fell ill and was sent to hospital that she was forced to take up the management of the printing factory as well as take care of her three children.

"Back then, we only had one worker in the factory. To save costs, I asked the worker to go home after the printing was done and I then sent the leaflets by myself. In that way, I could save the cost of paying the worker an extra hour's wage," she said. "Once, I sent a box of leaflets to a theatre just before a performance. There was a long flight of steps to the entrance and I was hauling the box along. By the time I was halfway up the steps I was already exhausted." 

At that moment, Fang saw a lady wearing a long elegant evening dress sweep up the steps, on her way to the performance. Fang thought: "How happy I would be one day if I too could put on a long evening dress and go off to enjoy a performance with a relaxed mind." Fang says that this is the reason why she always wears full-length dresses when she is in America.

Her family's business prospered and her company bought over the San Francisco Examiner in 2000, shocking the media world both in and out of America and paving the way for Asian influence over American mainstream English media. 

About this, Fang said:" Since Chinese Americans account for just a small percentage of the whole population in America, it's better for us to get involved with the media if we want to play our part in influencing local policy and raising awareness about Chinese culture."

She was surprised and glad when many local Chinese Americans expressed their excitement on her behalf. Many of them even recognized her on the street and congratulated her.

"When he was alive, my husband always said that he very much wanted to own and run a mainstream English newspaper," said Fang. According to Fang, after she closed the deal on the San Francisco Examiner, she went to visit the grave of her deceased husband and told him triumphantly that they had finally succeeded.

Fang's reputation as a savvy businesswoman has earned her many accolades. The media has dubbed her the 'Steel Hua Mulan' [*note] and a 'Heroine amongst Women'. Fang is matter-of-fact about the praise heaped on her. "You have to be strong both on the inside and the outside. Especially when living overseas, women are bound to encounter challenges that they have to face on their own," she said.
"Every one has feelings, even though some may be reluctant to show it. But I think that as a woman, no matter how gentle and 'Hua Mulan-like' you may look on the outside, you must wear a steel helmet on the inside to protect yourself," said Fang.

She also said that she loves listening to Chinese songs that are cheerful and encouraging, with lyrics that inspire people to be strong in facing their challenges.

For women who want to carve out a career overseas, Fang says that the most important thing is to have your feet planted solidly on the ground. She said that reaching too far beyond your grasp will expose you to the risk of falling down.

"If you run too fast, you may stumble and fall. You need to walk steadily, even when all your dreams are within your reach," she concluded.

*Note: Hua Mulan is a legendary figure from ancient China who is famous for having taken her father's place in the army and becoming a warrior of great renown.

( / Translated and edited by

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