Seek Truth from Facts: The Seeds of Change : Photographs by Liu Heung Shing 1976-1983

8 August - 19 September 2009

"…[Liu Heung Shing] truly followed the injunction by Deng Xiaoping to ‘seek truth from facts’. In his photographs, each one a statement of cold fact, he gives more truth about China than the many volumes of romantic pictures by famous travelers to the People’s Republic. Instead of a picture postcard version of China, Liu gives us an incisive, moving and realistic portrait by a genuine artist who is deeply committed to the Chinese people." - Fox Butterfield


In 1977, Deng Xiaoping urged the Chinese people to 'seek truth from facts'. The slogan was coined to steer the people away from pure ideology towards new—and radical for the times—economic and political policies of a practical nature. In time, this strategy succeeded in rallying society behind Deng’s modernization program—his 'reform policy'—and building the socio-political momentum necessary to carry forward economic and political reform.

Liu Heung Shing's photographs were taken between 1976 and 1983 at exactly this momentous period of transition. With their conscious focus on daily life, the photographs document China's tentative steps forward in the post-Mao era. They capture the first shoots of modernity as the seeds of change took root. This was the era of 'opening to the outside world', when the people simultaneously sought to revaluate the recent past and bring a tumultuous era to a close, and to move forward into what was then an unknown and unpredictable future. That future is one we now know so well, and which is made to seem all the more extraordinary as we revisit the photographs here in Seek Truth from Facts, taken just thirty years ago.

Here, Liu Heung Shing's photographs reveal how the process of unleashing the nation's resourcefulness and energy began. The rest, as they say, is history.