LOVE OF KNOWLEDGE I grew up in Vancouver. I was born in Hong Kong, but moved to Canada in 1996. I used to study philosophy. I was a bit of a weird kid. I was reading Aristotle and dialectics and stuff like that when I was 17, 18. My mom said I couldn't read that stuff because it would fry me and make me into one of those depressive people. I went from the ancient Greeks all the way to 19th-century existentialists and I went, 'That's it, I can't do it any more', because everyone is so depressing. [Philosophy] is the basis of all knowledge. It's related to everything, so I thought if I could do philosophy, I could do anything. I switched my major because my family wanted me to study art history.
A SUNNY SPELL I was a weather reporter for two years [during university]. I was looking for a summer job after I graduated from high school. My mother saw on TV that [the station] was hiring a reporter. I sent in my resume and they asked me in for an interview. There were about 200 people there and they chose eight of us and put us through six weeks of training. Then they chose four and I was one of them. I started doing it and thought that since I had worked so hard to get this silly post as a weather reporter, I wouldn't just do it for two months - I'd keep on doing it. Then I hosted a [television] news entertainment programme called What's On.
IF THE GENES FIT ... My mom is a painter. My dad used to be a professor of chemical engineering in China. He grew up in Beijing. He's basically an engineer and now he's trying to be a businessman. He's totally left-brained and my mom's totally right-brained. My mom's the one who made me study art history. I almost went into medicine. One summer, my mom took me to Taiwan to meet with this really, really big collector of Chinese paintings. It was a large collection with works by my grandfather [Fu Baoshi] as well. Back then I didn't understand what the big deal about my grandfather was - I just thought he was a painter - because I hadn't started studying art. All I did was read about Impressionism, because my mom is really into it and she had all these books at home. I used to read everything and translate stuff for her. So I went to this Taiwanese collector's private museum and saw my grandfather's works and a lot of classical Chinese paintings. They were just wonderful and I had a little revelation. I felt so proud to be in this family.
OPPORTUNITY KNOCKED That collector said, 'If you study art history, you can come back and work at my private museum.' So I changed my major, but, when I graduated, I didn't go to work for him. I went to work at the auction house China Guardian. I thought the museum in Taiwan was too much of an ivory tower - if I went there, I would only see the best things. My mother and her friends wanted me to see the world, to gain some experience. She was on the phone trying to figure out who I was going to marry and what I was going to do, and [a friend] said, 'Why don't you send your daughter to my auction house? I'll make sure she experiences some hardship.'
HERE COME THE WEIRDOS I took my little doggie and went to Beijing and lived there for two years. It was hard doing six auctions a year. I was with the Seasons Auctions department, which sells the cheaper things. I was the first [evaluator] in line. People would bring in their works and I'd just sit there and look at them. If those works couldn't even get past me, my boss wouldn't bother to see them because there were so many people bringing in their heirlooms and treasures, expecting millions of dollars. I don't get intimidated any more because all sorts of weird people came in and they all thought their stuff was the best. I had to let down 10, 20 people every day. Some of them would yell at me. With just a little bit of training, you can basically tell that 90 per cent of what you see is c**p. The trick is to spot the top 1 per cent and be 100 per cent correct - that's difficult. If you're wrong, you're dead. It's OK working for an auction house because we've got insurance, but if I'm buying for myself I'll just have to pay it out.
COLD PROPERTY [Filming the television programme Dealers] was difficult - appraising 15 objects a day for 10 days straight. But the people were great. The other dealers were fun, but I wasn't happy with the high heels. When I did a helicopter scene I tripped over three or four times. It was so cold. We were filming in Essex, [Britain], in November. I had a one-piece dress on and we were filming in an aircraft hangar. I was so cold my mind stopped thinking. I guess I bought a lot of stuff because I was so cold.
NESSIE, THE PET DINOSAUR I've always liked old stuff. I look at this painting, and it's 400 years old. I'm touching something that's 400 years old, there's so much history - the emperor has touched it before and other painters have touched it before. It's amazing. On Dealers, I came across this mammoth's jaw that's about 10,000 years old. I'm like, 'Wow.' That's how many times older than this painting? It was just GBP900 [HK$11,200], so I bought it. Then here comes this dinosaur fossil and it's 200 million years old. That's even better! I've never had a dinosaur fossil and I'd always wanted one. I thought it was the coolest thing, so I bought it. They kept on telling me I had to buy it as a dealer so I could sell it to make a profit - that's the entire theme of this show - but I don't plan to sell it for a long time. I named it Nessie. I feel that once you've named something, you can't really sell it. Now it's like a pet. So I have a pet dinosaur.
Dealers premieres on Wednesday at 9pm on Discovery Channel.