THE WORLD KNOWS her as Lu Ping, the acclaimed writer of novels and historical studies, as well as a popular commentator on social and cultural matters. Writing primarily in Chinese under the pen-name Ping Lu, she first came to prominence in Taiwan in the 1980s. She has since gone on to win an international audience of readers who cherish her sensitive style and original, feminist perspectives. Her works have been translated into English and Japanese, and her books continue to sell well in many countries. What some may not know is that Ms Lu is also Taiwan's cultural ambassador to Hong Kong. As director since 2002 of the Kwang Hwa Information and Culture Centre, she has been a driving force behind recent cultural exchanges. 'My mission is to act as a window for exchange and understanding between Taiwan and Hong Kong,' she said. 'It is a worthwhile cause, and is very different from writing, which is more about expressing myself.' Ms Lu's duties at Kwang Hwa range from overseeing aspects of Taiwan-related tourism to drumming up sponsorship for arts events and disseminating news and information. Part of her work includes arranging for artists and academics from Taiwan to give talks and host seminars in Hong Kong, while, in her own right, Ms Lu is frequently invited to be a guest speaker at local cultural events. She said she accepted the role of cultural ambassador because it presented the type of challenges she had always enjoyed. Born in Kaohsiung, Ms Lu studied psychology at the National Taiwan University, in Taipei, and continued her studies in the United States, where she gained a master's degree in statistics at the University of Iowa, after which she took on a full-time job as a statistician in the United States Postal Service. Ms Lu believes her academic training and experience has had a strong bearing on her life as a writer. The study of psychology has obvious advantages for a writer, while a grounding in statistics has helped in other ways. 'I was always interested in these subjects,' she said. 'But after working as a statistician for some time, I began to feel restless.' Part of the restlessness was prompted by the climate of political instability that Taiwan was experiencing at the time. 'Some of my friends were in prison,' Ms Lu said. 'I was very concerned and felt I had a lot to say without being able to. I was alarmed that if I didn't find a channel to express my feelings, the real me might disappear. So I took to writing out my feelings, which was how I got started.' On returning to Taiwan, Ms Lu took up a job as a journalist, working as a columnist and an editorial writer for the China Times. The newspaper experience gave her a close-up view of the social evolution under way in Taiwan, while giving her the opportunity to express views on subjects such as cultural development, gender and human rights. From gaining recognition as an authoritative voice on social and cultural issues, she went on to attract attention as the author of novels, short stories and essays on diverse topics. Ms Lu says her writing is influenced by a strong curiosity about people, which she traces back to her studies in psychology. The training in statistics has helped in the arduous research required for books such as The Story of Teresa and The Long Journey of Dr Sun Yat-sen and Madam Soong Ching-ling. She spent five years researching the life of the late singer Teresa Tang, and eight years collecting material about the historically significant couple. Shut away in her study, she 'scoured the sea of documents' sourced in the United States, the mainland, Hong Kong, Japan and Moscow. The soft-spoken, smartly attired Ms Lu exudes confidence, while preserving the sensitivity and feminist flair that characterise her views and her writing. She believes strongly in breaking stereotypes to allow both women and men more freedom. 'Compared to Taiwan, I think there is more typecasting in Hong Kong,' she said. 'In Hong Kong women with a successful career are expected to be a good wife and mother as well. There are no such expectations in Taiwan, where women are rated on their own merits.' Looking back on her five years in Hong Kong with Kwang Hwa, Ms Lu has much to be proud about. She was especially gratified by the success of the first Taiwan Arts Festival, held last November. The month-long event featured an art exhibition, concerts of traditional Chinese music, a food promotion and documentary shows. Ms Lu oversaw the planning and organising of the project, as well as the sponsorship. 'It was the first time Kwang Hwa had undertaken such a project in Hong Kong and the response was very good,' Ms Lu said. 'We plan to make this an annual event.' She noted how events like the arts festival had the potential to engage the community at many levels and promote understanding and exchange. The festival's goodwill initiatives included inviting elderly people to attend the concerts. 'They were very appreciative, which added value to the programme,' Ms Lu said. A job as filled with social engagements as hers must inevitably leave her with limited time for other things, such as writing. Ms Lu said she squeezed in writing whenever she could. These days she focuses mainly on social and cultural commentary. She has also started a blog to keep in touch with readers and fans through the internet. Ms Lu likes watching movies for relaxation and also hiking. She considers the countryside one of Hong Kong's greatest attractions, while extolling in the same breath the natural beauty of Taiwan. 'I think people should go and see Taiwan's countryside and spend a few days to experience the culture and rustic environment. They will find this a great way to unwind and recharge.' Tips Don't accept what people say at face value. Be curious, dig deeper and try to find out the truth yourself. We learn about the experiences of different people from the media. They all reflect something about life and can help us see ourselves from new perspectives. Don't allow yourself to be typecast. We should dare to go against others' expectations and to be ourselves.