WHERE HOME IS I'm a resident of Hong Kong but it takes seven years to get permanent status, and unfortunately there's no 'backdoor' way in. Beijing is my main base in Asia, but I live in New York, which is much more international than Philadelphia, where I studied as a teenager. New York can be a dangerous place for young people; it's so big, with so many distractions. A few years ago, I got into disco clubbing, but I've tired of that. Now I like the opera as it's a chance for me to relax and rest my ears from all the practising I do. BRAND SECURITY Personal style [in music] is hard to keep. Once you've listened to many great recordings, had guidance from master musicians from around the world, your sound can switch. This is dangerous because when an audience listens to you, you must have something to say. If you start sounding like elevator music then you are in trouble. My dad plays security guard to my style, you could say. He is also my manager in Asia. It's a huge market, so we hire other people to do bookings and press, but we need to be in control. He knows me so well and after he took over managing my career in China, I took huge steps [in the country]. The trademark on my name came naturally. It wasn't a sudden marketing idea. My name was already a brand - with Adidas and Steinway. And we needed to protect that. CATHAY SPECIFIC This year was really hard on China. Even as a visiting musician to countries such as Germany and England, I've been asked very hard questions about my political stance. I've tried to send good messages out to represent my generation's attitude, but obviously I can't represent the government. As a musician, the best way for me is to try to play a good concert and be heard. CRITICAL MASS Once you are successful, people start questioning your talent because you are in the spotlight. Sometimes you read great articles and sometimes it is heavy criticism. This is normal - everyone needs to go through this if he is a big player, a big fish. Some musicians might hit back at music critics, but the best thing is not to argue with them. It's their job - they can say what they want. Let them say it. The important thing is to not be distracted by either the good or bad sides of the argument. Focus on your music and don't think too much about other people. There's a Chinese saying that 'if you are gold, you will always shine'. I have already seen people who hated my work do a U-turn and write nice things [about it]. Some have actually called me to ask, 'Why have you changed so drastically and why is your playing so much more mature'. I say, 'I've just been following my instincts'. I'm 26; I know there are many problems with my playing. There are so many things for me to learn, so I just keep going. BRIDGING THE GAP I went to the US when I was 14. For the first four or five years, I didn't come back to China. I had everything American - literature, music history, piano. My social views and life changed. When I came back for the first time, I really started to appreciate my own culture. I learned Chinese history, literature, philosophy from Lao Zi, Zhuang Zi and Confucius. I began thinking about building bridges through music and conversation; it has worked pretty well in the past few years. Dragon Songs [a 2006 CD of piano solos] was an important step. There was a great response from the public. People asked where to get the scores and kids in America wanted to learn these traditional Chinese compositions. [2006 movie starring Edward Norton] Painted Veil was not about crossing cultures - it was more about my first foray into Hollywood, which yielded a Golden Globe. My next goal is an Oscar for a soundtrack. HEROES My teacher, Daniel Barenboim, is knowledgeable about everything - politics, history, culture - and he puts all those dimensions into music. This is the direction I'd like to take. History has always been a big part of classical music. You need to know your western history and at the same time, for me, be able to compare it to Chinese history and see whether there is a connection I can use. [US jazz composer] Herbie Hancock is a great hero of mine. He's a great pianist, improviser and interpreter. He can do anything he wants. That is talent I don't have. [Indian conductor] Zubin Mehta is such an enormous musician - unique and natural. I've spoken to him a little bit about Indian history and philosophy; there are plenty of similarities to Chinese culture. He is one of my great mentors.