Fang Zhaoling was a Chinese painter and calligrapher who was born in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province in Eastern China. The eldest of two daughters from an affluent family, she lost her father at a young age when he was assassinated amidst political and social upheaval in China during the 1920’s. With the support of her mother, who provided a remarkably liberal education to her daughters, Fang began studying calligraphy and painting at the age of 13 under the private tuition of Tao Bofang and Madam Yang Sizhen. She also later studied birds and flowers under Chen Jiucun and landscape painting under Qian Songyan during her time at Wuxi Art College.
In 1937, Fang was accepted to enter the University of Manchester, UK and it is here that she met Fang Xingao (1913 – 1950), the son of well-known anti-Japanese general Fang Shuping. They were married in 1938 and went on to have eight children, six boys and twin girls. Each of her children went on to lead distinguished careers, most notably the eldest, Anson Chan, who became the Chief Secretary of the British Colonial Government of Hong Kong and of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region under Chinese rule until 2001.
When the Second World War broke out, the family moved left the UK for the US, later returning to Shanghai and then Hong Kong. During the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong Fang escaped with her family and took refuge in Guilin, Guiyang, Chongqing, Tianjin and Shanghai. The many upheavals and hardships they faced during this time made it impossible for Fang to paint for almost 10 years.