We include in this article some unpublished photographs taken in the 1970s by or with Ada Princigalli in China and Hong Kong.
On November 4, 2017 Ada Princigalli died in Rome. She was a historical journalist for ANSA (Italian National News Agency) in China, a character at the center of the nascent relations between China and Italy and a woman chosen for a role that was anything but obvious in 1971, especially if she was single with a small child.
Ada recalled some European journalists, from Europe in particular, who were still stunned to see a woman in that role. One Swiss journalist told her incredulously that he didn’t even think it was possible to read articles written by a woman.
The Chinese, on the other hand, welcomed this choice with great enthusiasm, as did George Bush the father, with whom they spent their vacations at the seaside in China every summer.
Choosing a woman for that delicate mission was not an obvious choice, but it was possible thanks to the then director of ANSA Sergio Lepri, who writes on his blog (http://www.sergiolepri.it/ma-quante-bello-fare-il-giornalista):
...I tell Prime Minister Chou about the upcoming opening of an ANSA correspondence office. Chou Enlai knows this, but he doesn’t know that ANSA will be sending a journalist, Ada Princigalli, to Beijing as a correspondent.
“A woman?” he says. “I’m delighted. The delegation of Italian businessmen who are visiting China consists of sixty people, but they are all men” (Mao Tsetung had used a beautiful expression for women: “the second half of heaven”).
Ada Princigalli, who had already been a correspondant to Paris, London and New York, arrived in Beijing in 1971 and stayed there for eight years. This, too, is the beauty of journalism: the possibility, for those who have the good fortune, to get up close and personal with great human realities, great historical and political processes, wars and revolutions. The correspondent of a newspaper arrives at the moment of the event, gets off the plane, looks around, tries to understand how things stand, tells the story and leaves.
The correspondent of an agency, on the other hand, lives in that part of the world that is changing; he usually learns, if he doesn’t already know it, the language of the place, talks to the people, goes to the market, takes his children for a walk, if he has any (Ada, who was alone, had a little one); day after day, summer and winter, spring and autumn, he sees, understands, tells; who better than him? From 1971 to 1979 Ada followed one of the greatest historical, political and ideological processes of all time in China: in 1971 the mysterious fall of Lin Biao, Mao’s “great comrade-in-arms”; in 1972 the start a1 sunset of the Cultural Revolution; in 1973 the reappearance of Deng Xiaoping and the simultaneous advent of Wang Hongwen, one of the “four” of the extreme left; in 1974 the resumption of the right-left ideological debate; in 1975 the conflict between the moderates of Chou Enlai and Deng Xiaoping and the radicals of Zhang Chunqiao, Mao’s wife; in 1976 the death of Chou Enlai, Deng’s removal, the death of Mao Tsetung, the end of the great dream of the People’s Communes; in 1977 the new return of Deng and the condemnation of the “gang of four”; in 1978 the restoration: “A cat is not good because it is red; it is good if it kills mice,” said Deng Xiaoping.
Ada Princigalli – from Wikipedia:
Ada Princigalli was also the first woman journalist in the world to be accredited in China, a position that was greeted with enthusiasm by the then Chinese Prime Minister Zhou Enlai. In addition to opening the ANSA office in Beijing, where she moved with her young son, Ada Princigalli spent eight years in China, the only Italian journalist, having the opportunity to live up close and document the profound historical, political and cultural changes that took place there in those years: the decline of the Cultural Revolution, the death of Zhou Enlai and Mao Zedong, the events of Deng Xiaoping and the condemnation of the “Gang of Four”.