Tang Zhigang's father was an officer in the Red Army and his upbringing at the Kunyang Labor Farm, where his mother was a prison warden, bestowed on the artist a unique introduction to the highly institutionalized world that was to become a prevalent part of his later life. As a child, Tang developed a profound understanding of this bureaucratic system from the perspective of both the leaders and those being led. It is perhaps these very experiences that compelled him, as a painter of propaganda for the Political Department of the Army whiles serving in Vietnam, to eschew the much encouraged Socialist Realist style for his more humanistic depictions of soldiers going about simple everyday tasks.
Tang's Children in Meeting series is a continuation from his depictions of adults in meetings. The artist's turn to the use of children as his primary subject may simply be, as the artist claims, a coincidence, resulting from his time spent working as a children's art teach at the Yunnan Art Academy. Having spent years observing his student's behavior under semi-authoritarian setting, it is understandable that Tang drew parallels between their behavior and that of adults in the numerous meetings within the Chinese bureaucratic system that he had attended throughout his life. The works then seem to be a provocation to invite the viewers to notice the elements of childish, habitually masked in etiquette, seen in daily adult interaction. It would be unwise to dismiss the uniforms adorning these figures, the hanging banners and the bright red tablecloths. Tang's stark compositions ensure we do not ignore these clues, and serves as a clever device to satirize an era. Using children as his primary figures, Tang is permitted to broach subjects that would be otherwise considered taboo, giving them a veneer of humor, whimsy, and irreverence.