The most popular YWCA program given in Shanghai today, says Shi Ruzhan, associate general secretary of the executive committee of the Chinese Young Women's Christian Association, is a music appreciation course at which young people pay 10 cents per session to learn the differences between jazz, disco, popular, and classical music. They fill a 450-seat auditorium each Saturday to hear conservatory professors point out the differences.
This YWCA also offers organized forums and lectures on modern Chinese history , economics, and science, and classes in calligraphy, foreign languages, sewing, and cooking.
''We are listening to our young people to see what it is they most want to learn at our Y's, and we keep enlarging our programs,'' Mrs. Ruzhan said at a press conference at YWCA National Board Offices here.
Mrs. Ruzhan was visiting New York as one of nine members of a peace delegation from the People's Republic of China.
Speaking about the YWCA in China today, she said, ''All things stopped during the Cultural Revolution, which lasted for 10 years from 1966 to 1976. All 'Y' facilities were taken over for other purposes and we did not function at all during the reign of the 'gang of four.' ''
In 1980, she said, the Chinese began to rehabilitate some of their ''Y'' buildings and many of the ''Y'' programs.
The YWCA has resumed its activities in Peking, Shanghai, Tianjin, and Wuhan, and it has taken initial steps to revive activities in Nanjing and Canton and to reopen local associations in other cities.
''We are recruiting and training new staffs, new boards, and new memberships, and we have a long way to go on our own domestic scene before we can reach out very far to others. We must become independent before we can become internationally interdependent,'' Mrs. Ruzhan said. She indicated that China was not yet ready to rejoin the World YWCA, which affiliates more than 80 national associations.
The nine-story building in Shanghai that houses both the YWCA and the YMCA is now being renovated and remodeled with funds from the government, in repayment for the years it occupied the structure.
Today's restored programs, this associate general secretary reported, include the training of nurse's aides for hospitals, as well as special aides for children's nurseries and kindergartens.
The Young Women's Christian Association of China has a history of nearly a hundred years. YWCAs were first started in the mission schools as student associations, and after 1900 city associations were also organized in Shanghai, Tianjin, Peking, Hong Kong, and other important cities. These pioneered in evangelistic campaigns, physical education, education, camps and summer conferences, rural services, and in training girls for industrial work.
In 1905 the National Association was organized, which became affiliated with the World's YWCA in 1906. During many years of rapid growth, it became a vigorous national movement of more than 80 student associations, 12 city associations, 51 Chinese secretaries, and a large group of fellow workers from other countries. A new spirit of inquiry and reform gave encouragement and opportunity for the growth of such a strong educational movement in China. It drew business and professional women as well as women from industry and from rural areas.
After 1949, Mrs. Ruzhan pointed out, the YWCAs worked without interference under the government which, she says, wrote freedom of religious belief into its constitution. Today there are 3 million Protestants in China, although many ''Y'' programs are sought out, as well, by what she termed ''curious non-Christians.''
Dr. Franklin Woo, director of the China Program for the National Council of Churches in New York, says there are 3 million Roman Catholics in China in addition to the 3 million Protestants. The total of 6 million Christians is 0.6 percent of the population. Except during the Cultural Revolution, the government of China has generally looked with favor on the YWCA, he said, because it has been perceived as a forward-looking organization that places emphasis on education and individual growth.