Who is Peng Liyuan?
Peng Liyuan is a celebrated Chinese folk singer and the current First Lady of China. Though Peng amassed a global fan following after her husband Xi Jinping became the President of China, it was essentially her singing career that had originally made her a superstar. Nicknamed ‘The Peony Fairy’, Peng’s popularity rose after she became a regular at the annual China Central Television (CCTV) New Year’s Gala. A sensational soprano singer, her melodic renditions earned her numerous honours in singing competitions nationwide. In the years to come, Peng Liyuan became a regular feature as an entertainer for the Communist Party. Currently, Peng is more actively involved in social campaigns and welfare programs for the betterment of the society at large. When Xi Jinping took up presidential position, she automatically became the First Lady of China. She is regarded as the most active First Lady of China who unlike her predecessors, chose not to take a backseat and remain behind the scenes. Instead, she has started a revolution of sorts in China that will inspire first ladies to take cue from. Having said that, though Peng Liyuan’s singing career has taken a backseat for now, it still remains her first love.
Childhood & Early Life
Peng Liyuan was born on November 20, 1962, in Linyi, China. Not much is known about her family background excepting for the fact that her family was persecuted during the Cultural Revolution. It is said that her father was categorized as a counter revolutionary because some of their relatives served in the Taiwanese army.
At the age of 14, she enrolled at the Shandong University of Arts and received her vocational training in folk arts. At the University, she specialized in Chinese folk songs.
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In 1980, Peng Liyuan joined the People's Liberation Army as an ordinary soldier. She was 18 then. Due to her singing talent, she soon began performing at the frontline tours to boost the morale of the troop. During the same time, she became one of the first persons in China to obtain a Master’s degree in traditional ethnic music.
It was while performing at the Sino-Vietnamese border conflict that she gained reputation of an ‘arts and cultural warrior’. Her first ever national performance was at the CCTV New Year's Gala in 1982. There, she performed on ‘On the Plains of Hope’. Peng Liyuan almost immediately became an overnight star and a national celebrity. In the years to follow, she travelled along with the company, performing overseas in New York, Tokyo and Vienna.
For most parts of her early career, Peng mostly served as an entertainer for the Communist Party. She appeared frequently on state television, singing propaganda songs like ‘Plains of Hope’ and ‘People From Our Village’. It was for this reason that she became a regular at the Communist party with more than 90% of her songs revolving around the party principles and its ideologies. The rest basically only celebrated life.
She became a civilian member of China’s People’s Liberation Army and held the civilian rank equivalent to Major General before she was appointed as the dean of the Art Academy. It was only then that she gained a formal rank.
After her marriage to Xi Jinping, Peng’s rose to fame as a politician wife’s. Despite Jinping having an established position as a political bureaucrat, Peng Liyuan did not forsake her singing career. In fact, she actively pursued the same.
Immediately after her wedding, she returned to Beijing to appear in the National Art Festival. She then travelled to the United States and Canada to perform. Meanwhile, Xi first resided at Fujian and later moved to Zhejiang. Upon returning from the US and Canada leg of her tour, Peng remained in Beijing.
In November 2012, when Xi was selected for the position of the General Secretary of Communist Party, she enjoyed the reputation of being the wife of General Secretary. She maintained a positive reputation within China. The following year, when Xi was promoted to the position of Chinese President, press referred her as the ‘First lady of China’.
After becoming the First Lady of China, Peng singing career has slowed down a bit. Though she has resumed singing, it is only for very big scale political events. She appears less often in state-run television. Having said that, she is a regular at the Chinese State TV's New Year Gala, which is the most watched TV programme of the year.
Peng Liyuan has become actively involved in politics. She is a member of the 11th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. Furthermore, since 2011, she is a WHO Goodwill Ambassador, spreading awareness on tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. She is also an ambassador for the Chinese Association on Tobacco Control.
Peng Liyuan may be referred to as the First Lady of China, but prior to becoming that, she was, is and shall be the most beautiful and melodic singers that China takes pride in. Peng has actively contributed as a singer, politician and social activist. While her political duties and activities have garnered her much global limelight and attention, it is her work as a singer that brought her closer to the hearts of people. Her best bit as a singer is her annual performance for the CCTV New Year's Gala, which she has been religiously performing since 1982.
Awards & Achievements
In December 2011, she was one of 23 people to receive the first Chinese Arts awards and a 1 million yuan ($159,800, £100,000) prize.
In November 2014, Peng Liyuan was bestowed with an Honorary Doctorate by Massey University in New Zealand in recognition of her international contributions to performing arts, health and education.
Forbes magazine listed her as the 57th Most Powerful Woman in the World in 2014.
Personal Life & Legacy
Peng Liyuan first met Xi Jinping through common friends. Xi was the son of famous Chinese revolutionary Xi Zhongxun. During the initial phase, most of the conversation between the two revolved around the academics, with Xi inquiring about the singing technique and the nuances of melody and rhythm. At that time, while Peng enjoyed recognition as a famed singer, Xi held position as the deputy mayor of Xiamen City.
Later on, the friendship between them blossomed into love and the couple tied the nuptial knot on September 1, 1987 in Xiamen, Fujian. The couple has a daughter named Xi Mingze.