The family of China’s first lady was brutally criticised and denounced during the Cultural Revolution. Since China’s new President Xi Jinping took office, more and more people have joined the hot discussion about Peng Liyuan, the new China’s first lady and famous military singer, on the Internet.
According to an article in Hong Kong’s Ming Pao newspaper, Peng Liyuan was born in Peng Zhuang Village in Yuncheng, Shandong Province. She is 50 years old now and is nicknamed “Lili”. She has a younger brother and sister. Her parents worked in the county troupe when they were younger.
Because her uncle lived in Taiwan, her whole family was criticised and denounced during the Cultural Revolution. In 2009, her father passed away. She now lives in Beijing with her mother. Wei Zhongping, the neighbor of the Pengs, told the reporter more details about the persecution of Peng Liyuan’s family.
The article says that Peng Liyuan’s hometown was Peng Zhuang Village in Huang Duiji Township, which is about 30km away and south-east of Yuncheng. Her father Peng Longkun was a senior high school student and then became the chancellor of the night school in his village.
He was in charge of eliminating illiteracy in his early years. Before the Cultural Revolution, he was transferred to the county troupe and later transferred to the culture centre.
Peng Liyuan’s family
There are three children in Peng Liyuan’s family, of which she is the eldest, born in 1962. She has a younger sister named Peng Lijuan and a younger brother called Peng Lei. In the 1960s and 1970s, the monthly pay of her parents was about 30 to 40 yuan, so they had to live frugally.
Peng Liyuan’s childhood was often spent on the oxcart of the county troupe. When her mother travelled with the delegation to the countryside to perform, Peng Liyuan was also on the oxcart and travelled with them everywhere. They often went on short commutes.
The article revealed that during the Cultural Revolution, Peng Longkun was regarded as a “person in authority”, so he was persecuted quite often. Besides that, Peng Liyuan’s uncle and his family lived in Taiwan, so her family belonged to one having an “overseas relation”. Moreover, her family’s background was regarded as bad, so her whole family suffered a lot.
After Peng Liyuan’s father, the curator of the culture centre, had been transferred to the countryside to be reformed through labour, her mother, the mainstay of the troupe, was driven from the stage. When Peng Liyuan was 9 years old, she and her mother were turned away and went back to the countryside.
During the reform-through-labour period, Peng Longkun had to clean restrooms every day. Peng Liyuan and her mother visited him once in a while, mainly because his dirty clothes needed to be washed and sometimes they also gave him one or two yuan and some food stamps.
However, they could just hand over things secretly while separated by the wall of restroom. Peng Liyuan often acted as the lookout by hiding under a tree. If someone approached, she would make birdcalls, sending signals like “Gagaga”. Hearing the signals, her parents had to hastily say goodbye.
After the Cultural Revolution
After the Cultural Revolution, Peng Longkun was transferred to the county industrial development bureau. In the early 1980s, he was sent to the Yuncheng Office in Fuzhou and became the director. After coming back to Yuncheng, he was hired as the consultant of the county government.
After that, their life has become better. In 1986, Peng Liyuan and Xi Jinping met on a blind date and got married the next year. They have one child, Xi Mingze, born in 1992. Peng Liyuan gained national fame performing songs on CCTV’s New Year’s Gala.
Due to their different lifestyles, Peng Liyuan and Xi Jinping have largely lived separate lives in different cities. When Peng Liyuan was interviewed in 1999 about her fame overshadowing her husband, she said she was in a “subordinate” position and will remain that way.
Translated by Lu Lu