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10 things you must know about China's First Lady

September 16, 2014 08:10 IST

Chinese President Xi Jinping's India visit, starting September 17, may be drawing quite a lot of attention and scrutiny. But many a keen eye will also be trained upon what his better half, Peng Liyuan does during her stay in the country.

For those unfamiliar with the Chinese First Lady, here's a list of things you ought to know about her


Image: Chinese First Lady Peng Liyuan. Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

1) Liyuan’s name means "Beauteous Beauty" in Chinese. Parallels between Liyuan and her US counterpart, Michelle Obama, include their sharp sense of style, prominence on the global stage, and commitment to their nation's health and education

2) She was the youngest civilian to become a major general in the People's Liberation Army and has served as the World Health Organisation's goodwill ambassador for HIV/Aids and tuberculosis.

Image: Chinese President Xi Jinping with First Lady Liyuan. Photograph: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

3) Liyuan and her husband have been married for over 25 years and, according to multiple accounts, it took only 40 minutes for Jinping to decide that Liyuan was the lady he wanted to marry, when they were first introduced by a mutual friend in 1986.

4) A semi-official biography posted on Chinese web portals tells how Liyuan comes from an area in the eastern province of Shandong known for its peony flowers -- she was nicknamed the "Peony Fairy" by her admirers -- and joined the army at the age of 18.

Image: Peng Liyuan sings during a performance as she visits soldiers and residents after the Wenchuan earthquake in Deyang, Sichuan province June 21, 2008. Photograph: Reuters

5) In the 1980s, she was one of the first people to take a master of arts in folk music in China, and her professor has spoken of her dedication to her studies. She has since performed in 50 countries.

6) She starred for 24 years in an annual Lunar New Year gala broadcast on state television, watched by hundreds of millions of viewers.

7) Liyuan has certainly been forthcoming in her praise for her husband, discussing their relationship in an unusually candid style. "When we first met, I felt in my heart that this is the ideal husband of my dreams -- straightforward and honest and thoughtful," she told People.com in February last year.

Image: China's first lady Peng Liyuan raises a toast along with Xi. Photograph: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

8) Liyuan's sharp sense of style won her a place on Vanity Fair’s international best-dressed list last year. The same year, Time magazine also listed Peng in its 100 most influential list, in the icons section

9) Forbes ranks Liyuan 57th in the list of most powerful woman in the world today.

10) In 2014, UNESCO named Peng as Special Envoy for the Advancement of Girls’ and Women’s Education in recognition of “her commitment to empowering girls and women through quality education, her outstanding contribution to fighting inequalities in education, her devoted service to human development and creativity, and her dedication to the ideals and aims of the organization”.

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