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Peng Liyuan

Juilliard gives honorary doctorate to Peng Liyuan, wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping

Award is recognition of Chinese folk music and reflection of closer cultural ties between China and US, popular soprano says

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 December, 2017, 7:57pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 December, 2017, 2:55pm

The wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping has been awarded an honorary doctorate from the world-renowned Juilliard School for the performing arts in the United States.

Peng Liyuan – a soprano and popular folk singer – was presented with the degree at the China Conservatory of Music on Wednesday, the Beijing-based school said on Friday.

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“This honour is not given to me alone, it is also a recognition of Chinese folk music and a reflection of the closer cultural ties between Chinese and Americans,” Peng said at the award ceremony.

“I hope the cooperation between art schools and organisations in the two countries will be deepened in the future.”

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Peng’s singing career began at the age of 15 when she enrolled in a music school. In 1980 she was made a People’s Liberation Army soldier of literature and arts, and soon after became a regular face on state-run television programmes.

She also made frequent appearances in state broadcaster CCTV’s New Year Gala, a hugely popular annual show that airs around the time of the Lunar New Year.

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While she has performed in public only rarely since Xi took over as Chinese leader in 2012, Peng has been seen as a symbol of China’s expanding soft power under her husband’s presidency.

In 2014, she was named Unesco Special Envoy for the Advancement of Girls’ and Women’s Education and has made frequent appearances on the pages of fashion magazines and websites.

Joseph Polisi, the president of New York-based Juilliard was quoted as saying that he “highly commended Dr Peng Liyuan’s achievement in arts”.

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Peng last visited the school in 2015 while on a state visit to the US with Xi. During that trip, Juilliard announced its partnership with the Tianjin Conservatory of Music in northern China, and a plan to open its first overseas branch – The Tianjin Juilliard School – in 2019.

The new facility will offer a US-accredited master’s degree in music, as well as other courses in the performing arts, according to a statement on its website.