Elegant ‘Auntie Peng’ charms her young audience at Hong Kong kindergarten
First lady Peng Liyuan arrives in city wearing a typically elegant striped jacket with a Mandarin collar paired with a beige pencil skirt
Parents of children at a kindergarten in Hong Kong’s upscale Kowloon Tong neighbourhood were in for a surprise when China’s first lady dropped by on Thursday – though some of the young ones were not quite sure who she was.
Yau Yat Chuen School in Kowloon Tong was one of the stops Peng Liyuan made as she joined President Xi Jinping on his three-day visit to the city.
She chatted with the children, and praised and kissed them; they entertained her with a performance, conversing with her in Putonghua, according to video released by the government later.
In the clip, the pre-school children could be seen making paper models of dim sum, a staple of Cantonese cuisine, and introducing the various types of dumplings to Peng.
She also watched a performance by several of the youngsters.
“I really appreciate [the kindergarten’s] education style to achieve all-rounded development in moral, intellectual, physical, aesthetic and labour areas,” Peng said in the video. “I feel the children are very smart. Children are the hope of our future. I wish they grow up healthily.”
The first lady gave each child a box of colouring pens and the kindergarten six multi-media teaching sets. The pupils presented her with a souvenir fan featuring hand-painted pandas.
Lin Chong-yan, four, said she performed the ABCD Song to “Auntie Peng”.
“She told me I was very cute and she liked my performance,” Lin said. Although unable to explain who “Auntie Peng” was, she said the visiting dignitary had given every child a box of colouring pens.
Chan Pak-to, six, said he had spent a day practising waving and saying “welcome” in Putonghua. His performance involved jumping over obstacles to Peng.
“I think she is very beautiful,” Chan said. He knew she was Xi’s wife, but could not tell who her husband was without adult prompting.
Parent Anna Li said it was supposed to be parents’ day, with children meant to be off, but the kindergarten suddenly informed them last month about the change of plans without giving a reason.
“I feel really surprised that [Peng] visited,” Li said. “There are so many kindergartens in Hong Kong. Why did she pick ours?”
Another parent said the preschool had only informed them there would be a media pack waiting outside yesterday. She had an inkling about Peng’s visit from rumours that started last week in a parents’ WhatsApp group.
The area around the kindergarten was cordoned off and about 500 police officers provided a ring of security. The kindergarten has some 1,100 pupils, but only children in the afternoon session met Peng.
The first lady’s elegant style, singing talent and affectionate handholding with her powerful husband are frequently featured in the mainland media, earning her the nickname “Mama Peng”.
Earlier, even though all eyes were on the president when they arrived at Hong Kong International Airport, the limelight also fell on Peng, 54, who wore a striped jacket with a Mandarin collar, paired with a beige pencil skirt.
Local fashion designer Susanna Soo said Peng’s dress yesterday was likely to make people feel “familiar and comfortable”. Compared with what Peng was wearing when she arrived in the US in April, this time her dress showcased more traditional Chinese elements, such as the cheongsam-style cutting, according to Soo.
“The feeling was almost reassuring,” she said. “The tone in general was very refreshing and clean. It was easy on the eyes.”
Peng has been to Hong Kong before, attending the city’s handover anniversary events as a well-known army soprano.
At the 2004 concert held for the seventh anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China, she sang the famous tune My Motherland, a moving tale of a Chinese soldier fighting for his country and pining for his home and family.
In 2007, she also performed at the anniversary show, singing Hong Kong’s Night with Moonlight, a tune with lyrics expressing a desire for national unity.