The Girl With The Uneven/Crooked/Buck Teeth and the Fat/Chubby Face
This page is a collection of brief comments made over the past week. The key event is the song <Ode to the Motherland> at the 2008 Beijing Olympic opening ceremony.
It was subsequently revealed by the music director Chen Qigang during a Beijing radio interview that the girl shown on the video was Lin Miaoke but the voice belonged to another girl named Yang Peiyi. According to some western media reports, Yang Peiyi has 'uneven/crooked/buck teeth' and a 'fat/chubby face', and therefore her appearance would be detrimental to the national interests in spite of the fact that her voice was perfect. This created a storm in the west.
Here is a photo of the supposedly 'unpresentable' Yang Peiyi (via Fool's Mountain):
She is quite lovely, isn't she? So how did she become 'unpresentable'?
The following is a collection of news reports and blog/forum posts about how the meme of the uneven/crooked/wonky/buck teeth and the fat/chubby face came about.
But before you proceed, I would like to tell you about what my personal interest in this matter is. After all, I have clearly spent a lot of time compiling and translating the information below. Why do I bother?
I know that some people out there think that this was an awful case of deception and manipulation, while other people think that this is just show-biz as usual (while citing <Singing In The Rain>, Marni Nixon's singing, <Next Stop ... Tin Hau> , Luciano Pavarotti's Nessum Dorma at the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics and so on). I don't have an opinion on the absolute rights or wrongs of those kinds of opinions. I accept that there is a difference of opinions out there. That is quite alright. Heaven forbid that there should be one and only truth according to the workings of my mind only! I would also suggest that whatever your own opinions are on this issue, you should leave open the possibility that others may disagree for legitimate reasons.
I also know that some of these opinions were formed in the absence of facts. China-bashers will automatically bash China and China-supporters will automatically defend China. I don't have a problem with that either because these people are what they are.
My problem is that some western media acted to defend the rights of Yang Peiyi by presenting her as a child who was rejected because of her "uneven/crooked/wonky/buck teeth" and "fat/chubby face." That would be outrageous -- if that were truth! In reviewing the primary evidence, I found that none of the principals (general director Zhang Yimou, music director Chen Qigang, the Lin and Yang families, the unnamed Politburo member now pinned on future topdog Ji Jinping, Sarah Brightman, and so on) said anything of the sort. Therefore, my interest in this case is how a convenient heart-tugging story detail gets fabricated and is made into an inflated urban legend without any accountability to anyone anywhere. That is the real story that I want to present here.
What can be done about that? NOTHING as far as I can see, because the western media apparently don't care. Rather, they continue to propagate this meme. When challenged, they will refer to previous western reports which they regard as evidence unless proven otherwise. This is how a meme gets propagated.
So this is where we are ...
(New York Times) In Grand Olympic Show, Some Sleight of Voice. Jim Yardley. August 12, 2008.
Yang Peiyi and Lin Miaoke
Pigtailed and smiling, Lin Miaoke, age 9, stood in a red dress and white shoes during Friday¡¦s Olympic opening ceremonies and performed ¡§Ode to the Motherland¡¨ in what would become one of the evening¡¦s most indelible images: a lone child, fireworks blazing overhead, singing a patriotic ballad before an estimated one billion viewers.
Except that her proud father, Lin Hui, noticed ¡§that the voice was a little different from hers.¡¨ On Tuesday, Mr. Lin said in a telephone interview that he had assumed ¡§the difference might be caused by the acoustics.¡¨
Acoustics had nothing to do with it. Under pressure from the highest levels of the ruling Communist Party to find the perfect face and voice, the ceremonies¡¦ production team concluded that the best solution was to use two girls instead of one.
Miaoke, a third grader, was judged cute and appealing but ¡§not suitable¡¨ as a singer. Another girl, Yang Peiyi, 7, was judged the best singer but not as cute.
So when Miaoke opened her mouth to sing, the voice that was actually heard was a recording of Peiyi.
And it is unclear if Miaoke even knew.
¡§The reason was for the national interest,¡¨ explained Chen Qigang, general music designer of the opening ceremonies, who revealed the deception Sunday during a radio interview. ¡§The child on camera should be flawless in image, internal feeling and expression.¡¨
The Chinese government has taken great pains to present the best possible image to the outside world during the Olympics, and perfection was the goal for the dazzling opening ceremonies. The filmmaker Zhang Yimou, who oversaw the production, has earned international praise for staging a performance that many considered one of the most spectacular in Olympic history. But to achieve the spectacular, not only did organizers fake the song, but they also have acknowledged that one early sequence of the stunning fireworks shown to television viewers actually included digitally enhanced computer graphics used for ¡§theatrical effect.¡¨
Using recorded music during large outdoor performances is hardly unprecedented. At the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, for example, the famed tenor Luciano Pavarotti, then 70, lip-synched an aria because of his age and the cold weather. But the recording was still his voice.
After last Friday¡¦s performance, Mr. Zhang appeared at a news conference with Chinese reporters and praised Miaoke. ¡§She¡¦s very cute and sings quite well, too,¡¨ he said. Asked to name which section of the show he found most satisfying, he first mentioned Miaoke. ¡§I was moved every time we did a rehearsal on this, from the bottom of my heart,¡¨ he said, according to a transcript of the news conference.
Miaoke¡¦s song was considered critical because it coincided with the arrival of the Chinese flag in the massive National Stadium, known as the Bird¡¦s Nest.
In his radio interview, Mr. Chen said a member of the Communist Party¡¦s powerful Politburo, whom he did not identify, attended one of the last rehearsals, along with many other officials, and demanded that Miaoke¡¦s voice ¡§must change.¡¨
By Tuesday, the Chinese news media had already pounced on the story, instigating a national conversation that government censors were trying to mute by stripping away many, but not all, of the public comments posted online. Many remaining comments expressed outrage over the cold calculation used to appraise the girls.
¡§Please save the last bit of trueness in our children,¡¨ wrote one person, who used the online name Weirderhua. ¡§They think Yang Peiyi¡¦s smile is not cute enough? What we need is truth, not some fake loveliness! I hope the kids will not be hurt. This is not their fault.¡¨ Another person added: ¡§Children are innocent. Don¡¦t contaminate their minds!¡¨
Mr. Lin said his daughter had been under strict orders not to discuss plans for the performance. Indeed, he got only 15 minutes¡¦ notice that she would be the singer, and he was thrilled as he watched on television. He learned only later of the voice switch, when he saw a video clip of the interview with the music director, Mr. Chen.
In that interview, on a program called ¡§Beijing Music Radio,¡¨ Mr. Chen depicted a difficult process of selecting a child singer. He said about 10 children had been chosen who ¡§had a good image and who can sing well.¡¨
Initially, a 10-year-old girl was selected ¡§whose voice was really good.¡¨ This girl held the role for most of the rehearsals ¡X until Mr. Zhang decided she was too old. Then, Mr. Chen said, several younger girls, including Miaoke and Peiyi, were taken to the Central People¡¦s Radio Station in Beijing. ¡§After the recording, we thought that Lin Miaoke¡¦s voice was not very suitable,¡¨ Mr. Chen said. ¡§Finally, we made the decision that the voice we would use was Yang Peiyi¡¦s.¡¨
But not the face: photos of Peiyi posted online show a happy girl with imperfect teeth, hardly an uncommon problem in China. ¡§Everyone should understand this in this way,¡¨ Mr. Chen said. ¡§This is in the national interest. It is the image of our national music, national culture, especially during the entrance of our national flag. This is an extremely important, extremely serious matter.¡¨ He added, ¡§I think it is fair to both Lin Miaoke and Yang Peiyi.¡¨
On Monday, Peiyi appeared on China Central Television, or CCTV, the state network. ¡§I¡¦m O.K. with it,¡¨ she told her interviewer, even performing a song. ¡§My voice was used in the performance. I think that¡¦s enough.¡¨
Miaoke¡¦s father, a news photographer at a Chinese newspaper, was worried about how she would take the news. Since age 6, Miaoke has worked in television advertisements, even appearing with the country¡¦s wildly popular hurdling champio, Liu Xiang. Her appearance in the opening ceremonies made her an instant celebrity in China, and her image was reproduced around the world.
¡§Here¡¦s something I want to tell you,¡¨ Mr. Lin said he had told his daughter. ¡§The music director announced just now that it was not your voice when you were singing at the opening ceremony. The song was actually performed by you two girls.¡¨ Mr. Lin said his daughter was not upset. He said that Miaoke and Peiyi were ¡§good friends¡¨ and that Miaoke ¡§doesn¡¦t care who sang the song, as long as she performed.¡¨
Then he added: ¡§I don¡¦t care about this either. The only thing I care about is that my daughter will not get hurt by this. She¡¦ll understand when she grows up.¡¨
(Telegraph) Beijing Olympics: Faking scandal over girl who 'sang' in opening ceremony. By Richard Spencer. August 12, 2008.
The girl in the red dress with the pigtails, called Lin Miaoke, 9, and from a Beijing primary school, has become a national sensation since Friday night, giving interviews to all the most popular newspapers.
But the show's musical designer felt forced to set the record straight. He gave an interview to Beijing radio saying the real singer was a seven-year-old girl who had won a gruelling competition to perform the anthem, a patriotic song called "Hymn to the Motherland".
At the last moment a member of the Chinese politburo who was watching a rehearsal pronounced that the winner, a girl called Yang Peiyi, might have a perfect voice but was unsuited to the lead role because of her buck teeth.
So, on the night, while a pre-recording of Yang Peiyi singing was played, Lin Miaoke, who has already featured in television advertisements, was seen but not heard.
"This was a last-minute question, a choice we had to make," the ceremony's musical designer, Chen Qigang, said. "Our rehearsals had already been vetted several times - they were all very strict. When we had the dress rehearsals, there were spectators from various divisions, including above all a member of the politburo who gave us his verdict: we had to make the swap."
Mr Chen's interview gave an extraordinary insight into the control exercised over the ceremony by the Games' political overseers, all to ensure the country was seen at its best.
Officials have already admitted that the pictures of giant firework footprints which marched across Beijing towards the stadium on Friday night were prerecorded, digitally enhanced and inserted into footage beamed across the world.
Mr Chen said the initial hopefuls to sing the anthem had been reduced to ten, and one, a ten-year-old, had originally been chosen for the quality of her voice. But she, too, had fallen by the wayside because she was not "cute" enough.
"We used her to sing in all the rehearsals," Mr Chen said. "But in the end the director thought her image was not the most appropriate, because she was a little too old. Regrettably, we had to let her go."
At that point Yang Peiyi stepped up to the plate.
"The main consideration was the national interest," he said. "The child on the screen should be flawless in image, in her internal feelings, and in her expression. In the matter of her voice, Yang Peiyi was flawless, in the unanimous opinion of all the members of the team."
That was until attention turned to Yang Peiyi's teeth. Nevertheless, Mr Chen thought the end result a perfect compromise.
"We have a responsibility to face the audience of the whole country, and to be open with this explanation," he said. "We should all understand it like this: it is a question of the national interest. It is a question of the image of our national music, our national culture.
"Especially at the entrance of our national flag, this is an extremely important, an extremely serious matter.
"So we made the choice. I think it is fair to both Lin Miaoke and Yang Peiyi - after all, we have a perfect voice, a perfect image and a perfect show, in our team's view, all together."
One question remains: why was Lin Miaoke allowed to give interviews in which she lapped up the praise for her singing. Mr Chen said she might not have known that the words she was singing could not be heard. She had, in fact, only known she was going to perform at all 15 minutes beforehand.
Yang Peiyi is said to have reacted well to the disappointment. "I am proud to have been chosen to sing at all," she is reported to have said.
(08/13/2008) The Two Pieces Of Fakery At The Olympic Opening Ceremony (Ming Pao editorial)
The Beijing Olympics opening ceremony was gorgeous and splendid. More than 4 billion watched it around the world, and they were wowed and awed. But there are two pieces of fakery in the opening ceremony. "Fakery" in this grand event is unacceptable no matter what the considerations, reasons and excuses are, because this is basically against the Olympic spirit. While China has the economic means to construct amazing sport facilities, it is still lagging far behind in the accompanying software. China must correct its approach in order to become a strong nation that has the respect of people.
The two pieces of "fakery" are the 29 firework footprints and the mesmerizing song <Ode to the Motherland> sung by a little girl.
First, let us talk about the firework footprints. When the opening ceremony began, the screen showed an invisible giant walking from Yongding River in southern Beijing towards the Bird's Nest stadium. The footprint was realized in the form of fireworks to create the movement over space and time. The spectators were awed beyond belief. This opening scene opened their eyes, and the spectators thought that the 29 footprints were formed from actual fireworks that were being filmed from the air. But the truth was that while there were fireworks at where the footprints showed up, only the last one was filmed live and the other 28 were 3D computer animations.
The BOCOG information spokesperson Wang Wei confirmed that pre-recorded footage of fireworks had been used that evening. The mainland newspaper Beijing News interviewed people who worked on the audio-visual effects of the opening ceremony, and they said that they began working on the 3D animation last year and finished in July this year. The workers said that the there are 29 footprints in the 55-second video and only the last one when the footprint enters the Bird's Nest was live. The workers even used the Beijing Weather Bureau's weather report to add haze to match the weather conditions in Beijing on the night of the opening ceremony.
First of all, it is understandable that the organizers would want the opening ceremony to be perfect. They were worried that the weather could affect the fireworks effect and they made a video beforehand in order to assure the quality. That is understandable too. But the organizers did not announce the details beforehand and the world knew nothing. After the "successful" performance, the media reported the truth and the deceptive nature of the process became obvious.
Next, the world wanted to see what actually happened at the opening ceremonies and not some computer or video production that was made beforehand. If the pre-recorded video of the firework footprints is acceptable, then every scene of the opening ceremony can in theory be pre-recorded and shown by pressing a button at the right moment.
We believe that no one will accept a pre-recorded Olympic opening ceremony. Therefore, the deceptive 3D electronic firework footprints constitute a huge flaw in these Olympics and leaves behind an indelible blemish. An imperfect reality is surely better than a perfect forgery. If the technical problems of the live broadcast cannot be overcome, then either this concept of the footprints of history should be given up or else the possibility of things going wrong during the live broadcast must be accepted. Instead, the wise people in charge of production chose "fakery" to solve this problem. This is very regrettable.
The second piece is the song <Ode to the Motherland> sung by the little girl. On that evening, a 9-year-old girl named Lin Miaoke in red dress was "lip-synching" on stage. That young, sincere and touching voice was not a pre-recorded song sung by Lin Miaoke. Instead, it belonged a 7-year-old girl named Yang Pei-yi. The background and lyrics of the song <Ode to the Motherland> bear a special meaning for contemporary Chinese people. On that evening, the performance of Lin Miaoke and the heavenly and pure singing captivated the hearts of the vast majority of the Chinese people. The other 3 billion viewers around the world are probably deeply moved as well.
In an interview, the Olympic opening ceremony music director Chen Qigang said that this amazing song was not sung by the "smiling angel" Lin Miaoke and the voice belonged to Yang Peiyi instead. Chen Qigang said that Yang Peiyi was dropped because of the her appearance and because of national interests as a result of a decision made by a member of the Politburo. Ouch! What kind of country would handle this matter in such an idiotic way? This is just unbelievable.
First of all, the "lip-synching" by Lin Miaoke is marginally acceptable, because the live performances of many superstars also have similar preparations for emergency situations. But it is wrong for Lin Miaoke to perform on stage while the voice is not hers. Unless this was announced beforehand, this is deceptive.
Secondly, there are many lovely children in China. Why choose Lin's looks and Yang's voice? Is it so hard to find a child who can both perform and sing? I believe the majority of the Chinese people disapprove of this.
"In consideration of international image and national interests" was the reason for discarding Yang Peiyi. Such a decision is frankly infuriating. Many people who have seen the photo of Yang Peiyi thought that she was lovely, and she would win applause if she dressed up on stage. Why are the organizers demeaning Yang Peiyi? How does Yang Peiyi hurt the international image? How are national interests being hurt? I think that the relevant people should apologize to Yang Peiyi and her family, and to the people of China. Those words were verbal violence that hurt the feelings of the Chinese people.
Overseas media report described the firework footprints in terms of "fakery." Mainland netizens said that Lin Miaoke "lip-synched," Yang Peiyi was debased and the matter was called the 'fake singing affair." Many unfriendly people said that China is a "grand nation for fakery" since contrabands made in China can be found everywhere in the world. The Olympics is a mega-event that draws wide attention. The organizers have now been found to have "motive, method and purpose" in making politics override all else. This is truly damaging to the international image and national interests.
Fakery is not a traditional virtue of the Chinese people, and it also runs against the Olympic spirit. Even athletes and judges take the oath not to take drugs, not to cheat and to deal with matters in a fair manner. But in the opening ceremony that is supposed to embody the Olympic spirit, there was fake videos and singing. This is no way to use the hosting of the Olympics to rise up with the rest of the world. Many Chinese people are excited and touched when they see the Chinese athletes train hard, suffer injuries and then win medals in the arena. We sincerely hope that the the extraordinary achievements of these athletes will win international respect and not be affected by the incomprehensible actions taken by the organizers.
(08/13/2008) About The Fake Singing (Si Dai at My1510.cn)
While the strong visual impact of the Olympic opening ceremony was still shimmering before our eyes, there came the disclosure that the 29 footprints in the air were special effects created by computer. While the sound of the song <Ode to the Motherland> was still swirling inside our heads, there came the scandal about "fake singing" and "lip synching." ...
The infuriating part is what Chen Qigang, who is the music director of the Olympic opening ceremony, said. He said that the actual singer Yang Peiyi was kept off "in consideration of the international image" and "the national interests." This statement is bound to offend anyone and everyone. Even if Yang's looks might displease the audience or fails to meet the aesthetic requirements of the director, he should have put it that way. Anyone who says such words must have water in his brain, and it would not be an insult to call him 'retarded.'
When this story was exposed, most of people felt sorry for Yang Peiyi. The photo of Yang in the videos showed that she was quite lovely and not quite the unpresentable person that director Chen implied. Frankly, before seeing the photo, I had assumed Yang was physically impaired and I even pondered on whether it would be better to have such a young handicapped person on stage instead.
The "fake singing" affair was really somewhat unfair to Yang. If this story had not been exposed, everyone would assume the heavenly song was sung by Lin Miaoke, and that would be unfair to Yang. But even though it is unfair, I disagree that Yang would feel hurt as a result. Why is that?
The media reported that director Chen also disclosed that Lin Miaoke's sound was replaced at the last minute as a result of an order from a "member of the Politburo." ... this tells us one fact: what was replaced at the last minute was Lin's singing and not Yang's image. In other words, Yang's singing was inserted at the last minute. For this, Yang should at least feel proud. In her own words, she "felt satisfied" even though she did not get her moment on the stage. But she was not hurt when her singing was used.
What hurt Yang was precisely what director Chen said. Perhaps he intended well and he wanted to be fair to Yang as well as tell the truth to the public. But what he said not only hurt the self-respect of Yang, but also caused pain in other decent people. According to information, this great musician Chen has spent a long time in France. Could it be that he lost the Chinese art of speech because he had been speaking foreign languages for too long?
As for feeling hurt, perhaps Lin Miaoke was hurt even more.
Let us talk first about the switching of the singing. The overall director in charge Zhang Yimou specifically mentioned Lin at the press conference after the opening ceremony. He said that he was most touched by 9-year-old Lin Miaoke singing <Ode to the Motherland>. He said that Lin had rehearsed many times and put in a lot of work. But in spite of all that hard work, someone thought in the end that her voice was not good enough and had it replaced. I think that this is bound to hurt her feelings somewhat. But let us imagine that if the decision was to replace her altogether, then how much worse would that hurt be? Here, I agree with the decision by the directors and leaders to keep her on stage and still let her stand on the stage, as opposed to sweeping her out the door. Of course, this is my speculation. Perhaps the real reason was that there was no one to replace her at the last minute, or perhaps director Zhang liked her too much, or perhaps director Chen thought that her image was better suited for the "national interests."
But what director Chen said not only hurt Yang (who did not have to be hurt) but it also hurt Lin (who was not hurt much before). For Lin, she now has to bear the bad reputation of "fake singing" at her young age (even though the decision was not up to her). She is regarded to have stolen the glory that belonged to another child. Is this a burden that she can bear at this young age? Should she even be bearing it?
I want to go back and talk about "the fake footprints" and the "fake singing" together. For a movie director, it is bizarre that these two things can be called "fakery." Computerized techniques are essential nowadays for creating audio-visual effects in movies. Movies from <The Titanic> to Zhang Yimou's own <Hero> would not exist without computerized special effects. As for "fake singing" and "lip-synching," they are better known as "dubbing" and "body doubles" in the terminology of movies. Without the body double, many of the clumsy movie stars would have been dead while trying. Without the dubbing, those movie stars with pretty faces but are tone-deaf would have been embarrassed out of their careers. I am unsure whether these techniques should be used at the Olympic opening ceremony. People can form their own opinions about that.
Reference: Pavarotti lip-synched last performance Xinhua, April 9, 2008.
(Rose Luqiu's blog)
I think that people are familiar with lip-synching and they found it acceptable. For example, the 70-something-year-old singer was lip-synching due to illness and weather. After all, this is a show and there is some leeway for how to define the performance. I only hope that the responsibility should not be placed on the two children and their parents. After all, they can't do much about what happens.
The New York Times located the parents of Lin Miaoke. They were informed only 15 minutes before the start that their daughter would be the singer, because the child was asked not to disclose the details of the rehearsal. But the father did not feel that the voice was like that of his daughter, which he thought may be due to technical reasons. They only found out after the relevant interview was aired. They told Miaoke that the voice was not her, but she didn't care. Her parents said that Miaoke and Peiyi are good friends and there were ten girls selected to prepare for the singer's role. The parents said that they don't care who sang, just as long as the children were not the children.
I think that this is the most important part, and it is the reason why this story got the attention of the western media. This case involves children and the values of a society is revealed by how children are treated. I think that there is nothing wrong with two people collaborating on this program, but the problem is that everybody now knows the reason: one did not have a good voice and the other was not pretty enough. For people who advocate encouraging and loving children, this kind of reason must surely be too cruel.
I had dinner with some foreign correspondents yesterday. They did not have much to say about the electronic fireworks, and their attention were on the two children. In the western world, it is unacceptable to to treat children this way for this reason. This opening ceremony show was supposed to the perfect performance for the west, especially for those people who are prejudiced against China. It was not worth it for this one episode to reinforce those prejudices.
Yes, it is all about protecting the children from being hurt by evil adults ...
(New York Times)
On Monday, Peiyi appeared on China Central Television, or CCTV, the state network. ¡§I¡¦m O.K. with it,¡¨ she told her interviewer, even performing a song. ¡§My voice was used in the performance. I think that¡¦s enough.¡¨ Miaoke¡¦s father, a news photographer at a Chinese newspaper, was worried about how she would take the news. Since age 6, Miaoke has worked in television advertisements, even appearing with the country¡¦s wildly popular hurdling champion, Liu Xiang. Her appearance in the opening ceremonies made her an instant celebrity in China, and her image was reproduced around the world.
¡§Here¡¦s something I want to tell you,¡¨ Mr. Lin said he had told his daughter. ¡§The music director announced just now that it was not your voice when you were singing at the opening ceremony. The song was actually performed by you two girls.¡¨ Mr. Lin said his daughter was not upset. He said that Miaoke and Peiyi were ¡§good friends¡¨ and that Miaoke ¡§doesn¡¦t care who sang the song, as long as she performed.¡¨
So far so good, no harm no foul. But the western media went on to report (and I got these references by searching for the term 'uneven teeth' on Google News for which I got more than 1,400 results):
(Los Angeles Times) China's $100-million Olympics opening ceremony wowed its global TV audience with a lavish spectacle and pizazz that tried to present a perfect image of China to the world, right down to the perfect teeth of the little girl who took center-stage and sang an ode to the motherland. Except the voice was not hers. It was recorded and belonged to another girl, with better pipes but crooked baby teeth and a chubby face.
(AFP) The show's musical director revealed the real singer, seven-year-old Yang Peiyi who has uneven teeth and a chubby face, was replaced by government order because she did not present the right image of China. ... No newspaper reported on the issue on Wednesday and state broadcasters also avoided the subject. References to the story were blocked or deleted from the Internet.
(AFP) Pigtailed Lin Miaoke was selected to appear because of her cute appearance and did not sing a note, Chen Qigang, the general music designer of the ceremony, said in an interview with a state broadcaster aired Tuesday. Photographs of Lin in a bright red party dress were published in newspapers and websites all over the world and the official China Daily hailed her as a rising star on Tuesday. But Chen said the girl whose voice was actually heard by the 91,000 capacity crowd at the Olympic stadium during the spectacular ceremony was in fact seven-year-old Yang Peiyi, who has a chubby face and uneven teeth.
(Associated Press) Beijing organizers of the games faced tough criticism Wednesday after a whistleblower revealed that the 9-year-old who performed a song during the spectacular opening ceremony was lip-synching to another girl's vocal track. Yang Peiyi, a 7-year-old with bright eyes and a smile made crooked by the stubs of her first grown-up teeth, was heard by an audience estimated in the billions during Friday night's ceremony, singing "Ode to the Motherland." But they never saw her face.
(Times Online) The real singer was Yang Peiyi, a seven-year-old deemed not pretty enough to be the face of China¡¦s most watched moment in history. Chubby-cheeked with crooked teeth, she was substituted at the eleventh hour by Communist Party officials desperate to present the best possible image of Chinese youth to a curious world. After watching a rehearsal with Peiyi in the lead role, a senior member of the Politburo told Beijing Olympic organisers that they had an urgent problem that needed fixing. The solution was to front Peiyi¡¦s ¡§perfect¡¨ voice with the more acceptable face of Miaoke, who had already appeared in a television advert.
(Telegraph) Now we discover that Lin Miaoke, the little pig-tailed girl in the red dress who "performed" the Chinese anthem so delightfully at the opening ceremony, was miming. The real singer, Yang Peiyi, was dropped at the last minute because of her buck teeth. In a revealing interview, the ceremony's musical designer said the intervention of a member of the ruling politburo was instrumental in making the swap.
(Globe and Mail) The unmasking of the ruse by which China attempted to pass off one girl's beautiful face as belonging to another girl's beautiful voice is also the unmasking of the new China, and the propaganda purposes of the Beijing Olympics. It would not have done to have Lang Peiyi, the seven-year-old singer of China's patriotic song, Ode to the Motherland, be seen by the world or her own country during the opening ceremony of the Games: She has uneven teeth. Those teeth, and her bowl-cut hair, do not suggest wealth or modernity. Her replacement, nine-year-old Lin Miaoke, is a pig-tailed, Asian version of one of the Olsen twins at that age. She is the ideal, the new China.
(National Post) The pinnacle of deceit, however, came when Chen Qigang, the music director of the Opening Ceremony, admitted in an interview with state media that the adorable nine-year-old girl who sang Ode to the Motherland as China's flag was carried into the main stadium was not, in fact, singing. Lin Miaoke was chosen because the girl whose voice was used, Yang Peiyi, had too-crooked teeth and a too-chubby face. As Chen reportedly put it, "we were concerned with the interests of the nation."
(AP) So in a last-minute move demanded by one of China's highest officials, the two were put together for the Olympic opening ceremony, with one lip-synching "Ode to the Motherland" over the other's singing. The real singer, 7-year-old Yang Peiyi, with her chubby face and crooked baby teeth, wasn't good looking enough for the ceremony, its chief music director told state-owned Beijing Radio. ... New York Magazine called on record executives to give Peiyi a record deal, saying "She's 7! She has buckteeth! She is adorable!"
(Radio Australia) The musical director of the spectacular opening Olympic ceremony has revealed the little girl who starred in the event mimed her singing performance because the real singer wasn't pretty enough.
Lin Miaoke appeared to sing "Ode to the Motherland" before a televised audience of at least a billion last Friday, and has been hailed by the national press as a rising star. But the show's director, Chen Qigang told state media the real star was seven-year-old Yang Peiyi, who has a chubby face and uneven teeth. Mr Chen said the decision to swap the singers was made to benefit the nation.
(The Canberra Times) The general music designer of the opening ceremony, Chen Qigang, told Beijing Radio he owed the nation an explanation and he wanted to ensure Yang's contribution was recognised. Mr Chen said the original choice for the lead was a 10-year-old girl, who was used throughout the rehearsals for Friday's opening extravaganza but she was dumped after the director, Zhang Yimou, deemed her "a little too old". A group of younger girls was then shortlisted, including Lin and Yang. After recording them, Mr Chen's team unanimously decided Yang's sweet voice was "flawless" and that she would sing the lead. However, at the final rehearsals a member of China's ruling nine-man politburo made his dissatisfaction with Yang clear. There were rumours at the time of the rehearsals that unspecified, last-minute changes had been ordered by the senior leadership. "We had been through several inspections; they were all very strict. When we rehearsed at the spot, there were spectators from various divisions, especially a leader from the politburo, who gave us his opinion: it must change," Mr Chen said. "The reason was for the national interest. The child on camera should be flawless in image, internal feelings, and expression. Lin Miaoke is excellent in those aspects, but in the aspect of voice, Yang Peiyi is flawless, in each member of our team's view." [Note: This account is not consistent with the transcript of Chen Qigang's Beijing radio interview and there is no indication what extraneous information led to this report.]
(The Sun (UK)) It also came to light that nine-year-old 'singer' Lin Miaoke simply mouthed the words of 'Ode to the Motherland'. The song itself was performed by Yang Peiyi, who was deemed unsuitable to be on camera due to her wonky teeth.
(The Week Daily) The digital ¡§fireworks fudge¡¨ can be ¡§written off as artistic license,¡¨ said Aileen McCabe in Canada¡¦s The Windsor Star, but the lip-synching ¡§is a different story.¡¨ What does it tell us that the ¡§gap-toothed, chubby faced¡¨ Yang, who ¡§sang her heart out,¡¨ gets ¡§no recognition at all¡¨? ... Certainly if Yang Peiyi were American, said AJ Daulerio in the blog Deadspin, ¡§she would be destined for a life of painful rhinoplasty, fat camps, and crippling self-esteem issues.¡¨ But she¡¦s not. And in an interview before ¡§she had the brown bag placed back over her head,¡¨ she seemed ¡§acutely self-aware of her own limitations and completely comfortable with it.¡¨
(New York Sun) ... a singing performance by a 9-year-old girl, Lin Miaoke, was lip-synched over sound recorded by a 7-year-old girl, Yang Peiyi, who was apparently removed from the show due to her crooked teeth. A producer of the ceremony, Chen Qigang, said a Communist politburo member who viewed a late dress rehearsal deemed Miss Yang's appearance unsuitable. "We had to make that choice. It was fair both for Lin Miaoke and Yang Peiyi," Mr. Chen told Beijing Radio on Sunday. "We combined the perfect voice and the perfect performance....The audience will understand that it's in the national interest." However, by last night, Mr. Chen seemed to be having second thought about snubbing Miss Yang. "This little girl is a magnificent singer," he told Associated Press Television News. "She doesn't deserve to be hidden."
(New Zealand Herald) China was on the receiving end of some well-merited criticism when it was revealed that the little girl who starred in the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony was lip-syncing and was on stage only because the real singer had a chubby face and uneven teeth.
So now we have a situation in which Yang Peiyi is now and forever marked with having the "chubby/fat face" and "crooked/uneven/wonky/buck teeth." That should do wonders for her self-esteem ... NOT! Did the music director Chen Qigang say that? He should be crucified for saying so. What did he really say in that Beijing radio interview? Here is the YouTube video:
(transcript in Chinese via China News Digest)
(translated into English by DJ at Fool's Mountain)
Chen Qigang: The director requested first and foremost adorable kids, and we identified about 10 children accordingly. We then listened to the singing of those kids, and not all of them had good enough voice to perform. The request from the director was that, first the appearance must be good, and of those, the one with the best voice and ability to sing should be picked. We went through a few such candidates through the process and they helped our music creation effort tremendously.
The first kid was about 10 years old. She contributed the most towards the preparation stage of this part of the performance. All the early practice runs were based on her recorded singing. But the director felt she was not the best visual for the scene. She was considered somewhat older than envisioned, a bit adolescent that is. So regrettably she was dropped. We then focused on searching through younger kids. The age criteria was to find someone about 7 years old. A number of them were selected, including both Lin Miaoke and Yang Peiyi.
We went to the Central Broadcasting Radio Station to make recordings. It was felt afterward that Lin Miaoke¡¦s voice wasn¡¦t exactly suitable in terms of tone control, range and depth. In the end, we decided that Yang Peiyi should be the one to provide the voice. We thought it was in the national interest to put the one with the best appearance and expression on the stage. Lin Miaoke was a very good choice for this role. But in terms of the music, we all felt that Yang Peiyi had the flawless voice.
Interviewer: So the one appearing in front the camera was Lin Miaoke and the song came from Yang Peiyi?
Chen Qigang: That¡¦s right. It was a last minute, tough decision. We went through multiple practices and reviews. We played Lin Miaoke¡¦s recording during one joint practice. Many reviewers, particularly someone in the Political Bureau of the Central Committee [of the CCP], made comments that it must be changed. We had no choice.
Interviewer: This is the first time for us to hear this story.
Chen Qigang: We have a responsibility to explain this to the Chinese viewers. I think the viewers should be able to understand that, in the national interest, for the perception of the country, it was an extremely important and serious matter to present the flag [in the best possible manner]. We made a decision, which I think was fair to both Lin and Yang. We felt the coupling of a perfect voice with the best appearance produced the most optimal result. From Lin Miaoke¡¦s point of view, she might not even have realized it. We had two recordings from both of them and they didn¡¦t sound very different.
So where did Chen Qigang talk about the "chubby/fat face" and "crooked/uneven/wonky/buck teeth"? Nowhere. Go back and re-read the western media reports -- they are the ones who thought that she had those physical attributes. Lin and Yang were among the final three candidates who were listed on the playbill, and therefore it cannot be the case that they are not 'presentable' or could not sing. But today, the world knows Yang as having "chubby/fat face" and "crooked/uneven/wonky/buck teeth" and Lin as having no singing talents. Well, who needs Politburo members when we have western media showering such 'tender, loving care' on Chinese children? DJ's post at Fool's Mountain is titled The cruelest insults come from ones pretending to speak as the righteous. Right ...
Via a Beijing-based foreign correspondent, Chen Qigang's Beijing radio interview was actually longer than in the YouTube segment. Here is the transcript that the foreign correspondent has.
We selected three to four children (to sing the song). The director¡¦s primary requirement is the child must be cute. At first, we had ten kids to choose from. We listen to their singing. But some of them just lose their tune. So we can¡¦t use those. That¡¦s also in accordance with director¡¦s mind, to select the best voice and singer from those with looks. All these children helped us a lot in our work.
The first child we had was about ten. According to the plan, the singing is to be wide open. But she¡¦s a bit grown out of our standard, almost a youngster. Our standard was set at an age around seven. Lin Miaoke was one of them,
along with Yang Peiyi and other kids. We recorded them at China National Radio. But we felt Lin¡¦s voice doesn¡¦t really fit. Not quite good at accuracy of tune nor the depth of her voice. At the end we decided to use Yang Peiyi¡¦s voice.
The reason for doing such is for our country¡¦s interest. The girl on screen must be flawless in her look, emotion and acting. Lin Miaoke is really good on these. But on voice, all of our team reckon Yang is perfect and the most
outstanding. The choice is a last-minute decision with no alternatives. We went through reviews several times. Very strict. We played Lin¡¦s recording once at rehearsal.
Leaders from all relevant departments, particularly leaders from Politburo, told us, their suggestion is we must change it. So there¡¦s nothing else we could do. Here we feel we are responsible to explain to audience in China, because
we think people understand this is in our country¡¦s interest. Not only symbolizing the musical culture of our country, but also for the solemn moment of our national flag entering the stadium. It¡¦s a very great and serious moment.
The decision we made, in my opinion, is fair to both Lin and Yang. A perfect voice with perfect look and performance. We have two recording of voices, which are pretty close in quality. The singing Lin heard by herself is Yang Peiyi¡¦s; but Lin wouldn¡¦t have noticed.
Yang¡¦s the first year student at Peking University-affiliated primary school, 7-1/2 years old. I think this is a matter about music. We are responsible for this. Why I¡¦m telling it here is because we want to shoulder the responsibility. For the voice and performance, to achieve perfection, I must explain this to audience in China.
Yang is our option B. Lin is option A. At rehearsals, sometimes children can¡¦t be there. So we recorded them. Everything was recorded. At the end, Yang¡¦s voice is the most perfect. For that moment, it¡¦s not about lip-sync or real sing. It¡¦s about how to present the most perfect image of China to people and to the world. There¡¦s no alternative on this issue. Yang¡¦s also very cute. She¡¦s only missing two teeth.
It is also rumored that there exists a second interview with Chen, in which he said that Yang had 'developing teeth.' The foreign correspondent has not been able to locate this, so this may be ¡¥urban legend.¡¦
(08/14/2008) More About The Fake Singing. Si Dai at My1510.cn.
Thanks to a netizen, I have seen the video of Chen Qigang's full interview. As a result, I learned the following:
1. There were about a dozen children who were chosen from many candidates. The selection criteria were based first upon good looks, after which those with good singing voices were selected.
2. Lin Miaoke was regarded by the directing team as having the best image, while Yang Peiyi was regarded as having the best voice. Lin was the best in terms of appearance and projection of inner feelings, but the breadth and range of her voice was inadequate. Yang's voice was regarded as impeccable by the entire team.
3. The final decision was to let Lin appear while using Yang's singing. This was a last-minute decision that the directing team had to make. One of the reasons was based upon the national interest in that they thought that the child must have a perfect appearance (as they were thinking about what the audience might say).
4. The directing team believed that this arrangement was the fairest for the two children.
5. The opening ceremony went through a number of rigorous screenings. At the final screening, a member of the Politburo was present and he also pointed out that Lin's voice was inadequate. This was consistent with what the directing team was thinking.
6. Although Lin's voice was replaced by Yang's voice at the opening ceremony, Lin was unaware of what was happening and did not realize that it was not her own voice that was being aired.
7. In the programme guide for the opening ceremony, the item <Ode to the Motherland> clearly listed the names of Yang Peiyi and Lin Miaoke. The organizers did not set out to create a piece of "fakery", but very few people noticed or paid much attention if they noticed.
8. During the entire process, there was a 10-year-old girl whose voice was used during the rehearsals most of the time. But the director team thought that she was too old and, in the end, she was excluded altogether.
The information above clarified the following issues:
1. The directing team made this arrangement because it was an inevitable choice in pursuit of perfection, or for the sake of national interest; the directing team did not think that there was any problem with this arrangement, or perhaps they did not think that this was a piece of 'fakery.' They did not deliberately try to conceal what happened.
2. The comments by music director Chen Qigang were distorted or taken out of context by the media. First of all, Chen did not say that Yang's image was bad. He only said that Lin had the best image. Secondly, when Chen spoke of the national interest, he meant that using the best image and the best voice suited the national interest. He did not say that Yang's appearance would be against the national interest.
3. Chen and the directing team thought that this arrangement was fair to both girls.
4. It was an exaggeration to say that all this came as a result of an "order" from a member of the Politburo. This leader only pointed out a problem that the directing team was dissatisfied with already, and this merely convinced them that they had to separate the appearance and the singing. Let me repeat one more time: this leader only pointed out that Lin's voice was flawed and he did not say that Yang's image was a problem.
Based upon the above, I must state clearly that I admit that my complaints against Mr. Chen Qigang yesterday were wrong (see the translated blog post from Si Dai on the Fake Singing). I made incorrect charges based upon inaccurate information. I hereby withdraw my criticisms and I apologize to Mr. Chen and my readers.
Apart from this, I still adhere to some basic points in what I wrote yesterday. Let me review them briefly here.
1. It is a matter of personal opinion as to the rights and wrongs of the "fake singing" and the "fake footprints." I am somewhat uncertain and I draw no conclusion.
2. On those issues, the directors may have thought that it was alright to pursue perfection, but the audience may feel that they were problematic. For the Chinese people, there may not be any problems; for foreigners, this may be hard to understand.
3. If the directors or the organizers realized how the audience and the organizers may feel, director Zhang Yimou or music director Chen Qigang could have volunteered the information at the first press conference after the opening ceremony, and the effect on how people feel may be quite different.
4. The "miming" arrangement can be said to be the fairest to the two children. There was no issue of any hurt to them (except maybe a tinge of regret).
5. It was the commentary (namely, the media distortions and exaggerations of the words of Mr. Chen) afterwards that create the most mental damage to the two children. For Lin, the damage was particularly deep because she and her family have been accused and condemned undeservedly. (Especially from those people who asserted that she had to obey the 'hidden rules' (translator's note: this means offering sexual favors to the decision-makers) -- please remember that Lin is a minor and if you have the evidence to back up your charge, you can send Zhang Yimou off to jail).
6. The sympathy towards Yang is mostly "false" sympathy (which is not to say the 'sympathy' does not exist), because the truth of the matter was not that Yang was yanked because of a "bad image." Instead, it was the other way around because her voice was used for being the best. The "false" sympathy now may really be hurting her young mind.
7. Concerning the story about the order from the Politburo member, it should not be exaggerated.
(08/15/2008) This was too good to sit just in Comment #117 by JXie at Fool's Mountain's The cruelest insults come from ones pretending to speak as the righteous.
Personally love a good puzzle ...
* First a google news search with keyword ¡§teeth opening ceremony¡¨, there are a lot of returns.
* Take out those who picked up from AP (¡¨-AP¡¨).
* Further limit with dates 8/12 to 8/13, when the ¡§crooked teeth¡¨ meme first broke in the English world.
* Now the number of returns is more manageable. Reverse sort by dates. Look over the first 20 or so pages. The google spiders work pretty hard, and pieces from major news outlets rarely take more than a few minutes to hit the google news.
* This is the source in the English world, especially given the richness of its content that wasn¡¦t fully picked up by others: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/olympics/article4512250.ece
* It credits china.com.cn for the picture. Now use baidu.com instead since its spiders on Chinese contents are more reliable. The keywords are ¡§site:(china.com.cn) 林妙可 杨沛宜¡¨. The page was removed by china.com.cn. However there was a baidu cached page: http://tinyurl.com/62oyun. No mention of crooked teeth and chubby/fat face.
Conclusion: the meme of ¡§crooked teeth¡¨ and ¡§chubby cheek¡¨ was started by Jane Macartney and Ashling O¡¦Connor of The Times (The UK newspaper).
(SCMP) Lip-synch furore surprises director. By Vivian Wu and Peter Simpson. August 14, 2008.
The music director of Friday's opening ceremony for the Olympics says he's surprised by the outcry over his revelation that producers had arranged for a girl to lip-synch a song sung by another child because she was supposedly unattractive. But he also said "it's wise to speak out about it now".
Chen Qigang , chief music director of the extravaganza, said the event's directors, including filmmaker Zhang Yimou , decided to reveal the lip-synching after Lin Miaoke became a national star when she took centre stage in a red dress and sang a revolutionary song which, it turned out, was recorded by another girl, Yang Peiyi .
Mr Chen disclosed in interviews that producers had pulled Peiyi, a seven-year-old Beijing girl with a "flawless voice", from appearing on stage because her "chubby face and uneven teeth" did not satisfy the national interest in "presenting the perfect face with the most perfect voice". The decision also involved intervention by a member of the Politburo of the Communist Party.
His remarks were quickly picked up by local media on Tuesday before a blackout on coverage was imposed hours later. Nevertheless, word spread on the mainland among people disappointed by the substitution and lack of transparency. Overseas media also widely reported the incident, creating an embarrassment to the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games and the government.
But Mr Chen yesterday stressed that arranging the lip-synching was a group decision and defended his move to speak out. "We didn't expect Miaoke to become so popular overnight and it would be a big embarrassment if Miaoke was shaped into a singing star, but ... later it was discovered that she had no musical talent," he said. "This is a smarter way of letting the public know something that it will know sooner or later. But I don't think this thing was a big thing to start with."
Mr Chen, a French national, admitted he had come under pressure for speaking out, but the pressure was from the public's disappointment, which he guessed was "embarrassed that their beautiful dream of the patriotic song had burst". He said he was also surprised to receive calls from many overseas reporters who assumed he was a dissident and saw the case as a human rights issue.
In response to the uproar, officials from the International Olympic Committee and Bocog defended the substitution as necessary for technical reasons. Bocog spokesman Sun Weide said the pre-recording was a combined decision by the artistic directors and broadcasters. "There were a number of candidates to sing the song, and the artistic directors just picked the best voice and the best performer," he said.
Olympic Games executive director Gilbert Felli said the case had to be considered in the context of the opening ceremony and the complexity of staging 15,000 performers. "You have to make sure the performance and the song are at the highest level. It is a casting or a technical decision by the producer," he said. He also likened the substitution to a sporting coach's decision to put one player on the bench so another could take the field. "You can have different opinions, but sport is exactly the same," he said. "If your son is playing on a football team, suddenly the coach may decide that he's not playing, that he's going to stay on the bench.
"I think maybe on this one some people would believe that maybe it was not appropriate, but the others would have said it's fantastic because the performance was great. That's what it is in sport and in life." Mr Felli added that the performance on Friday was "fantastic". "We were very pleased with its outcome ... of one of the most complicated events to organise in the world," he said.
(ESWN Comment: "chubby face and uneven teeth" was put in quotes and seemed to be attributed to Chen Qigang, but he said nothing of the sort during his Beijing radio interview. If he did, it would be during some other interview (since SCMP referred to 'interviews' in the plural). Where is that other interview published? That may clear up many things. When re-interviewed by SCMP for this article, Chen did not repeat the description. Did the SCMP ask him directly again and did he decline to answer? It is not clear.)
(Washington Post) Pretty Face and Voice Didn't Belong to Same Girl. Ariana Eunjung Cha. August 12, 2008.
The ponytailed girl in a red dress who sang "Ode to the Motherland" during Friday's Opening Ceremonies for the Olympics was fit for the event, but apparently her voice was not.
A Chinese government official acknowledged Tuesday that the girl was actually lip-syncing at Beijing's "Bird's Nest" stadium; the real singer's face was deemed "not suitable."
In an interview with Beijing Radio, Chen Qigang, a musical director for the ceremony, said that organizers concluded during a rehearsal that the voice of 9-year-old Lin Miaoke, who appeared before a television audience of tens of millions, "must change." Yang Peiyi, the 7-year-old girl whose voice was judged superior, would actually sing the song.
"We combined the perfect voice and the perfect performance," Chen said. He added: "The audience will understand that it's in the national interest."
"The national interest requires that the girl should have good looks and a good grasp of the song and look good on screen," Chen continued. "Lin Miaoke was the best in this. And Yang Peiyi's voice was the most outstanding."
The adorable Lin, who is in the third grade, has become an "instant star" since her performance, said the state-run China Daily newspaper. Her father said in the report that he learned only 15 minutes before the ceremony that his daughter would be performing. Lin was already a familiar face to Chinese sports fans -- she had been featured last year in a television ad with Liu Xiang, the hurdling champion who is a favorite for the gold medal.
In contrast, Yang, who is in the first grade, is described as more shy and modest. In her blog, Yang's tutor, Wang Liping, said that Yang "doesn't like to show off. She's easygoing." In a CCTV interview, Yang was asked how she felt about having her voice used for the opening ceremony. She responded that it was an honor.
The Chinese audience did not appreciate the last-minute switch.
In blog postings, some Chinese expressed anger about the decision, saying that the stunt would lead children to believe deception is acceptable and that it could ultimately hurt China's image.
(ESWN Comment: Now this WaPo article is completely consistent with the known facts. This is textbook journalism. You don't need the non-existent "Uneven/Crooked/Buck Teeth and the Fat/Chubby Face" to make the point. Is this so hard? Compare this to the articles/columns that follow ... I get the sense that some of those essays were written before the incident even occurred.)
(New York Times) I¡¦m Singin¡¦ in Beijing. Op-ed columnist Gail Collins. August 13, 2008.
Did you realize the Chinese Communist Party was that much into cute?
The world knows now that the adorable little girl we saw warbling ¡§Ode to the Motherland¡¨ at the Olympics opening ceremony was not really singing. She was a Potemkin performer. A Trojan tyke. Lin Miaoke, 9, was fronting for Yang Peiyi, 7, the girl with the best voice but imperfect teeth.
¡§The child on camera should be flawless in image, internal feeling and expression,¡¨ said Chen Qigang, the music director, who went public with the news that the dual-little-girl strategy was concocted after a member of the party Politburo intervened at the last minute.
Now this is an Olympic crisis everybody can get into. While your heart goes out to the athletes suffering the agony of defeat, very few of us can internalize the trauma. Really, you have to be able to imagine yourself getting onto the balance beam before you can relate to the pain of falling off.
But having the whole world know that you¡¦ve been deemed insufficiently attractive ¡X now there¡¦s Everywoman¡¦s nightmare. When Peiyi told a Chinese TV station that just being able to sing was an honor, you could imagine her in 10 years insisting that she didn¡¦t care about going to the school dance since she was having so much fun sewing carnations onto the homecoming float.
If she grows up to discover a cure for cancer, when they hand over the Nobel Prize, will everybody say that it was nice that she found a way to make up for those unfortunate front teeth?
The idea that appearance is valued more than performance is one of those painful facts of life that people always hate to be reminded of. But Andrew Nathan, an expert on Chinese politics and human rights at Columbia, seemed puzzled by why anybody would be surprised by this kind of switcheroo in a country where help-wanted ads make it clear that job candidates must be good-looking and the 380 hostesses to the Olympics were all required to be the same height and weight.
¡§This particular technique seems so standard. I¡¦m a little puzzled about why everybody¡¦s stuck on this example,¡¨ he said. ¡§I really don¡¦t know how a little girl in China might respond to being told your teeth are not good enough. But doesn¡¦t that happen all the time in Hollywood?¡¨
Cheng Li, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, saw the story more in terms of consumer fraud. ¡§What she sings is a very moving nationalistic song,¡¨ he said. ¡§The people were so emotionally involved. If you asked them what¡¦s the most moving episode, I think the majority would tell you that moment, with the little girl in red clothes. Now the Chinese people feel they are fooled. The psychological hurt is enormous.¡¨
One could certainly argue that American outrage over Peiyi¡¦s situation is overkill, given the fact that families here gather together in front of the TV to watch reality shows in which unattractive people are permitted to audition for talent contests so that the judges can make fun of them. And in China, the fact that authorities were trying to put one over on the viewers was somewhat undercut when Chen, the music director, disclosed the switch in an interview on Beijing Radio.
¡§The little girl is a magnificent singer. She doesn¡¦t deserve to be hidden,¡¨ he told AP Television News. How he felt about his moment of candor once it became an international story is yet to be determined.
Actually, the organizers had started with a completely different little girl, 10, who was fired at the last minute when the ceremony¡¦s director, Zhang Yimou, decided she looked too old. We do not want to imagine the repercussions when this kid hits her 30th birthday.
Miaoke then got the part ¡X until a senior Communist Party member, sitting in on one of the final rehearsals, announced that her voice ¡§must change.¡¨
It¡¦s not actually clear whether it was the party boss who decided that while the voice had to change, the cute exterior needed to remain. But Zhang, a well-known movie director, seemed to start channeling ¡§Singin¡¦ in the Rain.¡¨ Peiyi (whose teacher described her as a well-behaved child who didn¡¦t like to show off) got the Debbie Reynolds part ¡X the nice girl singer doing all the work behind the curtain while the star mimed under the spotlight.
Meanwhile, Miaoke was apparently singing her 9-year-old heart out on stage under the illusion that the world was hearing her voice. According to Jim Yardley¡¦s report in The Times, Miaoke¡¦s father said he had to tell her that everybody was hearing Peiyi instead. ¡§The only thing I care about is that my daughter will not get hurt by this. She¡¦ll understand when she grows up,¡¨ he added.
You have to wonder. Miaoke may turn out to be the real victim in this story. It¡¦s one thing to be thrust into the role of Debbie Reynolds. It¡¦s a lot worse to go overnight from symbol of the Olympics to Ashlee Simpson.
(ESWN Comment: A meme is defined as "a unit of cultural information, such as a cultural practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another." I wish that I can track down where the meme of the "uneven teeth" began, but my life is too short and there has to be better things than to nail this down. What is for certain is that the primary material (in the interview with Chen Qigang) does not support this. At some point, one reporter wrote it somewhere and others picked it up. After a few cycles, this becomes a meme. In comment 91 of The cruelest insults come from ones pretending to speak as the righteous, VOA was asked and replied that since other western news agencies are reporting it, they will take it to be true unless proven otherwise. Such being the case, Yang Peiyi is now and forever associated with "fat/chubby face" and "uneven/broken/buck teeth" unless she can prove otherwise.)
(Globe and Mail) Beauty masks an authoritarian state. August 14, 2008.
The unmasking of the ruse by which China attempted to pass off one girl's beautiful face as belonging to another girl's beautiful voice is also the unmasking of the new China, and the propaganda purposes of the Beijing Olympics.
It would not have done to have Lang Peiyi, the seven-year-old singer of China's patriotic song, Ode to the Motherland, be seen by the world or her own country during the opening ceremony of the Games: She has uneven teeth. Those teeth, and her bowl-cut hair, do not suggest wealth or modernity. Her replacement, nine-year-old Lin Miaoke, is a pig-tailed, Asian version of one of the Olsen twins at that age. She is the ideal, the new China.
This particular lie was perhaps fairly harmless, but it's a signal of how empty the images may be at the Beijing Games, whether in the building of walls around shacks, the clearing out of beggars, the fudging of pollution figures or the insertion of digitally produced fireworks in place of seemingly live fireworks at the opening ceremony.
A far more damaging lie is to be found that goes to the very heart of China's medal successes. In China, small children are spotted by athletic scouts as early as age four and enrolled in sports schools; within a few years, the best are sent to live-in training schools in Beijing. The images from these schools are truly heartbreaking. This is not sport but child labour in the service of the state, and it is abusive.
And so the lie of the new China, as embodied by Lin Miaoke, points to larger lies about Chinese advances. Even the ability of the People's Republic to win the most gold medals, which its rulers believe demonstrates its success as a society, really shows the ruthlessness of the state. China is willing to subvert the real meaning of sport - fun, healthy living, expression of the self - for its larger political goals. And who pays the price? Those least able to bear it, the children.
Authoritarians don't allow free expression because their reign depends on the myth of near-perfection, and as soon as people are free to speak they explode the myth. The Soviet Union offered up the New Man - selfless, industrious and interested in the collective, rather than himself. And in the new China, a pig-tailed, brightly smiling nine-year-old girl stands in for that country's wonderful progress.
This wasn't, then, merely about putting a beautiful face on display as part of the show, as might happen almost anywhere. This was about the state at its highest levels trying to paint a false picture of its achievements, and in so doing to help ensure the long-term survival of a repressive system.
How beautiful in her imperfection Yang Peiyi would have been on the world's stage, singing her country's ode. And how sad that authoritarian China could not allow such a thing.
(Baltimore Sun) The Beauty of Imperfection. By Kathleen Parker. August 15, 2008.
Even as China's opening ceremonies for the Olympics inspired awe, there was something repellent in the exactitude of such mass perfection.
The military precision of 2,008 drummers moving in perfect synchronicity, pounding out the sound of a billion hearts beating, was both mesmerizing and slightly creepy.
If they can do that, what else can this giant power do with a limitless supply of human resources and dedicated discipline?
Inevitably, comparisons have been drawn to the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany. Just as China's selection as host country signaled its emergence as a global power, Germany's marked that nation's return to the international community following its defeat in World War I.
Although Adolf Hitler was already busy rounding up Jews, gypsies, homosexuals and others for detention and/or sterilization, the Games allowed him to pull a propaganda coup of peaceful tolerance. The Holocaust and World War II soon followed.
Like Germany, China has aimed to make a good impression. So determined were the Olympic hosts to project a positive image that officials even swapped out the adorable child-performer who sang "Ode to the Motherland."
The little girl in the red dress who captured hearts around the globe wasn't really singing. She mimed.
The real singer was a less-adorable child, by China's judgment. Her chubby cheeks and crooked teeth made her face "not suitable," officials said, giving new meaning to the expression "game face."
Thus, Yang Peiyi was replaced by Lin Miaoke. Apparently, the Chinese hadn't met Paul Potts, the chubby-cheeked, crooked-toothed tenor who became an overnight sensation when he wowed Britain's Got Talent judges with his rendering of Puccini's aria Nessun Dorma. Mr. Potts, now the beneficiary of recording contracts and millions of fans, has had his teeth fixed, but part of his initial charm was his ordinary packaging. There was this heavenly voice residing in the human equivalent of a tract house.
People identified with his imperfections and loved him all the more for his humility and transcendent performance. He was so ... human.
China isn't burdened by such concerns. Sentimentality doesn't enter into the totalitarian equation. In such a world, innocence is irrelevant and deceit is a lesson best learned young. Who cares that a little girl was told she wasn't pretty enough to be seen by the world, and that her voice - though lovely - belonged not to her but to the homeland?
That single gesture, relatively small amid the extravaganza, said more about China than all the fireworks, human kites and dangling dancers. It said: The human being - the individual - is of no importance. The objectification of that child, her voice commodified for the purposes of the state, was the real ode to the motherland.
The absolute uniformity of movement we witnessed, meanwhile, was a vivid expression of the communist machine and the mandate to honor the whole over the individual.
A friend impressed by the opening ceremonies joked to me that the U.S. wouldn't be able to find that many fit individuals to man so many drums. Although she was sort of kidding - in fact, China has an obesity problem - she may have been on to something. That degree of robotic perfection is hard to imagine beyond the military in a country not lately known for rigid adherence to rules or patient with delayed gratification.
It's easier to command a cohesive performance from people who live under tyrannical rule than it is, say, in a democratically elected republic where obsessive-compulsiveness is considered a treatable pathology.
Democracy is messy. And free people understand that being human means being imperfect, that protest is healthy, that cracks can be stepped on, sins forgiven - and teeth fixed.
That's not to say that the Chinese performers didn't earn awe and applause. They were breathtaking. But it is useful to peek behind the thin veil that separates cooperation from coercion. Those 29 colossal "footprints of fire" that marched through the city sky began, after all, at Tiananmen Square, where in 1989 the Chinese government massacred hundreds of students and activists demonstrating for democratic reform.
Allowing China to host the Olympics may have been a wise decision for unexpected reasons. At the risk of falling under the spell of the greatest show so far on Earth, the world was given a glimpse not only of China's massive power but also of its immense capacity for unfettered resolve.
(Los Angeles Times) In China, a pretty face wins. By Meghan Daum. August 16, 2008.
China's never been known for its stellar policies on little girls. But this week, its female trouble in Beijing has been especially vexing. There are, of course, the rumblings about members of the Chinese women's gymnastics team who appear younger than the International Olympic Committee's age requirement of 16. But that controversy has been put on the back burner by the fracas surrounding Lin Miaoke, the 9-year-old who lip-synced "Ode to the Motherland" during the opening ceremony.
The real voice behind the pig-tailed and photogenic Miaoke turned out to be that of 7-year-old Yang Peiyi. A gifted singer with a round face and crooked baby teeth, Peiyi was scheduled to perform at the ceremony until Communist Party authorities deemed her not cute enough for the job. Then, when her replacement's vocal skills were found to be lacking, ceremony organizers decided to have it both ways: Peiyi's voice was played while Miaoke, a veteran of Chinese television commercials, stood before the crowd of 91,000 at the National Stadium and adorably moved her lips -- maybe she was singing, but the microphone wasn't turned on.
Ever since the Chinese media broke the story, cries of totalitarian-style foul play, along with copious references to the lip-syncing, Grammy-stripped 1980s duo Milli Vanilli, have been in heavy pundit and blogosphere rotation. Ceremony organizers, already under criticism for digitally enhancing a fireworks display, are being accused of sacrificing Peiyi's self-esteem for the sake of artificial beauty standards and rigid nationalism.
"The reason was for the national interest," Chen Qigang, music director of the opening ceremony, said in an interview. "The child on camera should be flawless in image, internal feeling and expression."
Flawless in image, internal feeling and expression? What an outrage! No wonder Americans are scandalized by this hybrid performance. Over here, this would never happen. Over here, we'd choose the beautiful person as a matter of course and then ignore -- or not care about -- the fact that she couldn't sing as well.
For all those who've suggested that the Miaoke-Peiyi stunt proves the stranglehold of authoritarianism, plenty of others have seen it as a symbol of China's embrace of American-style capitalist values. After all, we made shallowness not just a national pastime but a major export. Thanks largely to our example, the receipts of the global cosmetic surgery industry are thought to exceed the gross domestic product of Somalia four-fold. If China feels uneasy about enlisting a girl with crooked teeth as the face of its children, it's easy to lay blame on the way American pop culture has redefined phony notions of attractiveness as baseline criteria.
Not so fast, I say. China may have played the shallow card, but it played it differently from how we would have. Americans are obsessed with artifice and perfection as it applies to our physical selves, but we're equally obsessed with "authenticity." Sure, we love our teeth-whitening technology and our freakishly flawless celebrities, but we also love to talk about "keeping it real." Even when things are scripted, we like to pretend they're not. Even when an actor or an athlete or a CEO has been honing his craft and building his resume for years, we pretend that he was just discovered, that he emerged fully formed out of a cabbage patch. When it comes to a pop heroine for the masses, as long as she's suitably hot looking, it's almost better if she's not stratospherically talented but more "real." All the easier that way to pretend that we have a chance at that kind of stardom ourselves.
The realm of popular music, of course, has long favored sex appeal over genuine talent. Granted, "American Idol" has introduced a hint of democracy into the corporate labyrinth of the music business (it's only after the show that the winners are reshaped into wax figures), but, with a few exceptions, being really good-looking and just a little bit talented will get you further than being average-looking and extraordinarily talented. How else can you explain Pierce Brosnan butchering his songs in "Mama Mia!" or Janet Jackson's entire career?
Don't misunderstand me. Like most people who don't work for the Chinese government, I think it was lame and creepy, not to mention antithetical to the spirit of the Games, to make Miaoke lip-sync to Peiyi's voice. But for all its wrongheadedness, it revealed an appreciation of genuine talent. At least the best voice got heard.
Yes, China was deceptive. Yes, it belied its shallowness and insecurity by hiding Peiyi from view. But it also honored her in a way that the American reward system is largely incapable of. It recognized Peiyi's talent for its own sake. It showed respect for her voice as an instrument wholly separate from her beauty.
Was looks-discrimination in play? You bet. But so was a discriminating ear.
(Sydney Morning Herald) Western media shows its ugly face. By John Garnaut. August 22, 2008.
The Beijing Olympics were always going to be about more than sport. They are the best opportunity for China to present its credentials as an emerging super-power and for the world to stand in judgment.
Many of the 25,000-odd foreign journalists who are huddled around the Olympics media village (and hundreds more around the world) are rushing to deliver their verdict: Chinese power is less benign and more Orwellian than the Western world had previously thought.
If there is a single story that has been used to support the Western world's pessimistic assessment, it is about how China's faceless leaders ordered a seven-year-old singer off the opening ceremony stage because she had "a chubby face and crooked teeth". It was Yang Peiyi's voice that sang Ode to the Motherland to the world but it was another girl, nine-year-old Lin Miaoke, who mimed the words on stage.
And so the story was told, in various incarnations, in most of the best-known news outlets in Australia and across the Western world.
The Australian reported that an unnamed member of the Politburo, believed to be the likely future president Xi Jinping, ordered that Yang Peiyi must be replaced because she "was not pretty enough to appear in front of a television audience of billions". The Daily Telegraph said Yang was pulled because "she was considered too ugly".
Opinion writers used these reports to build a larger argument. A writer in The Age said the incident "represents a microcosm of China's own two-faced approach to the Olympics and, indeed, the world in general".
A Baltimore Sun writer, Kathleen Park, likened the episode to the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany. "Sentimentality doesn't enter into the totalitarian equation. In such a world, innocence is irrelevant and deceit is a lesson best learned young," she wrote.
The problem with this argument about China's totalitarian tendencies is that there is no evidence that Yang was callously replaced because she was too ugly or had bad teeth.
Bloggers in China and Hong Kong, notably Roland Song at EastSouthWestNorth, have combed through transcripts of all the comments by the important players in the opening ceremony and found that none of them have publicly said anything of the sort.
The closest was Chen Qigan, the general music designer of the opening ceremony, who told China Central TV that organisers had tried a number of singers and rehearsed with Yang, but made a last-minute change.
"When we rehearsed at the spot, there were spectators from various divisions, especially a leader from the Politburo, who gave us his opinion: it must change." Chen went on: "The reason was for the national interest. The child on camera should be flawless in image, internal feelings and expression."
Chen's comments strongly imply an unnamed leader considered that Yang's replacement, nine year-old Lin Miaoke, had a "flawless" image. But the bit about Yang's alleged ugliness, chubby face or uneven teeth was a Western media description repeated a thousand times across the world - as if it was the verified judgment of the Chinese Government.
Hundreds of foreign journalists, most of whom cannot speak Chinese and had been in China for only a week or so, replicated each other's stories without bothering or having the time or ability to check the evidence themselves.
The Western media tended to portray Yang as the victim because the communist state deemed her too ugly for a place in the global spotlight. But perhaps if we had the facts straight we might have focused more on her nine-year-old replacement, Lin Miaoke.
Lin may still not know that her voice was not the one heard by billions of television viewers.
"At her house no one has spoken about this," a relative of Lin Miaoke told the Herald yesterday. "We have prevented her from looking at the comments that have been posted on her website. There are many people who have attacked her and the family for being 'fake' and having no sense of shame. I'm worried that she does understand a little of this. My greatest worry is that when she starts school [after the summer holidays] all her school friends will ask about it. And it will break Miaoke's young heart. She is a beautiful singer but her voice is soft. I don't know exactly what happened."
The fact that Chen Qigan and the movie director Zhang Yimou helped shape the opening ceremony shows that the Chinese state is making some room for art over politics. The fact both men have given extensive and revealing interviews to the Chinese media hints at the epic, evolving struggle between art and politics in China.
At these Olympics there has been ample evidence of government obfuscation, fabrication and authoritarianism. But the complexity of China's epic struggle with itself is often lost.
(Telegraph) China outlaws lip-synching after Olympics row. By David Eimer. November 14, 2008.
Lin Miaoke who lip-synched at the opening ceremony over the voice of Yang Peiyi [right]
who was considered unsuited to the lead role because of her buck teeth Photo: GETTY/AFP
The Ministry of Culture wants to outlaw the widespread practice during live performances, as well as clamping down on musicians who pretend to play their instruments during shows. The ban comes three months after many Chinese were outraged to discover that one of the stars of the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics had been miming rather than singing during the spectacular show.
There was an outpouring of anger following the revelation that child star Lin Miaoke had been miming when she sang 'Ode To The Motherland' during the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony. The cute nine-year-old's performance captured the hearts of the Chinese, until organisers of the ceremony admitted she had been lip-synching. Another girl had sung the popular song, but had been judged not pretty enough to represent China in front of the world. Officials justified the decision as being in the "national interest".
Now, the Ministry of Culture plans to name and shame performers caught lip-synching. Those who are caught miming twice will have their performing licenses revoked, according to proposed new legislation. Sun Qiuxia, an official with the Ministry of Culture, said: "People who perform for profit should not cheat audiences with fake singing or by pretending to play instruments."
Lip-synching has long been common practise in China. Yesterday, one Chinese pop star claimed that less than 20 per cent of singers actually sang when performing live. Zheng Jun told local media: "I once met a well-known singer at a show who didn't even recognise his song was playing, because it had been so long since he performed it live." In February, China's biggest movie star Zhang Ziyi was the subject of widespread derision after she mimed her way through a song while appearing on China's most-watched TV show on Chinese New Year's Eve.
Chen Qigang was the music director of the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony. It was he who disclosed during a Bejing radio that the voice of Lin Miaoke actually belonged to Yang Peiyi. In the September 7, 2008 issue of Yazhou Zhoukan, there is an interview with Chen Qigang.
At 8:08pm on August 8, 2008, the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony commenced. The success of the event showed the might and dynamism of China to the world. But at the same time, there was the revelation that Lin Miaoke was lip-synching. This drew lots of criticisms. The person who revealed the story to the world was none other than the music director of the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony, Chen Qigang.
The disclosure that Lin Miaoke was lip-synching allowed the western media to finally find a point of attack against the Beijing Olympics. Chen Qigang was outraged. He thought that the western media used a double standard. He criticized the western media as being interested only in a small detail for a malevolent purpose.
Chen Qigang said that at the Sydney Olympics opening ceremony, there was a brass band of 1,000 persons running in different formations. But the sound was not being captured by microphone. At the Athens Olympics opening ceremony, the drummers were playing on vehicles and there were no microphones. So the music was pre-recorded. This is common knowledge at all large-scale events, and nobody feels the need to talk about it.
After the Beijing radio interview, some western media described Chen Qigang as a representative of the Chinese government who tossed out the factoid on Lin Mialoke during an interview in a callous manner. Other western media described Chen Qigang as a political dissident who had to disclose the facts as a matter of conscience. Those two versions cannot both be correct. The truth is that both are lies. Chen Qigang may have been the first person who revealed the lip-synching episode, but he did so at the behest of the director and he was not trying to do an exposé.
Chen Qigang said that the western media have been hostile to the Beijing Olympics. From the reporting on the Tibet riots to the Olympic torch relay, the western media showed persistent contempt of China. For political reasons, they often magnified certain minor matters out of proportion. For the opening ceremony, none of the western media (including Reuters, AFP and CNN) bothered to interview the director team. But on account of the Lin Miaoke affair, the western media suddenly found unlimited "kindheartedness" and "humanity." Every day afterwards, they pursued Chen Qigang in the hope that he would come out as a dissident who is willing to reveal more "dirt" that would lead to more chaos.
Chen Qigang actually cursed the western media out. He accused them of being totally disinterested in anything positive. It made him wonder just what their mission is.
(SCMP) Peiyi not bitter over Olympic snub. By Celine Sun. January 11, 2009.
She was pulled from appearing at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games last August because organisers said she was not pretty enough. Yet Yang Peiyi - whose angelic voice was heard around the world in the "Bird's Nest" National Stadium but who was replaced by another girl - showed not a hint of bitterness yesterday when she arrived in Hong Kong to sing at a shopping mall.
In an exclusive interview with the
Sunday Morning Post, the seven-year-old said she was in the "Bird's Nest" that night and heard her voice filling the stadium. "I knew it was my voice but I didn't have any special feelings at that moment, although maybe I felt a little bit proud as I could be heard in such a big stadium," she said. "People have asked me again and again if I regretted being absent from the stage. I tell them I didn't."
She was replaced by Lin Miaoke, nine, who lip-synched the song on the stage of the stadium on August 8. The main reasons given by the ceremony's music director were Peiyi's "crooked teeth" and "chubby face".
Hongkongers will have a chance to not only hear but see the singer at the APM mall in Kwun Tong this afternoon. She has been invited to sing three songs, including Ode to the Motherland.
Despite being a little camera shy, she said she was excited to be in the city and keen to meet Mickey Mouse. Peiyi's father, Yang Huisong, who is accompanying his daughter, said it was natural for the little girl to feel somewhat envious after missing a chance to sing to the world. "She is just a child. She has no idea of the controversy she's involved in," said Mr Yang, who works for an information technology firm in Beijing.
He said his family was fine with the fact that only Peiyi's voice was heard at the opening ceremony, but they felt angry that she was not credited afterwards. He also complained that news of the lip-synching was blocked on the mainland. But he said he was happy to see the incident had left hardly a shadow on his daughter. "Peiyi is a smart kid. She's also generous in forgiving - to both her friends and her family members."
Five months on from the Games, Peiyi says her life has not changed much, although people are keen to meet her. "There are often students waiting outside the canteen at lunchtime, wanting to know who Yang Peiyi is. But I never talk to them."
In November, the APM mall also invited Miaoke to sing for the Hong Kong public. Maureen Fung Sau-yim, general manager for leasing at
Sun Hung Kai Properties, owner of the mall, said the two girls had different talents and she expected their singing would cheer up Hongkongers at this difficult time. (SEHK: 0016)