Teresa Teng

Teresa Teng (traditional Chinese: 鄧麗君; simplified Chinese: 邓丽君; pinyin: Dèng Lìjūn; Jyutping: Dang6 Lai6-gwan1, 29 January 1953 – 8 May 1995) was a Taiwanese singer and a cultural icon, widely regarded one of the greatest and most influential singers in Asian recording history.[1][2][3][4] With the career spanning 30 years, Teng remained widely popular throughout the 1970s and 1980s; she remained popular even upto first half of 1990s, up until her death in 1995.[5] Teng was known as a patriotic performing artist whose powerful romantic ballads and performances revolutionized Chinese popular culture during the 1970s and 1980s.[6] She is often credited for bridging the cultural barrier across Chinese-speaking nations and for bringing Japan closer to its Asian neighbours in South East Asia, Taiwan and China by covering Japanese kayokyoku pop music in Mandarin.[7][8][9] She was known for her folk songs and ballads, such as "When Will You Return?" "As Sweet as Honey" and "The Moon Represents My Heart".[10] She recorded songs not only in Mandarin but also in Hokkien,[11] Cantonese,[12] Japanese,[13] Indonesian[14] and English.[15] She also spoke French fluently. To date, her songs have been covered by hundreds of singers all over the world.[16]

Teresa Teng
Teresa Teng.gif
Teng Li-yun (鄧麗君)

(1953-01-29)29 January 1953
Died8 May 1995(1995-05-08) (aged 42)
Chiang Mai Rum Hospital, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Burial placeChin Pao San, New Taipei City, Taiwan
25°15′04″N 121°36′14″E / 25.251°N 121.604°E / 25.251; 121.604
Nationality Republic of China
Years active1966–1995
AwardsGolden Melody AwardsSpecial Award
1996 (awarded posthumously)

Musical career
Also known asTeresa Tang
Teresa Deng
Teng Li-chun
Deng Lijun
GenresC-pop, J-pop, Cantopop
LabelsUniversal Music (present)
Yeu Jow (1967–71)
Haishan (1971)
Life (1972–76)
Kolin (1977–83)
PolyGram (1984–92)
Hong Kong:
EMI (1971)
Life (1971–76)
PolyGram (1975–92)
Polydor K.K. (1974–81)
Taurus (1983–95)
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese鄧麗君
Simplified Chinese邓丽君

Teng died from a severe respiratory attack while on vacation in Thailand in 1995, at the age of 42. She remains a national heroine and a cultural symbol of Taiwan, Hong Kong, China and Chinese-speaking communities worldwide.[17][18]

Early lifeEdit

Teng was born in Baozhong Township, Yunlin County, Taiwan on 29 January 1953, to Waishengren parents. Her father was a soldier in the Republic of China Armed Forces from Daming, Hebei and her mother was from Dongping, Shandong. The only daughter in the family, with three older brothers and a younger brother, she was educated at Ginling Girls High School (私立金陵女中) in Sanchong Township, Taipei County, Taiwan.

As a young child, Teng won awards for her singing at talent competitions. Her first major prize was in 1964 when she sang "Visiting Yingtai" from Shaw Brothers' Huangmei opera movie, The Love Eterne, at an event hosted by Broadcasting Corporation of China. She was soon able to support her family with her singing. Taiwan's rising manufacturing economy in the 1960s made the purchase of records easier for more families. With her father's approval, she quit school to pursue singing professionally.


Teng gained her first taste of fame in 1968 when a performance on a popular Taiwanese music program led to a record contract. She released several albums within the next few years under the Life Records label. In 1973 she attempted to crack the Japanese market by signing with the Polydor Japan label and taking part in the country's Kōhaku Uta Gassen, an annual singing competition of the most successful artists: She was named "Best New Singing Star".[19] Following her success in Japan, Teng recorded several Japanese songs, including original hits such as "Give yourself to the flow of Time" (時の流れに身をまかせ, Toki no Nagare ni Mi wo Makase) which was later covered in Mandarin as "I Only Care About You".

In 1974 the song "Airport" (空港, Kūkō), which was covered in Mandarin as "Lover's Care" (情人的關懷) in 1976, became a hit in Japan. Teng's popularity there continued despite being briefly barred from the country in 1979 for having a fake Indonesian passport she purchased for US$20,000. The subterfuge had seemed necessary due to the official break in relations between Republic of China and Japan that occurred shortly after the People's Republic of China replaced the ROC in the United Nations.

Her popularity boomed in the 1970s after her success in Japan. By now singing in Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese and English, Teng's influence spread to Malaysia and Indonesia. In Taiwan, she was known not only as the island's most popular export, but as "the soldier's sweetheart" because of her frequent performances for servicemen. Teng was herself the child of a military family. Her concerts for troops featured Taiwanese folk songs that appealed to natives of the island as well as Chinese folk songs that appealed to homesick refugees of the civil war. She was known to give many free concerts to help the less fortunate or to help raise funds for charity causes.[20]

In the early 1980s, continuing political tension between China and Taiwan led to her music, along with that of other singers from Taiwan and Hong Kong, being banned for several years in China for being too "bourgeois". Her popularity in China continued to grow nonetheless thanks to its black market. As Teng songs continued to be played everywhere, from nightclubs to government buildings, the ban on her music was soon lifted. Her fans nicknamed her "Little Deng" because she had the same family name as Deng Xiaoping; there was a saying that "Deng the leader ruled by day, but Deng the singer ruled by night.[21]

Teng's contract with Polydor ended in 1981, and she signed a contract with Taurus Records in 1983 and made a successful comeback appearance in Japan. In 1983, Taurus released her album, Dandan youqing, which consisted of settings of 12 poems from the Tang and Song dynasties. The music, written by composers of her earlier hits, blended modern and traditional Oriental and Occidental styles. The most popular single from the album is "Wishing We Last Forever". The number of hits released in the years from 1984 to 1989 make them "Teresa Teng's Golden Years" to many of her fans. During this time, she won the All-Japan Record Awards for four consecutive years (1984–1988). Teng was also named one of the Top 7 diva wonders of the world by TIME magazine.[22]

Gunther Mende, Mary Susan Applegate and Candy de Rouge wrote the song "The Power of Love" for Jennifer Rush. Teng covered it and made it notable in Asian regions. She originally sang it in her Last Concert in Tokyo – eight years before being sung and released by Celine Dion.

Teng performed in Paris during the 1989 Tiananmen student protests on behalf of the students and expressed her support. On 27 May 1989, over 300,000 people attended the concert called "Democratic songs dedicated to China" (民主歌聲獻中華) at the Happy Valley Racecourse in Hong Kong. One of the highlights was her rendition of "My Home Is on the Other Side of the Mountain."[23]

Though Teng performed in many countries around the world, she never performed in mainland China. During her 1980 TTV concert, when asked about such possibility, she replied "When I sing on the mainland will be the day our Three Principles of the People (三民主義) are implemented there."[24][25][26]

Death and commemorationsEdit

Teresa Teng's house in Hong Kong

Teng died from a severe asthma attack,[27] though doctors and her partner Paul Quilery had speculated that she died from a heart attack due to a side effect of an overdose of unspecified amphetamines while on holiday in Chiang Mai, Thailand at the age of 42 on 8 May 1995.[28] Quilery was buying groceries when the attack occurred.[28] He was also aware that Teng relied on the same medication in the two months before her death with minor attacks.[28] Teng had asthma throughout her adult life.

Teng was given state honors at her funeral with Taiwan's flag draped around her coffin. A host of high ranking officials, including commanders from three branches of the military attended the funeral and carried her coffin to her grave. A day of national mourning was declared and president Lee Teng-hui was among the thousands in attendance.[29]. Teng was posthumously awarded the Ministry of Defense's highest honor for civilians, the KMT's, "Hua-hsia Grade One Medal", the Overseas Chinese Affairs' Commission's "Hua Guang Grade one Medal," and the president's commendation.[30] She was buried in a mountainside tomb at Chin Pao San, a cemetery in Jinshan, New Taipei City (then Taipei County) overlooking the north coast of Taiwan. The grave site features a statue of Teng made of gold and a large electronic piano keyboard set in the ground that can be played by visitors who step on the keys. The memorial is often visited by her fans.[31]

In May 1995, Dalù the Shanghai Radio host dedicated the Sunday morning broadcast to the Taiwanese singer, who passed away a few days earlier. Spreading her songs was banned in China and the journalist was formally warned for this act[32].

In 1995, a tribute album called "A Tribute to Teresa Teng" was released, which contained covers of Teng's songs by prominent Chinese rock bands.

In May 2002, a wax figure of Teng was unveiled at Madame Tussauds Hong Kong.[33] A house she bought in 1986 in Hong Kong at No. 18 Carmel Street, Stanley also became a popular fan site soon after her death. Plans to sell the home to finance a museum in Shanghai were made known in 2002,[34] and it subsequently sold for HK$32 million. It closed on what would have been her 51st birthday on 29 January 2004.[35]

To commemorate the 10th anniversary of her death, the Teresa Teng Culture and Education Foundation launched a campaign entitled "Feel Teresa Teng". In addition to organizing an anniversary concert in Hong Kong and Taiwan, fans paid homage at her shrine at Chin Pao San Cemetery. Additionally, some of her dresses, jewelry and personal items were placed on exhibition at Yuzi Paradise, an art park outside Guilin, China.[36] The foundation also served as her wishes to set up a school or educational institute.[28]

In April 2015, a set of four stamps featuring Teng were released by the Chunghwa Post.[37]

On 29 January 2018 a Google Doodle was released across Japan, China, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, India, Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Finland, Sweden, Bulgaria, Canada and Iceland celebrating Teresa Teng's would-be 65th birthday.[38][39]

Personal lifeEdit

In 1978, Teng met Beau Kuok, a Malaysian businessman and son of multi-billionaire Robert Kuok. They were engaged in 1982, but Teng called off the engagement due to prenuptial agreements which stipulated that she had to quit and sever all ties with the entertainment industry, as well as fully disclose her biography and all her past relationships in writing.[40]

Teng also had a high-profile relationship with Jackie Chan while she was travelling in Los Angeles, but due to their personality differences, they parted ways.

In 1998, Paul Quilery revealed that Teng was engaged to him, and was due to get married in August 1995.[28]



Teng received the following awards in Japan:[41]

  • The New Singer Award for "Kūkō" (空港) in 1974.
  • The Gold Award in 1986 for "Toki no Nagare ni Mi o Makase" (時の流れに身をまかせ).
  • The Grand Prix for "Tsugunai" (つぐない) in 1984: "Aijin" (愛人) in 1985; and "Toki no Nagare ni Mi o Makase" in 1986. This was the first time anyone had won the Grand Prix three years in a row.
  • The Outstanding Star Award for "Wakare no Yokan" (別れの予感) in 1987.
  • The Cable Radio Music Award for "Wakare no Yokan" in 1987 and 1988.
  • The Cable Radio Special Merit Award (有線功労賞) in 1995 for three consecutive Grand Prix wins.


By many, Teng was known as Asia's first trans-national singing star whose popularity spread throughout the region.[42][43][44] Until the late 1970s, foreign music was not allowed into China and love songs were virtually unknown. By combining traditional Chinese folk with western music influences she created the style that greatly influenced further music creations.[45][46] In 1977, Teng's popular romantic song "The Moon Represents My Heart," released that became one of the first foreign songs to break into the country. Teng's songs over the following decade further revolutionized Chinese music scene[47][48]. Teng enjoyed widespread popularity in Japan and South East Asia at the same, becoming one of the first artist to truly break international barrier paving the way for many Asian musicians.[49][50] Her songs have been covered by a number of famous singers, including Faye Wong, who released a tribute album (Decadent Sound of Faye, 菲靡靡之音, 1995) of Teng's popular hits. In 2017, popular American rockstar Jon Bon Jovi covered one of Teng's biggest Hits,"The Moon Represents My Heart" for Valentine's Day. Her songs are featured in various films, such as Rush Hour 2, The Game, Prison On Fire, Formosa Betrayed, Gomorrah, and Crazy Rich Asians. In 1980, Teng became the first singer of Chinese ethnicity to perform at the Lincoln Centre in New York City in the United States, one of the most famous musical venues in US.[51]

The 1996 Hong Kong film Comrades: Almost a Love Story, directed by Peter Chan, features the tragedy and legacy of Teng in a subplot to the main story. The movie won best picture in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and at the Seattle Film Festival in the United States. In 2007, TV Asahi produced a TV movie entitled Teresa Teng Monogatari (テレサ・テン物語)[52] to commemorate the 13th anniversary of her death. Actress Yoshino Kimura starred as Teng.

In 2009, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic of China, a government web portal conducted an online poll to choose "The Most Influential Cultural icon in China since 1949", over 24 million people voted and Teng came out as the winner with 8.5 million votes. In 2010, CNN included her among the 20 biggest music icons of the past 50 years alongside Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley and The Beatles.

In 2013, Teng was "revived" briefly in a Jay Chou concert where she appeared as a 3D virtual hologram and sang three songs with Chou. She was later resurrected in a Japanese TV show using 3D VR technology in 2017.[53]


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External linksEdit