Google Doodle commemorated the birthday of the late Taiwanese pop singer Teresa Teng — a cultural icon beloved by many Chinese people around the world.
Although some of her songs were banned in China for allegedly being “too bourgeois,” Teng’s records remained popular and sold well on the black market, with many considering her as the most popular Asian pop star of the 1970s and 1980s.
A daughter of a Chinese Nationalist army military official father, Teng was born in 1953 when her family fled to Taiwan after the communists won the civil war in 1949, according to Time.
Many of her fans defied the government just to play her music in secret, commonly at night, as people began saying, “Deng Xiaoping rules China by day, but Teresa Teng rules by night.” According to the New Yorker, one version went, “Everyone listened to ‘old Deng’ because they had to. At night, everyone listened to ‘little Teng’ because they wanted to.”
She is best known for her enduring classics, “When Will You Come Again?” and “The Moon Represents My Heart”.
Considered to be a cultural treasure, her unexpected death at the age of 42 due to an asthma attack while in Thailand shocked many of her fans at home and around the world. High-ranking Taiwanese officials awaited the arrival of her body at Taipei’s airport and top commanders from three branches of the military attended her funeral.
Teng, who sang in Mandarin, Cantonese as well as the Hokkien Chinese dialect, is known to be an exceptional linguist, and can also sing in Japanese and Indonesian. Her innovative style mixes modern pop, jazzy tunes with traditional folk music, which was way ahead of its time.
She maintained her popularity in China, and was a vocal supporter of Taiwan’s military and the student protesters at Tiananmen Square in 1989. Despite having a generally “wholesome girl-next-door” image, the Chinese Communist Party labeled some of her songs “bourgeois, decadent, and pornographic.”
Due to such conflict with the Chinese government, she had to decline multiple invitations to perform in the mainland.
Her popularity reached Japan in the early 1970s with songs such as “Airport” and “Empty Harbour”. She also did covers of popular Japanese songs in Chinese with the help of local songwriters and producers to fully understand their meanings.
Her legacy continues to live on over two decades after her death, with many contemporary artists celebrating her work. Teng appeared as a 3D virtual hologram in 2013 during a Jay Chou concert, where she sang three songs with the popular singer.