Famous TV host Zhao Zhongxiang dies at 78

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, January 16, 2020
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A file photo of TV host Zhao Zhongxiang [Photo courtesy of Zhao Fang]

One of the most famous Chinese TV hosts and news anchors, Zhao Zhongxiang, has died on Thursday in Beijing. He was 78.

His son, Zhao Fang, confirmed the news and wrote about the situation in a long post on Zhao Zhongxiang's official account on Toutiao.com. "My father died on 7:30 a.m. on Jan. 16, 2020. He was feeling uncomfortable since the end of last year and went to the hospital. The diagnosis turned out to be cancer, which had spread," Zhao wrote.

He said his father had actively and optimistically cooperated with the treatment and procedures prescribed by doctors. He also respected and expressed his gratitude many times to medical staff. He added that his mother had been there with his father all the time, taking care of him until he passed away peacefully.

Zhao was born on Jan. 16, 1942 in Xingtai city, Hebei province and his death coincidentally falls on the same day as his 78th birthday. 

The TV host is a household name in China, he started working as a news anchor for Beijing Television in 1959, which later became China Central Television (CCTV). There he became the second TV news anchor and the first male TV news anchor in China's history. In 1979, he went with Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping on a state visit to the United States, and became the first journalist from the People's Republic of China to enter the White House and interview the then U.S. President Jimmy Carter. 

But it was "Animal World," a program about wild animals, that shot him to stardom in 1981. He recorded the voiceover as the show's narrator, and his voice became so iconic and identifiable among audiences. Many felt that his voice in a way became "the soundtrack of their life and their lifelong memories." He recorded more than 2,500 episodes for "Animal World" and another similar show "Human and Nature."

From 1984 to 2000, Zhao Zhongxiang was also the host for 12 editions of the CCTV Spring Festival Gala, one of the most important TV gala shows that garners the highest Chinese audience viewership every year. He also participated in the very first CCTV Spring Festival Gala in 1983 and delivered the opening remarks, but not as the host. Zhao also hosted many other TV shows and big events.

"Thanks to the state platform provided by CCTV, and also due to his lifelong passion for TV anchoring and hosting, my father created shows enjoyed by audiences both in China and abroad. My father also narrated many historic moments and his voice was part of many unforgettable and beautiful times. His recognizable voice was liked by so many people, and this is the glory my father strived for all his life," his son wrote, adding, "He respected his career, and his career made him. He respected hundreds of millions of audience members, and in return the people remembered him."

According to the junior Zhao, who worked in the information technology industry, after his retirement from CCTV in 2008, Zhao Zhongxiang invested most of his time in his interests, such as painting, calligraphy, cooking, meeting friends, social media and training young talents. But Zhao couldn't just let go of his passion for his career, so he returned to CCTV two years after his retirement in 2010, to occasionally work on his most famous programs "Animal World" and "Human and Nature" with a new TV co-host. Zhao was also invited to do a voice dubbing for a World Expo-related program called "World Expo Legends."

Chinese people started to send in their messages of mourning on social media platforms after the news broke. His son said his family and friends will miss him very much and will continue to pray for him. Zhao's funeral and farewell ceremony are being planned and will be held on Jan. 20. 

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