Just listening to the incredibly skillful melodies streaming from his fingers, people could hardly relate the word "blind" with the young pianist they heard Friday night at the Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra's music hall.
Sun Yan, 21, an internationally acclaimed pianist who performed here last year, was featured in a concert with the Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra and once again took the city's classical music lovers by storm.
After hearing Sun perform live for the first time Thursday during rehearsal, principal guest conductor Maurice Peress shed tears. "You are a living miracle," he told Sun emotionally.
Sun played the piano solo in Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor OP. 37. At the request of audience, Sun also played revamped versions of the Carmen Overture and Jingle Bells and received thunderous applause several times for his efforts.
Blind since birth, Sun first gained fame in 1991 when he won first prize in a children's piano competition in Changchun, his hometown in Jilin.
The awards continued to pour in. In 1993, he snatched up first prize in the third National Handicapped Theatrical Festival. At 12, Sun was honored as one of China's top excellent youths and later became the first blind student at the prestigious China Central Conservatory of Music (CCCM).
Recently, he was also one of 17 international figures named by the Danish Government as a Hans Christian Andersen Ambassador in honor of the author's 200th birthday. The other honorees included television hostess Ju Ping, singer Song Zuying and basketball player Yao Ming.
Asked which element played a more important role in his career, his genius or hard work, Sun, who called his early success "lucky," said: "As for anyone in the music circle, genius is necessary and can't be denied. But more important are other elements such as teachers, personal endeavor, social recognition and family support."
Sun's talent was apparent when he was four and his parents found that their son could play pop songs he'd heard on the radio by ear on a small electric organ bought by the father.
A year later, Sun could play more than a dozen such songs. "He played with heart," said his mother Sha Yanhua, a fashion designer. "The feeling (upon hearing his playing) was just wonderful."
Neither Sun's mother nor his father, a former military man who now works as a civilian, have any musical background but he began taking piano lessons in 1991. He was admitted to the attached middle school of the CCCM in 1998 due to his talent. It was there that Sun met his tutor, Yang Jun whom he said became a lasting influence.
"(Yang) worked his heart out to teach me and gave me freedom in education and performance," Sun said emotionally. In 2003, Sun became the first blind student in CCCM's history.
When he talked about his family, Sun said he would never forget how his parents poured all they had to buy him a grand piano worth 80,000 yuan (US$9,665) in March 1994, when he was preparing a performance for an opening ceremony of a national sports meet.
"People who heard of this were all shocked and surprised, because by then, even professor Yang Jun didn't have such a piano at home," he said.
Sun uses Braille scores and said he's received more than 140 copies mailed by the British Library.
Besides music, Sun said he'd like to make a mark as a composer and an author. "I love to read and am interested in history," he said. "I want to depict people from an artistic point of view."
Sun said he would welcome an operation to cure his blindness. "The biggest wish in my life is to see the world with my own eyes," he said.
(Shenzhen Daily February 16, 2004)