Star Promotes Cross-Straits Ties

When Ling Feng appeared on television programs on the Chinese mainland in 1990, viewers were amazed at the clown-like looks of this Taiwan pop star.

With a shabby straw hat, a funny beard, a big face and small eyes, Ling proposed to his viewers that they put his photo on their front doors.

"Nightmares will be frightened and go away," he said.

Yet this nightmare-killer won the love of He Shunshun, a beautiful dancer from Qingdao, in east China's Shandong Province.

Cross-Straits marriage

Theirs was one of the first cross-Straits marriages in China at the time, and has continued to fascinate the media.

"The biggest problem with this cross-Straits marriage is the clash of values," said Ling.

He Shunshun had to live with Ling's large family in Taiwan, which has more than 40 people under one roof.

"It's really hard for her to get on well with so many family members, who have different ideas than she does about how to be a wife," said Ling.

He Shunshun, from the Chinese mainland, is not allowed by Taiwan law to have a job on the island.

"Most women in the mainland work, and I am not used to asking my husband or mother-in-law for money," said He.

Ling's humor and talent were little help in his marriage at that time.

"If someone asked me if I was optimistic about my marriage three years ago, I would have answered no," said Ling.

"But now I can say yes."

He Shunshun is today a free-lancer. She writes regularly for local newspapers and has published two books.

When she earned her first payment from a newspaper, she put half the money in Ling's hand and said proudly, "Take it. I earned it myself."

"My marriage told me that we have to understand, and to communicate," said Ling.

Ling and He today have a 9-year-old daughter, Rourou.

When Rourou was born in Beijing in December, 1992, Ling Feng hurried to Beijing from a charity concert in southwest China's Guizhou Province.

But the father fell ill as a result of over-work, and upon his arrival in Beijing, was put in the same hospital as the mother and child.

On Christmas Day Ling slipped out of the hospital.

When He Shunshun came back to her hospital room after a check-up, to her astonishment, she saw colored ribbons and flowers around her bed and Christmas music filled the room.

Ling today spends a lot of time taking Rourou to forests and fields.

When interviewed, the little girl kept saying, "I'm lucky. I don't look like my father."

Rourou is lucky compared with her father as a child.

Ling Feng was born Wang Zhengchen in Qingdao in 1945. In 1949 he followed his family to Taiwan.

At 13 he began to earn money to help support his five younger sisters and brothers. The teenager rode 40 kilometers a day on a freight tri-cycle to transport goods, and had to stand when riding because of his short legs.

At 18 he started working in a car factory. After finishing his eight-hour shift, he sang in a nearby restaurant for seven hours until three in the morning to earn extra money.

He held his two jobs for half a year, until his factory boss told him he had to make a choice between the two, and Ling chose to sing.

"Singing then only brought in half that I earned in the factory, and my choice left my mother worrying for three years about the family's bread," said Ling.

Ling's singing career had begun. When his songs became popular, he posted home US$400 and the whole family cheered and cried at the largest sum of money they had ever seen.

Fame comes late

With his comical look, Ling didn't become a big name until the age of 40, when in 1985 he won the 20th Golden Bell Prize, the most prestigious prize for pop singers in Taiwan.

Ling became known in the Chinese mainland in 1990, when he was invited to Beijing to appear at the Spring Festival Celebration Party broadcast live by China Central Television.

His song "Clown" touched the hearts of the more than 400 million viewers watching this grand cultural activity.

The chorus of the song, "I am ugly, but I have a tender heart" became a common household phrase in China.

Ling was among the first Taiwan pop stars invited to take part in important cultural activities on the mainland at that time. His trip to Beijing inspired his thoughts of becoming a documentary producer.

"My range of view was enlarged when I arrived in a land of 9.6 million square kilometers from an island of 36,000 square kilometers," said Ling. "Facts about the mainland will interest my Taiwan compatriots, and I can function as a cross-Straits channel."

Since then, Ling Feng has been working as a cross-Straits cultural ambassador. His sensation-causing documentary series, "8,000 Miles of Cloud and Moon," was among the first TV programs to introduce the mainland in Taiwan.

The series won record-high viewer ratings in Taiwan.

Ling's second documentary series, "Drifting," examines the present transition stage in China through the lives of Chinese people on the mainland, in Taiwan and in other parts of the world.

"I have sold one house after another to help complete the series. It has taken me years to make the series thought-provoking," said Ling.

Besides producing documentaries, Ling has devoted himself to cross-Straits promotion of the Project Hope, a charity program directed by the China Youth and Teenager Development Fund.

In 1992, donations from Ling Feng and Ye Mingshou allowed the opening of the first Hope School in China.

The Taiwan pop star has traveled around China to organize more than 100 charity concerts and to lecture on training courses for Hope School teachers.

"I am a bat with little knowledge, flying across the Straits, and I expect our children to be eagles with shining eyes," said Ling.

(China Daily June 13, 2002)

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