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Tribute paid to teacher who brought music to the mountains

By LI YANG in Beijing and ZHANG YU in Shijiazhuang, Hebei | China Daily | Updated: 2022-04-07 08:14

Deng and her young charges sing at the first Malan Children's Music Festival in Fuping in 2013. [Photo by LI XIUQIN/FOR CHINA DAILY]

Deng Xiaolan, 79, prepared children to sing at opening of Beijing Winter Olympics

During Qingming Festival, children in a village deep in the Taihang Mountains in northern China paid tribute to their "grandmother", who taught them music and fine arts, bringing them to the stage for this year's Winter Olympics opening ceremony in Beijing.

For the past 18 years, Deng Xiaolan, 79, who died on March 21 from a stroke, worked as a volunteer teacher in Malan village, Fuping county, Hebei province.

Born in 1943, Deng was raised by local farmers until she was 3. In 1970, she graduated as an engineer from Tsinghua University in Beijing.

She told villagers her work as a volunteer teacher was to repay them for raising her during the toughest stage of the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1931-45).

Liu Kai, headmaster of Xiaxue Center School in Fuping and leader of the Winter Olympics chorus, said: "After they heard that Deng had died, all the children burst into tears. It didn't seem real."

In the afternoon on March 19, Deng fainted as she watched a performance stage being constructed in the village. She was taken to hospital in Beijing, 280 kilometers away, but never regained consciousness.

In Beijing on Feb 4, some six weeks before her death, 40 children from Malan, aged 5 to 11, sang the Olympic Anthem in Greek at the opening ceremony of the Winter Games in the National Stadium, also known as the Bird's Nest.

Deng's family members wrote in her obituary, "It is the greatest comfort to us that she left at this 'highlight moment' of her life."

Colleagues said that Deng told the media she had to some extent realized her dream in bringing the children to a world stage.

Her father Deng Tuo, 52, who died in 1966, was editor-in-chief of Shanxi-Chahar-Hebei Daily, which was published from December 1937 to July 1948 and was the predecessor of People's Daily. Her mother Ding Yilan was a correspondent for the newspaper and later became one of the two radio anchors for the broadcast of the founding ceremony of the People's Republic of China on Oct 1, 1949.She also became a director of China Radio International.

In autumn 1943, 19 villagers died helping reporters and editors from Shanxi-Chahar-Hebei Daily withdraw to the mountains during a raid by the Japanese army. Ding Yilan gave birth to her daughter in a cave at this time, entrusting her to the care of local villagers.

After Deng Xiaolan's parents took her back three years later, they often reminded her never to forget the farmers in Malan who gave her a "second life".

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