Opinion: Chinese pianist Lang Lang puzzled his White House song about defeating U.S. military ‘jackals’ offends


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Lang Lang.

Gee, those Americans are really touchy.

Who would have thought that a Chinese pianist entertaining at the Obama White House state dinner last week to promote Chinese-American friendship with Chinese President Hu Jintao could possibly offend anyone by tickling the old ivories with a favorite song about the Chinese People’s Liberation Army enduring great hardships but finally killing sufficient enemy troops to win a 1952 Korean War battle against American soldiers?

What’s to be offended by such a musical choice unless, perhaps, you’re not a Chinese Korean War vet?


The 28-year-old Chinese pianist Lang Lang says he wanted to “bridge cultures” using music. He attempted to explain his musical choice by saying: “It has been a favorite of mine since I was a child,” adding, “It was selected for no other reason than for the beauty of its melody.”

For sure.

The music comes from a 1956 Chinese movie, “Battle on Shanggangling Mountain,” about the heroic people’s army following the instructions of the beloved leader and, despite setbacks, becoming victorious in the 1952 Battle of Triangle Hill during the Korean War.

Which, btw, 58 years later still has just a ceasefire, no peace treaty.

A spokesman for the Obama White House says any suggestion that it’s an insult to play a patriotic Chinese song that refers to American troops as “jackals” in the U.S. president’s house is “just flat wrong.”

Good luck selling that one in Wisconsin come Wednesday’s presidential trip to Manitowoc.

Our sharp-eyed colleague Paul Richter notes that a Chinese blogger has posted a comment about the song’s performance, saying playing it before the U.S. president was “deeply meaningful.” But, he adds, “I don’t know if the Americans can understand. Ha ha.”

As it happens, Lang Lang is scheduled to perform Tuesday evening with the Pacific Symphony in Costa Mesa, Calif. So, that would seem to preclude a heroic encore during the president’s State of the Union Address to Congress.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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