Teresa Teng (January 29, 1953-May 8, 1995) (Chinese: 邓丽君) is an unforgettable pop icon noted for her distinctive sweet voice and unparalleled singing skills. Originally from Taiwan, Teng was widely acclaimed throughout East Asia including Korea, Japan and Malaysia, in addition to the Chinese mainland.
She was best known for her folk songs and romantic ballads, including "The Moon Represents My Heart", "Sweet Honey" and "Wishing We Last Forever". Her songs were so popular among Chinese fans that a saying goes: "Wherever there are Chinese people, the songs of Teresa Teng can be heard."
Teng was the daughter of a Kuomintang (KMT) officer - a Hebei native, who retreated to Taiwan from the Chinese mainland after the KMT’s defeat in the Chinese Civil War (1945-1949). Born in Taiwan’s Yunlin County, Teng was educated at Ginling Girls High School. She showed considerable talent at an early age and won numerous awards at singing contests. By the 1960s, she was able to earn enough from singing to support her family. With her father’s approval, Teng quit her studies to pursue a professional singing career.
Teng became a rising star in Taiwan by 1968, when the then 15-year-old sang onstage at a Taiwan popular music program, winning her a recording contract. In subsequent years, she released several albums under the Life Records label. From February to April 1971, the starlet went on tour throughout southeast Asia, performing in Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and Hong Kong.
In 1973, Teng made her debut in the Kōhaku Uta Gassen, literarily translated as the Red and White Song Battle, attended each New Year's Eve in Japan by the most successful singers. The Japanese crowned the young Chinese girl as the "Best New Singing Star" that year. After being recognized at the battle, Teng was determined to make her mark in the Japanese entertainment industry. She released several songs in Japanese, such as, "Give Yourself to the Flow of Time" and "Airport". The latter became a hit in Japan and won Teng considerable fame in Japan. However, the singer's Japanese career ended soon after in 1979, after authorities discovered she had purchased a fake Indonesian passport for US$20,000.
Although the incident forced her leave Japan for the U.S. in 1979, Teng did not lose her overall popularity in China or East Asia. In April of the same year, she held the first solo concert in Vancouver, Canada. In 1980, she debuted in Lincoln Center and Los Angeles Music Center. Despite her setback in Japan, Teng saw her career reach its pinnacle in early 1980s, during which she won countless awards from Taiwan and Hong Kong and sang at numerous sold-out concerts. In February 1983, she released her widely acclaimed album, "Light Exquisite Feeling" which contained one of her most famous songs, "Wishing We Last Forever". The album was based on 12 poems from Tang (618-907) and Song (960-1279) Dynasties and blended traditional and modern music to cater to both Eastern and Western tastes.
During her golden period in the 1980s, Teng re-entered the Japanese market with her albums and became the first singer to win the All Japan Record Awards four consecutive years in a row (1984-1988). In 1985, Teng, for the first time in her life, received a telephone interview from the mainland newspaper "Beijing Youth Daily". However, she was never able to realize her goal of staging a performance in the Chinese mainland.
In the 1990s, Teng cut back on her performances and mainly lived outside Taiwan. In 1995, she suffered a severe asthma attack and died while on holiday in Chiang Mai, Thailand, at age of 42. She was given an honorable funeral in Taiwan and buried in the Jinshan Cemetery, in Taipei City.