And now for a dose of local pop culture:
2009 Super Girlchampion and local Chengdunese Jiang Yingrong
You might have heard of the widely popular TV program Super Girl (《超级女声》, changed to 《快乐女声》 this year), sometimes referred to as "China's American Idol," and you've no doubt heard many of the contestants' songs, even if you're not aware of it.
This year's season of Super Girl was watched with high anticipation in part because it was a comeback season for the show, which had been canceled after the 2006 season when a branch of the CPC deemed it to be a negative influence on society.
And, when this year's season finished a few weeks ago, Chengdu had reason to celebrate: the first and third places were nabbed by Sichuanese, further cementing the city's reputation as a pop-idol production center.
Chengdu native Jiang Yingrong (江映蓉) took the championship title, and Huang Ying (黄英), from Qu County, Dazhou, won third place.
This year's third place winner, Huang Ying, from Dazhou, Sichuan, belts out a song about the azaleas turning red. Bloggers were buzzing about the migrant-worker-turned-pop star a few weeks ago after discovering a video clip of her singing the Cui Jian Tiananmen anthem "Nothing to My Name."
Super Girl originated as a regional show in Hunan, but since the first year it became a nationally broadcast program, Chengdu has always been one of three to five cities holding regional auditions and semi-finals.
In case you're not exactly up on your Super Girl knowledge, here's our handy briefing on past Sichuanese Super Girls:
Music video for Tan Weiwei's "Butterfly"
Tan Weiwei (谭维维) second place, 2006
A professional vocalist who studied at the Sichuan Conservatory, Tan's songs tend to be edgier than the average pop stars and allegedly draw upon Tibetan influences. Tan has performed in Los Angeles and Las Vegas and, more recently, appeared at the Venice Film Festival in support of her film "Chengdu, I Love You."
Li Yuchun (李宇春) winner, 2005
Perhaps the most well-known of all the Super Girls, Li Yuchun's androgynous looks—which critics generally agree had a lot more to do with her win than her less-than-stellar vocals did—have been imitated by countless contestant hopefuls since. In late 2005, Time Magazine Asia named her one of Asia's Heroes, and, in January 2006, she became the first mainland pop star to be commemorated on a Chinese postage stamp.
Jane Zhang on the Oprah Winfrey Show
Jane Zhang (张靓颖) third place, 2005
Since landing on the show in 2005, Jane Zhang has been the Super Girl to watch. With her high range, she quickly became known as the "dolphin princess" among Chinese fans. With the show's original voter-based selection process (which was done away with for the 2009 season), many of the more vocally abled contestants would lose out to weaker singers who for other reasons captured viewers' attentions. The Li vs. Zhang battle was in this category, but in the end, Zhang's been the one making international-celebrity headway, performing abroad on a number of occasions.
Ji Minjia performs rocker Wang Feng's 2004 massive hit "Flying Higher" (飞得更高)
Ji Minjia (纪敏佳) fifth place, 2005
Chengdu native and former Sichuan Music Conservatory student Ji won the 2005 Hangzhou semi-finals and then went on to work in the entertainment industry in Japan and make other international appearances here and there.
Kristy Zhang (张含韵) third place, 2004
Just 16 when she placed in the competition, Zhang came to be known as "Baby Zhang" for her little-girl looks and voice. An advertising stint with dairy firm (and Super Girl sponsor) Mengniu cemented the fame that the Super Girl gig propelled her to. Zhang is from Deyang.
Wang Ti (left) and Kristy Zhang (right) on the 2004 season of Super Girl. Image: star.loudi.tv
Wang Ti (王媞) second place, 2004
Wang Ti won the Chengdu regional competition of the first round of Super Girl but came in second in the finals. Her entertainment career has been lackluster.
For more information
Wikipedia has a thorough overview of the show and how it works here, and China Daily published a list of all Super Girl winners from 2004 to 2007 here. Finally, the 2007 Chinese indie documentary Super, Girls! followed 10 contestants on their quest to become Super Girls.
Marvin Tan dug up the videos for this post.