World Meet US (Published June 29, 2009) | Edited By – All Things Michael
“Most of his fans in China regret that he never performed on the mainland. However, 22 years ago, he stepped on Chinese ground. He was fascinated by the rice fields, water buffalo and ducks in the pond. … Jackson took a group photo with children in Yongmo Village. On his face there’s a free and sweet smile, which makes him look like the ‘King of the Kids.’ Michael wrote below the photo: ‘When I saw the Chinese kids, I couldn’t resist them.”
— Michael Jackson’s tour guide in China, Liu Guangzhi
At 5:26am on June 26, Michael Jackson, the ‘King of Pop” passed away at the age of 50 when his heart stopped. His Chinese fans feel deep regret that he was never able to hold a concert in mainland China. However, what few people know is that the pop star visited Zhongshan City 22 years ago. In 1987, when on holiday in Hong Kong, Jackson visited Zhongshan as a tourist. This was the only visit he made to mainland China during his lifetime.
On the evening of June 27, with the assistance of the Zhongshan China International Travel Service [Zhongshan CITS], our reporter contacted Liu Guangzhi, who now lives in the United States. He is a Zhongshanese and once worked for Zhongshan CITS. On October 23, 1987, he accompanied Michael Jackson as a tour guide during his one-day visit to Zhongshan.
HIS ONLY VISIT TO MAINLAND CHINA
“He came to Zhongshan to see what China was like.” says Liu Guangzhi, who now lives in the U.S. state of Maryland. Having a good command of English, on that day in October 1987, Liu was assigned to receive a tourist group, among which was Michael Jackson. At the time, Liu was only 23 years old.
Jackson was wearing dark green shirt, black trousers and black frame glasses. He appeared friendly and quiet. “It wasn’t until I got the list of tourists that I discovered I would be receiving Michael Jackson.” Liu’s excitement was still evident as he spoke of the events of that day, twenty-two years ago.
“On the list there were arrangements for vehicles and restaurants. Then I realized that a superstar was coming!” That very tourist list is still kept in very good condition. Michael Jackson’s name is on the top. Under the column “occupation,” it reads “Entertainment Industry.”
Lui agrees that, “Most of his fans in China feel regret that he never performed on the mainland. However, 22 years ago, he stepped on China ground.”
VISITING YONGMO VILLAGE, SANXIANG TOWN
It was a sunny day and that morning, 12 tourists including Michael came to the Gongbei Customs office from Hong Kong. Liu guided them to Yongmo Village, Sanxiang Town, then on to Cuiheng Village, Nanlang Town, in order for them to enjoy the beautiful scenery in the hometown of a great man [Dr. Sun Yat-sen, father of modern China].
In 1987, although China still wasn’t very open to foreign pop music, a large group of young people in Zhongshan knew of Michael Jackson thanks to his best selling CD Thriller.
“He was very nice. At that time, he wasn’t surrounded by a large group of bodyguards. In Yongmo Village, many foreign tourists and villagers recognized him and asked for photographs and signatures.”
Michael only spent 40 minutes in Yongmo Village. He was obviously quite interested in the Chinese village, which was not modernized. “He was fascinated by the rice fields, water buffalo and ducks in the pond. Along the road there were villages and farmhouses.” Liu said that the friendliness and hospitality of the villagers, as well as their simple lifestyle, attracted Jackson deeply. “He walked on the bluestone road in Yongmo Village, looking with great interest at a baby wrapped in swaddling cloth. He also said ‘Hi’ to children and took photos with an old woman in front of her house. He and his companions took lots of pictures and videos of the village.”
Jackson took a group photo with children in Yongmo Village (below), which appears in his autobiography. In the photo Liu sent to our reporter, the young “King of Pop” was surrounded by several lovely children. On his face there’s a free and sweet smile, which makes him look like the “King of the kids.” Michael wrote down his feelings below the photo: “When I saw the Chinese kids, I couldn’t resist them.”
Visiting Zhongshan city in Guangdong Province, the hometown of the revered father of modern China, Dr. Sun Yat-sen, Michael Jackson poses with some local children, in October 1987.
VISITING THE DR. SUN YAT-SEN MUSEUM
“He admired Dr. Sun Yat-sen and was interested in his Chinese tunic.”
They had lunch at the Zhongshan Hot Spring Resort. A large group of Americans saw him there and recognized him. So they took photos with him excitingly. “Michael Jackson was a vegetarian at the time, so we prepared vegetarian food for him. Other than that, it seemed that he wasn’t very picky about food.”
After lunch, they went to Cuiheng Village, Nanlang Town. They visited the Museum of Dr. Sun Yat-sen and the Zhongshan Memorial Middle School. “As the main attraction in Zhongshan, the Museum of Dr. Sun Yat-sen and the houses in Cuiheng Village were the “must-go” places for many foreigners.” Liu said.
Before he came to China, Jackson wasn’t familiar with Dr. Sun Yat-sen. He listened to Liu’s introduction and gradually came to understand the revolutionary road of Sun. “In the Museum of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, he showed great interest in architecture with Chinese characteristics. He asked me to tell him stories about Dr. Sun Yat-sen. He seemed to admire him a lot.”
The photograph of Dr. Sun Yat-sen wearing a Chinese tunic suit attracted Michael’s attention (photo, left). He inquired about the origin and design of the Chinese tunic suit. “It was said that he had a Chinese tunic made to order in Hong Kong and brought it back to the United States.”
The seven-hour-visit was soon over. Before he left, Jackson told Liu Guangzhi that, “the scenery of Zhongshan is similar to Switzerland. Everything is green.”
“He left us with good memories. He was very quiet but also very friendly and would greet the children and take pictures with them. His stay was so short that we didn’t have a chance to discuss specific topics in any detail.”
Liu feels regret over this. But he was touched by Michael’s carefulness. “When he went back to Hong Kong, he asked his agent to send the group photo to me – and he signed it.”
Together with the photo of Liu, he sent the photos of the kids and the old woman in Yongmo Village as well. Liu sent those photos back to the village. To this day, many of these photos remain in the villager’s homes. “To us, it was a wonderful memory. And Michael had kept it for us.”
In 1990, Liu Guangzhi applied for further study in the United States. He brought these memories to the U.S. with him, including the tourist list and photos taken at that time. Now Liu counts them as some of his most precious things. “Though he is gone, I will always think of him when I look at those photos. He’s an extraordinary superstar and will remain in our minds.”
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