Meet Qian Jin Zu He, a new singing sensation in China. That’s Zhang Wen, 24, Yang Ye, 21, Shen Jing, 23, and Xiao Yang, 26. Xiao Yang, the lead singer, weighs in at 375 pounds. All the others weigh between two and three hundred pounds apiece. Once upon a time in China, being fat was considered a sign of prosperity. Now it’s considered a source of extreme shame. Summer weight loss boot camps have sprung up all over the country and employers routinely ask not only for the work records and educational information on potential employees, but height and weight as well.
At the tender age of five, Xiao Yang was already being prescribed diet pills. Her parents refused to hold her hand in public. They enrolled her in what she calls a “devil eating program” in which she was expected to subsist entirely on fruit and water.
Four years ago, Xiao was desperate enough to place an ad in a local newspaper begging someone – anyone – to either help her lose weight or give her a job.
Enter Hu Zhi, a public relations agent who works out of Nanjing. He spotted the ad and decided to meet with Xiao and see if she had any performing talent. He gave her CDs and DVDs to study and hired a coach for her to work on dance moves with. He even got the largest newspaper in Nanjing to write about Xiao in hopes that finding her a boyfriend would boost her confidence. Some 200 men responded. More than that, over 100 heavy women from all over China wrote back to tell her they empathized with her struggles in Chinese society and wanted to be her friend.
Hu and the newspaper combined forces to develop a club for these women. Eventually, Hu discovered enough women in the club with singing and dancing talent that he formed a band. Thus Qian Jin Zu He was born.
Their success so far has been modest, but they tour nightclubs, shopping malls, paint factories, and even garment industry conventions to spread a message of tolerance and pride. Their most popular song is a rap number entitled “So What If I’m Fat.”
Even the name of the group is both a pun and a sign of empowerment. One meaning for the words is a courteous expression for someone else’s daughter or 1,000 pieces of gold. The other is 1,000 jin, a Chinese measurement of weight that comes to just over 1,000 pounds.
Through their performances, Qian Jin Zu He hope to raise awareness and change stereotypes about the fat. As member Zhang Wen puts it:
“Our original purpose for joining the band is to help other girls like us feel more confident, feel better about themselves, and to prove our capability in front of others,”
Rock on, ladies!