Tuning up a fine life

Updated: 2012-04-20 07:21

By Lin Shujuan (China Daily)

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When successful businessman Ping Anjun climbs onto the stage next month in Beijing, it won't be to explain how he made his fortune in real estate.

It will be to perform some of the popular songs he has written over the past four decades.

"Music and architecture have served as two pillars of my life's building," Ping said at a recent media briefing on his upcoming concert. "With both, I find a balance in life."

Tuning up a fine life

Ping Anjun, a composer and real estate developer, conducts one of his works at a recent concert in Anshan, Liaoning province. Provided to China Daily

The 62-year-old was born into a poor family with seven siblings in Anshan, Northeast China's Liaoning province.

His most persistent childhood memory is the feeling of hunger. With no lunch to eat, he usually slipped away at noon to a nearby park, where many retirees played music and sang - and helped him make his own bamboo flute.

He became a professional musician a few years later and joined the Anshan Performing Troupe in 1972.

It was then his composing talent started to show.

In 1974, with the troupe's recommendation, he became a composing major at Shenyang Conservatory of Music.

Eventually he made his way into the Workers' Club of Anshan Iron and Steel Plant, which hosted regular gatherings of the city's most active musicians.

After spending a few days working shoulder to shoulder with workers at the iron and steel plant, he composed one of his most recognized pieces: I Love Smelters, I Love Steel.

The song has been popular for more than 30 years among local citizens in his home city, also known as the Capital of Steel, and earned him overnight fame in Northeast China.

Since then, he has composed nearly 500 works, ranging from symphonies and ballads to children's songs, leading his troupe in performances around China. It became one of the few profitable troupes of its kind in the country.

Then, to the surprise of many, Ping resigned in 1992 to become a real estate developer.

"I chose to enter the sea of business because I had grown tired of fighting for survival, either for life or for art," recalled Ping, who had developed management experience and an acute sense of business thanks to those years of leading the troupe out of deep water.

"I wanted to find financial freedom so I would be able to enjoy music with ease."

Ping's business experienced several ups and downs, but his company survived and now has estimated assets of 1 billion yuan ($158 million).

"Ping is a person with perseverance. He won't give up until he achieves his goal," said Han Jinglian, a lyricist who has collaborated with Ping on dozens of songs over the past decades.

"He is also a person of dedication. When he ventured into the business field, I thought he would have given up his composing. It turned out he has been as passionate and productive (in composing)."

In 2006, Ping and his company started to invite international orchestras to perform world classics in his home city, with free tickets for those interested.

The next performance is for himself, inviting the country's leading orchestra, singers and choirs to present a fine selection of his works.

Xu Peidong, composer and deputy director of the Chinese Musicians' Association, said it is rare for the association to work with a grassroots composer, but they have made an exception for Ping, "not only for his solid achievement in music, but for his decades-long dedication promoting music among the public".

As for Ping, the upcoming concert is "like a dream come true".

He has turned down any offer of sponsorships. "I take pride, as a businessman to sponsor myself, as a musician," Ping said, eyes glittering with excitement.

"I really enjoy this dual life. It makes me feel like living twice."