The piano has been around for over 300 years, and in that time it has found its place in not only the Western World but also China. The Chinese have embraced this instrument, with many young children learning it, lots of composers writing new music for it too and some of the best classical pianists in the world coming out of China too.
Some of these famous Chinese pianists are household names while others may be a mystery to you. In this post, we’re going to look at 11 of the most famous Chinese piano players that you should know about!
1. Lang Lang (1982-)
Lang Lang, born in 1982 in Shenyang, Liaoning, is considered one of the best pianists alive today.
He’s famous across the world for his exceptional mastery of an extensive repertoire, earning him a top spot in several international competitions.
However, Lang Lang’s career hasn’t been free from controversy.
Traditionalists criticized his energetic performances as immature, but crowds love the youthful energy, flair, and bravado he imbues into every concert.
The pianist currently tours European concert halls playing alongside world-famous orchestras.
2. Yuja Wang (1987-)
Born in Beijing to a family of artists, Yuja Wang was quickly recognized as an exceptional talent when she was young, attending the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia at only 15.
Wang was given her chance to star when Martha Argerich stepped down from her performances at the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Since then, Yuja Wang has become one of the preeminent pianists touring the world.
Many prestigious institutions enlist her talent for the classics, including Mendelssohn and Mozart.
3. Yundi Li (1982-)
The recipient of recent controversy in his home country, Yundi Li is rightly named the “Prince of Piano” in China.
After first mastering the accordion by age four, Yundi Li then moved on to the piano, which would become the musician’s defining instrument.
While Li’s performances and repertoire are masterful, he is most famous for being the youngest winner of the International Chopin Competition at only 18.
He also judged that same competition five years later, further indicating the music community’s respect for him.
4. Zhu Xiao-Mei (1949-)
Zhu Xiao-Mei was born in 1949 in Shanghai during the peak of Maoist China.
Her family was artistic, encouraging piano from an early age.
By 8, Zhu Xiao-Mei was already featured on Chinese television and radio as a child performer.
After years of enduring national madness in China, Zhu Xiao-Mei was noticed by American violinist Isaac Stern and entered the New England Conservatory of Music.
However, it wasn’t until her move to Paris in the 1980s that she became quite famous for her recitals and recordings.
5. Fou Ts’ong (1934-2020)
Fou Ts’ong, born in 1934 in Shanghai to a family of academics, was a British pianist well-regarded for his mastery of Chopin.
Indeed, people like Herman Hess have praised Fou Ts’ong’s skills throughout his career, saying it was like watching Chopin himself play.
Ts’ong gave concerts across Europe, the Americas, Asia, and Australia, earning a reputation as one of the most proficient Chopin players of the 20th century.
He won several international competitions and also served as a judge in many of those same events.
6. Tiffany Poon (1996-)
Hailing from Hong Kong, Tiffany Poon is an NYC-based pianist who has an extensive performance list dating back to when she was a child.
She graduated from the Juilliard/Columbia Universities exchange program and has an extensive repertoire that fuels her electrifying performances.
However, Poon is best known for her social media presence.
She’s gained a large following across several platforms and is working toward generating awareness and interest in classical music in younger generations.
7. Sa Chen (1979-)
Sa Chen is one of the most famous piano players in China today, best known for her renditions of a wide variety of Chopin’s works.
She is another prolific student of Dan Zhaoyi, the famous teacher of Yundi Li.
Her discography is well-regarded by critics and commercial retailers alike, both in China and internationally.
Most recently, Sa Chen has been performing with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, one of the more prolific groups in the United States.
Also, she was a member of the jury at the recent 2021 International Chopin Competition.
8. Di Xiao (1985-)
Di Xiao is a classical soloist currently based in London.
She’s won several noteworthy competitions in Great Britain and Europe, including the Ludlow Philharmonic Concerto Prize and the Birmingham Symphony Hall Prize, among others.
Di Xiao first entered the public eye when she gave an exceptional performance for the Malaysian royal family when she was only 16.
Since then, she’s performed in acclaimed concert halls around China, India, Ukraine, Great Britain, and more.
9. Di Wu (1984-)
Widely recognized in China as a child prodigy, Di Wu made her debut at the Beijing Philharmonic at age 14 after attending the Beijing Central Conservatory of music since she was 12.
After completing her musical studies in the United States, Wu toured through Europe, Asia, and the U.S. with some of the world’s most prolific orchestras.
While she has a series of live concert recordings, Di Wu has yet to make solo recordings of her repertoire.
Critics have hailed her as one of the best performers of Brahms today, in China and internationally.
10. Ji Liu (1990-)
Born to musical parents in China, Ji Liu is a famous Chinese piano player who has won prizes at several prestigious competitions through the years.
He says that music is his “religion” and regularly composes new pieces to add to his classical repertoire.
Although Ji Liu is hard at work expanding his discography, he is not currently touring with any orchestras.
However, he does have weekly live streaming events on YouTube to keep us entertained in the meantime.
11. Wanting Qu (1984-)
Wanting Qu is a Vancouver-based pianist who was born in China in 1984.
Unlike others on this list, she achieved success in the recording studio and not the concert hall.
She was the first Chinese artist to sign to the Nettwerk label, composing a successful album that went platinum in China and achieved critical success internationally.
Wanting also composed soundtracks for movies and television and continues to be one of the hardest working famous Chinese piano players alive today.