mardi 8 août 2017

Yamaguchi Yoshiko (山口 淑子) aka Li Xianglan - Seven Great Singing Stars (Eng)

She may not be the official inspiration source of Satoshi Kon for one of his famous animation movies, yet here is an actress-singer-deputy whose life seems coming straight out from a book, turning from the darkness of the Chinese-Japanese war into the light of the fight for peoples' reconciliation: Yamaguchi Yoshiko (山口 淑子) aka Yamaguchi Shirley, aka Ri Kôran, aka Pan Shuhua, aka Li Xianglan... !!

Yamaguchi Yoshiko (Li Xianglan...)

Millenium Actress


In 1940

Yamaguchi Yoshiko (山口 淑子) was born in 1920 from a Japanese couple installed in Manchuria (the Korean neighbour already being a Japanese protectorate). Japan quickly invades the Chinese province following the pretext of an attack against their railroad under construction.  
Yamaguchi receives the names of Xianglan (perfumed orchid) and Shuhua at 13 from Chinese godfathers, friends of her father. Then she starts her actress career at 18 under the name Li Xianglan, translated as Ri Kôran (李香蘭) in Japanese, in Japanese propaganda movies for the Chinese public. 
After moving to Shanghai, where she sometimes takes the name of Pan Shuhua following the name of the family who hosts her, and she becomes too a very famous singer, known as one of the Chinese "Seven Great Singing Stars" of the time (Qi Da Gexing), in particular thanks to her unforgettable performance of the song Ye Lai Xiang. Younger, she indeed learned the Western lyrical style as soprano, in order to recover from a tuberculosis. As a matter of fact, many thought she was really Chinese ; and even if Japanese newspaper of that time informed the public before a tour, it is said that some spectators found her "too much Chinese".

After the defeat of Japan, she is arrested by the Chinese nationalist government for treason and spying, and she avoids the death penalty only thanks to a friend who managed to retrieve her Japanese birth certificate ! She apologizes for having pretended she was Chinese and is set free. She then move to Japan in 1946 and recovers her true name to act in movies, in particular of the great Kurosawa Akira (Scandal).
In the 1950s, she leads in parallel a career in the United States under the first name Shirley, and comes back to her alias Li Xianglan in some Hong Kong movies. She remarries with an ambassador working in Burma (Myanmar), Ohtaka Hiroshi, and stops her actress career. She comes back in Japan and becomes a TV consultant by the end of the 1960s.

Election of 1974
She is elected at the equivalent of the Senate in 1974 as member of the Liberal Democratic Party (right, then ruling party) and reelected twice. She will then carry the fight for the acknowledgement and compensation of the "Comfort women", essentially Korean and Chinese forced to prostitute for the Japanese army, becoming vice-president of the Asian Women's Fund. She died in September 2014.


Yamaguchi Yoshiko is the incarnation by herself of all the modern history of Japan, from their thirst of "Western-inspired" colonization of Asia, to the quest for redemption and of "soft power" !
Coming to vocal, it is nothing to say she was among the greatest of her time, her "membership" to the Chinese "Seven Great Singing Stars" is the proof. She represents then this post-Meiji restoration era, when Japan, struggling to rival with the Western powers, for fear of being colonized himself, becomes bulimic of all these foreign cultures and knowledge. She learns the Western lyric style with a Russian professor, and her songs reflect the Western tunes à la mode at that time (rumbaoperetta, jazz...), "literally" called Ryuukouka, which will be the source of the Japanese style called Kayoukyoku in the 50-70s.

At Asian Women's Fund

Anecdotes, posterity

She inspired the name of one of the heroines of the video game and anime Sakura Wars (Sakura Taisen), Li Kohran though the kanjis are slightly different (李 紅蘭). This character, revue singer and handywoman of the anti-demon brigade, is however a "true" Chinese born in Beijing, the action taking place in the 20s.

Similar Artists

Japan: Hibari Misora...
World: The Seven Great Singing Stars, Marlene Dietrich... She was also called the Japanese Judy Garland.

With her incarnation in the biographical drama Ri Kôran (2006), Ueto Aya.. wife of EXILE HIRO

Great Standards:

First performer:

Ye Lai Xiang
-  Dai Ni Yume

Discography (selection) :

Affiliated links to CDJapan, please allow cookies if you enjoyed this article m(_ _)m.

Densetsu no Utahime Li Xianglan no Sekai / Li Xianglan (Yoshiko Yamaguchi)
Li Xianglan (Yoshiko Yamaguchi)
April 2015: compilation in 2 discs released after her death, includes in particular both Chinese and Japanese versions of Ye Lai Xiang...


Sources :,, Wikipedia JP...

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