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March 8, 2011

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Women good, bad and scandalous

FOR today's International Women's Day Shanghai Daily has drawn up its own list of women who made headlines in the past year - the good, bad (sort of) and the outrageous. They range from a stem cell scientist to an ordinary farmer to a famous mistress.

Hou Yifan

World's youngest chess queen

On December 24, 2010, Hou, then age 16, became Women's World Chess Champion and the youngest chess champion (men's or women's) to date.

The Jiangsu Province native learned chess from other children at the age of five, and defeated everyone; then her parents sent her to chess class.

At the age of eight, Hou became the youngest member of the Chinese Chess League. At age 10, she was chosen for China's national chess team, the youngest ever. At age 12, she was the youngest ever participant of the FIDE (World Chess Federation) Women's World Championship and the Chess Olympiad.

The next year, she became China's youngest National Women's Champion. At age 13, she attained the title of Women's Grandmaster and at age 14, International Master.

Since 1991, China has already nurtured four Women's World Chess Champions - Xie Jun from 1991-1996 and 1999-2001, Zhu Chen from 2001-2002, Xu Yuhua from 2006-2008 - and Hou.

Ma Nuo

Girl who'd rather cry in a BMW

Ma became notorious as a symbol of greedy young women who only want rich men.

The Beijing print model shot to fame on a match-making program "If You Are the One?"

When one unemployed young man asked Ma if she would ride on the back of his bicycle, she said, "I would rather cry in the backseat of a BMW."

Internet users were enraged and she became known as "the BMW girl." She became so stressed after months of nationwide vilification and controversy that in June 2010 she wept on the match-making TV show and apologized for being so greedy in her questioning of prospective dates.

She became kinder in her questioning and agreed to date a freelance photographer who did not have a BMW. Their relationship didn't last very long.

Zhang Xin

The only Chinese mainland business woman at Davos

In January this year Zhang Xin represented wealthy Chinese interests and was one of the very few wealthy businesswomen at Davos, Switzerland; she was a participant at the World Economic Forum, an annual meeting of global, political and business elites.

Zhang cofounded SOHO China, a major real estate developer, with her husband Pan Shiyi. Zhang is CEO and her husband is chairman.

As one of China's wealthiest women, she has drawn a lot of attention for her talent and innovation.

In 2009, she was among the "Top 10 Billionaire Women We Admire" by Forbes and the "Top 50 Women in World Business" by the Financial Times.

'Mistress Killer'

Concubines make comeback

There's a war going between wives and mistresses as men with money take up the ancient practice of keeping concubines.

The media is filled with reports about kept women and angry wives who say their money and their children's inheritance are wasted on floozies.

Zhang Yufen, a 54-year-old from Xi'an City in Shaanxi Province, an amateur detective known as the "Mistress Killer" says she has investigated more than 1,000 cases of mistresses in 15 years. She started in 1995 when her own husband was "stolen" by a hussy.

She says she teaches cheated wives how to install hidden cameras and tape recorders to collect evidence against their straying spouses.

Wu Youzhen

'Mom Wu' supports gay son

Last October, 67-year-old Wu Youzhen proudly wore her rainbow jacket at Shanghai Pride 2010, aimed at supporting gay people.

Despite enormous prejudice, homosexuals in China are gradually becoming more open. Given the bias, Wu bravely went on television in 2005 to support her homosexual son. The first mom to do so.

Wu has since supported many gay men and urged shocked parents to be understanding. The former editor from Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, runs a support blog and travels around the country sharing her experience. Her husband is also supportive.

Gong Linna

Singer with strange new sound

Cookie-cutter pop singers move over. Late last year a three-minute video of a song titled "Perturbed" ("Tan Te") with incomprehensible (no known language) lyrics went wildly viral in China. The melody was complicated and the singer Gong Linna in a lavish costume, gestured wildly and moved her eyebrows up and down.

Overnight, 35-year-old Gong became a household word. Born in Guizhou Province that has many minority groups, Gong is known for world-music-fusion and avant-garde music.

The song, composed by her husband Robert Zollitsch, has been called a shen qu, or "god's melody" for its fast tempo, rich changes and complexity.

Zeng Fanyi

Singing stem cell scientist

In July 2010, Zeng Fanyi received the first Third World Organization for Women in Science Award.

Zeng's fields include genetics and developmental biology. In 2009, she and her collaborators at the Chinese Academy of Sciences showed for the first time that fully functional stem could be generated from terminally differentiated skin cells and they ultimately generated a live, fertile mouse, named "Tiny." TIME magazine called this one of the top 10 medical breakthroughs of 2009.

Interestingly, this professor of Shanghai Jiao Tong University has many talents in music: released singing albums, shot award-winning music videos and held numerous solo concerts.

When she studied at the University of California, San Diego, Zeng also completed all the required courses for a major in music composition and theory.

While she was an MD, PhD dual-degree student at the prestigious University of Pennsylvania school of medicine, she recorded and released a solo vocal album "Myth of the East" in China, and won MTV awards from Chinese Central Television Station for two consecutive years. She has held solo concerts in China and the US.

She says there are equal opportunities for men and women in science, while admitting that women are a very small percentage of all Chinese scientists. She urges government policies to nurture women science cadres, to open up employment for graduates and loosen age requirements on retirement, 55 for women, 60 for men.


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