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Madame Peng (centre) among the official graduation party - Sir Richard Taylor, Steve Maharey, Chris Kelly and Lady Janine Mateparae.

Doctorate caps 'big' birthday for China’s First Lady

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Click here to for an Chinese translation of this article - 点击此处这篇文章的中国翻译。

Madame Peng Liyuan, First Lady to the President of the People’s Republic of China, was the toast of Wellington’s Chinese community after receiving an honorary doctorate today to loud applause at Massey University.

And the celebrations continued right up till her departure from the Wellington campus, as an enthusiastic crowd of about 200 well-wishers that gathered outside the College of Creative Arts building, farewelled her with a stirring rendition of “Happy Birthday” in her native language.

The invitation-only ceremony saw Madame Peng, an accomplished musician, renowned soprano, opera performer and Professor of Music, receive her doctorate during a whirlwind stop at the campus, which formed part of an official state visit to New Zealand with her husband, President Xi Jinping.

University Chancellor Chris Kelly, who led the doctorate ceremony, says the Doctor of Literature (honoris causa) bestowed upon Madame Peng was in recognition of her international contributions to the performing arts and health and education programmes.

In response, through a translator, Madame Peng expressed her “heartfelt thanks”, describing Massey University as the “leading university in New Zealand” that had produced many outstanding graduates including government ministers, Olympic champions, an All Black coach and many business leaders.

“All are important contributors to the prosperity of the country and I believe, with this wonderful faculty and its students, Massey University will enjoy an even greater future," she said.

After being wished “happy birthday" by Mr Kelly, Madame Peng, who acknowledged it was "a big day for me”, was escorted around an exhibition of work from graduating industrial and fashion design students by College of Creative Arts Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Claire Robinson.

Fashion design student Yanna Petter’s exhibit, of multi-functional and recyclable garments that can also be transformed into bags, piqued the curiosity of Madame Peng, who said she “had never seen anything like it in China”.

As  a parting gift, Madame Peng presented a collection of traditional porcelain Chinese dolls while, in response, she was presented with a rare woollen shawl with connections to Ngāi Tahu ancestry by leading Ngāi Tahu designer and college Māori development director, Professor Ross Hemera.

Illustrious Massey alumnus Sir Richard Taylor, who read the citation ahead of the conferral of Madame Peng’s doctorate, also presented her with a gift of works and souvenirs from Weta Workshop, which is marking 20 years in operation including he said "16 of these in a special partnership with China”.

During her doctorate acceptance speech, Madame Peng also acknowledged the longstanding and strong relationship Massey University has with China including the signing of a “tripartite” partnership with leading Chinese universities.



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