Liu Wei wins the final of China's Got Talent, at Shanghai Stadium.
Photos by Yong Kai / China Daily
Cai Xiuqin is third in the national contest.
The armless pianist who plays with his toes was the unanimous winner at a spectacular show in Shanghai, Shi Jing reports
Liu Wei, who plays the piano with his toes, was crowned champion of China's Got Talent on Sunday. Four months after the show started in late June, the final was held at Shanghai Stadium. The 23-year-old armless pianist from Beijing amazed an audience of about 70,000 and the judges by singing the song You Are Beautiful, and playing the keys with just his toes.
Liu defeated six other contestants in the first two rounds of text message votes and beat 7-year-old runner-up, the stand-up comedian Zhang Fengxi, in the last round of voting.
He could not hold back his tears when he was awarded the crown. When asked why he was crying, his words took most people by surprise.
"Shou Junchao (his rap singing fellow contestant) and I are actually very close friends behind the scenes. Though we are on the same stage I'm not pleased at having beaten him," Liu said.
Liu will be invited to perform on Taiwan singer Jolin Tsai's world tour and will also have a three-month stint at Las Vegas. He is also likely to get a contract with Fremantle Media and Sony Music Entertainment.
Nevertheless, Liu seemed quite calm during his TV interview after the show wrapped up. He said he is an ordinary person and will keep composing music of his own.
"I really do not care how people regard me. It is enough for me to do the things I like. When other people express their regret and sorrow because I lost both arms, I can tell them confidently that I have perfect feet," he said.
Liu lost his arms when he was 10 after touching a high-voltage wire during a game of hide-and-seek.
At the time he dreamed of becoming a soccer player. He was encouraged by Liu Jingshen, vice-chairman of the Beijing Disabled Persons' Federation, to do daily chores with his feet and started swimming two years later. He won two gold medals and one silver at the National Swimming Championship for the Disabled in 2002.
By the age of 19, Liu had taught himself how to play the piano with his feet and started composing and producing music, practicing more than seven hours every day.
One year later, he was given the chance to work with the famous Hong Kong pop star Andy Lau and they composed the song Let It Be.
"Music is like water and air to me. I can't live without it," Liu Wei has said.
The jury panel of China's Got Talent, Shanghai stand-up comedian Zhou Libo, Taiwan singer-actress Annie Yi and mainland pop composer Gao Xiaosong, all praised Liu's performance.
"We all fought for our dreams when we were young, but no one has fought as hard as you," Gao said at one of the auditions.
"You tell us that to realize our dreams, we need to spare no pain," Yi said.
Zhou said Liu Wei should join the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra.
"There are only two options for the rest of my life: die as soon as possible or live life loud," Liu said during one show, inspiring thousands of people across China.
Special awards were given to six contestants - including Zhang Aiqing, known as "China's Shirley Temple" - to recognize their contributions.
Text message voting was revived for the final after it was suspended by the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television in late 2007.
Jin Lei, chief director of the show, said all profits from text messaging would be given to the Shanghai Charity Foundation.
The final also featured winners and finalists from the Got Talent series in Britain and the United States, including the winner of the third series of Britain's Got Talent, the British dance troupe Diversity; runner-up of the second series of Britain's Got Talent, the dance group Signature; Recycled Percussions, third on the fourth season of America's Got Talent; and Paul Potts, winner of the first series of Britian's Got Talent.