A Chinese beat for the world stage

Singer-songwriter Zhang Yixing enables mainstream music from his homeland to go global, Xing Wen reports.

By Xing Wen | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-04-26 08:33
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Zhang performs the single Flying Apsaras which was inspired by the Dunhuang murals in Gansu province.  CHINA DAILY

Most Chinese born since the 1990s know the quote: "Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration". This saying is frequently found on posters that grace their primary school classrooms' walls.

This adage, widely attributed to American inventor Thomas Edison, emphasizes that great accomplishments rely less on innate talent than on relentless hard work. And it has long served as the motto for pop star Zhang Yixing, who was born in Changsha, Hunan province, in 1991.

Zhang, who's also known by his stage name, Lay, wears many hats, including singer-songwriter, music producer, dancer and actor.

Scouted for his adorable appearance at the age of 6, he first appeared on TV in the drama, We the People.

Later, his early exposure to music, and his study of instruments like piano and guitar, paved the way for his participation in various TV musical-talent shows.

In 2008, Zhang launched his music career after winning a global casting audition for South Korean giant SM Entertainment. Four years later, he rose to fame as a member of K-pop boy band EXO.

Since 2015, he has shifted his focus to the home market, expanding his repertoire to include film, TV dramas and reality shows. He has garnered over 50 million followers on Sina Weibo.

He says the importance of hard work on the path to success is indisputable.

Despite juggling multiple roles, he finds himself easily transitioning among them.

"Entering a scene naturally puts me in the right mindset," he says.

But Zhang explains that he began to question this inspiration-versus-perspiration motto that had guided him as he entered his 30s and reflected on his career.

"I sometimes felt exhausted," he admits.

"Could I achieve success without the one percent inspiration? Not necessarily. Now, I believe both hard work and inspiration are equally vital."

Today, Zhang is determined to find his own balance between diligence and inspiration on the road to new achievements.

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