Michael Jackson's legion of Chinese fans wept across the Chinese mainland on Friday as news of his sudden death spread like wildfire.
The superstar, whose music took the mainland by storm as it ventured on the road to reform, was everywhere on Friday, on websites and television, in conversations, on the roads and off them, and at special memorial services in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu and other cities.
The death of the pop icon was the top news on popular Internet portals Sohu.com and Sina.com, with many of his fans saying he was "the most remarkable singer ever".
Hundreds of thousands of fans posted their comments in Sina.com chat rooms, and surprisingly about 60 percent of them said they loved Jackson best for his dancing.
Hours after Jackson's sudden death after a heart attack in Los Angeles, Chinese singers, producers and music company insiders joined in a chorus of praise.
Cui Jian, the Chinese mainland's "godfather of rock-'n'-roll", said: "There'll never be anyone like Michael Jackson."
Jackson had the most profound influence on music videos in China, he said. "There were few choices when we started making music videos, and Jackson's dance in Bad was so impressive Every step he took was fluid and powerful."
Singer Zhang Liangying, who has topped Chinese pop charts with 15 No 1 singles, couldn't find words to describe her feelings. "I was thinking of going to London to attend his concert next month. But that was not to be It's so sad."
Hundreds of millions of Chinese were attracted to pop because of Jackson, Taihe Rye Record Company vice-president Zhan Hua said. "His success, commercially and critically, influenced a generation of Chinese music fans."
His top-selling album was Thriller, released in 1982, but became available on the mainland years later.
Jackson never visited the Chinese mainland, though he performed in Taiwan in 1993. He, however, had plans to perform in Shanghai during his world tour next year. The concert could have coincided with the 2010 World Expo.
Zhang Rui, chairman of Jackson's Chinese fan club, had plans to visit London for his July 13 concert. He saved yuan by yuan to book his tickets and hotel. But now he is heartbroken.
"More than 10 of Jackson's Chinese fans were to fly to London. We were all going to meet there," Zhang said. "Jackson loved his Chinese fans. Once he even sent me his autograph, thanking his fans in China."
A website dedicated to Jackson on the mainland, Mjjcn.com, held special ceremonies across cities to mourn his death.
In Beijing, more than 30 Jackson fans assembled near Houhai Lake last night, and observed a candle-light vigil and sang his songs.
Wei Wei, 26, a software developer who organized the vigil, said: "We've been celebrating his birthday and release of his new albums."
"We got together to watch his concerts on big screens, sing his songs and a lot of people tried to imitate his dance steps," said Wei, who became a Jackson fan at 13.
Though Bad was the first Jackson album to hit mainland stores (in 1988), his We Are The World performance at Live Aid concert in 1985 made him popular on the mainland.
A gigantic billboard was put up in Shanghai's People's Square, advertising Jackson's Bad album, recalled music critic Fei Qiang. "It was a huge thing in those days."
Jackson's fan following on the mainland grew with the release of Dangerous in the 1990s.
But it was Bad that made him a heartthrob of millions on the mainland. Bad was the first imported album Zhong Sheng, organizer of the annual Beijing Pop Music Festival, bought, though his favorite Jackson songs are: Give In To Me and Black and White from Dangerous.
On douban.com, thousands of netizens said they were shocked. Many of them said: You Are Not Alone, one of Jackson's most popular songs.