A film starlet who later rose to the pinnacle of political power during the Cultural Revolution, Jiang was often depicted as an Iron Lady who rode on the coattails of her omnipotent husband.
Before she was arrested and jailed in the late 1970s, Jiang Qing was the high-profile cultural czar during the last years of Chairman Mao's rule.
She sat in the elite communist party politburo and served as the final arbiter of political correctness in China's art and culture.
I had never met Jiang Qing, but I do remember seeing her inside Beijing's Capital Theater one night in November 1971, when we watched the "Red Detachment of Women," a revolution-themed ballet she had co-produced.
A few minutes before the show started, the theater lights dimmed and a group of VIPs took the front seats. She was one of them, it turned out. All through the show, I saw her giving show-related instructions to the officials beside her.
In contrast to Jiang Qing, China's First Ladies in the 1980s and 90's kept a low public profile.
Deng Xiaoping's wife, Zhuo Lin, stayed in the background even when she accompanied Deng during his travels in and outside China.
Wang Yeping rarely tagged along Chinese president Jiang Zemin, in part because of her frail health.
Liu Yongqing, wife of former president Hu Jintao, rarely appeared --- and almost never spoke --- in public, even inside China.
Many Chinese expect Peng Liyuan to break the old mold.
"Her human touch will get Xi closer to the people," wrote microblogger @Laiyingutou. "Compared to former first ladies in China, she will definitely get more attention."
Li Yinhe, a sociologist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said the Communist Party would be wise to use Peng as a "soft weapon" at home and abroad.
"If people see that Xi has such a beautiful wife, it would make the (communist) party seem more human and less robotic," she told the New York Times.
Still, Peng's fans have one slight worry. "Our only concern is, she might unintentionally upstage our No. 1 leader," said one.