Over the weekend I hosted my long-time stalker-turned-online-friend Xuelin from Penang. You see, she’s going to get married next year, and she’s been actively contributing to my content by bouncing off ideas and giving suggestions where necessary! She’s also extremely brilliant and knowledgeable. It’s not every day that you have a Cambridge graduate who speaks better English, Chinese and Malay than most stalking you and professing herself to be a fan.
And so, we played around a little with no concept in mind, just because photoshoots make good teambuilding activities for people who are already close in heart and soul.
THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY
This Republic of China era student dress is one of my favourite set. It’s the age of ideals and turmoil (and whirlwind romance not to forget), and we sort of imagined it as the love story between the famous Chinese poet/writer Xu Zhimo （徐志摩）and his 3 love interests starting with the most innocent one–Lin Huiyin （林徽因）. You see, Xu Zhimo had a wife Zhang Youyi who was identified by his parents to be his life partner. He rejected it vehemently, thinking that Zhang represented the old and backward Chinese, while he represented the progressive and western-centric Chinese. So when he met Lin Huiyin, a wealthy and western-educated Chinese girl, he felt that they were well-matched and she was his soul mate.
Fortunately for Lin Huiyin, she eventually married Liang Sicheng （梁思成）, father of modern Chinese architecture instead of Xu Zhimo because I honestly think that Xu Zhimo is quite a douche. But that remains my personal opinion.
THE ONE WHO WAS NEVER MEANT TO BE
Then, we have the story of Xu Zhimo and his original wife Zhang Youyi （张幼仪）. Zhang was an extremely resilient woman, who not only tolerated all the nonsense that Xu Zhimo hurled at her, but also managed to turn her life around after the divorce (forced upon her by Xu). She studied in Germany after the divorce, raising her kids with Xu by herself and managed to turn the Shanghai Women’s Commercial & Savings Bank from losses to profits within a short time. She also started her own fashion line and traded in stocks (all these were in the 1920s!).
One of the cruellest stories between Xu and Zhang was when Zhang told Xu that she’s pregnant with the second child, and Xu told her to abort it. She said that she heard that women would die from abortions. Xu coldly replied, “People also died from train accidents. Do people then stop taking trains?”. During this period, Xu was in love with Lin Huiyin (in the earlier set of pictures) when he was pursuing his degree in Cambridge.
Another story which shows how douche Xu is, was when Xu deliberately invited a lady friend over (just a normal friend). The lady friend was dressed in a western dress with her 3-inch embroidered lotus shoes. Zhang thought that it was the woman whom Xu wanted to take as his second wife. After the lady-friend had left, Zhang remarked that she looks beautiful, except that her western dress did not quite suit her tiny bound feet. Xu turned around and screamed at her, “I know that! This is exactly why I want a divorce!” [Note: He meant to say that their marriage is as incompatible as the look of having a western dress with bound feet].
“LUCKY IS THE MAN WHO IS THE FIRST LOVE OF A WOMAN, LUCKIER IS THE WOMAN WHO IS THE LAST LOVE OF A MAN”
The last love of Xu Zhimo, was Lu Xiaoman （陆小曼）, a well-known socialite in the 1920s who was previously married to Xu’s friend. She was also an extremely talented woman of her time–known for her talent in painting, writing, singing and acting. When she married Xu Zhimo, it created quite a stir as a marriage between two divorcees were considered quite radical even amongst the progressive/western-educated Chinese.
Lu lead an extravagant life, and although Xu was earning quite a high wage (1000 Yuan/month at a period when the average salary is about 5 Yuan/month), it was insufficient to sustain Lu’s lifestyle. Lu was also addicted to opium at some point. This was the frequent point of conflict between Xu and Lu.
Eventually, Xu died in a plane crash (aged 34) on his way to attend a lecture by Lin Huiyin (the schoolgirl he met as a student in Cambridge).
It’s often easy to dismiss Lu as just some frivolous socialite who was blessed with the genetic lottery and nothing more. However, many of the literati of her time had high praises for her literary and artistic talents. And the reason why she was addicted to opium was not that she had nothing better to do. She had some health issues which caused her to be in a lot of pain, so she started taking opium as a pain-relief. Eventually, after the death of Xu and her other friend, she quit it on her own accord.
When Xu’s plane crashed, his personal effects that were left behind included many landscape paintings by Lu. He would often carry her paintings to meet established painters to seek advice and input for her.
I guess these 3 love stories very melancholically and beautifully encapsulates the age of the Republic of China.
AND, because we had a bit of time left, I did a quick Qing dynasty styling for Xuelin as well. She somehow looks a bit like Royal Consort Ling from the Story of Ruyi.
I also made her do an “Ip Man having lunch with angry wife” shot 😛 She kinda reminded me of Ip Man’s wife…
That’s all for today! Yes, lightning speed photoshoot and editing. 😛 Cos I felt productive.