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Hundred Portraits 百家照 / 百人像

Mom loved photos, taking it, modeling and keeping them. Along with this Three Hundred Tang Poems, a toy mailbox are the only thing I have of her.

One of my hobbies, is to take pictures, too.

My mother Lü Youlan was born on the Saturday, 1934.08.11,  (阴历7月初二 , the year of the Dog) and committed suicide on Wednesday 1968.5.29 during the hight of Cultural Revolution, a couple of days shy of the Children’s Day of June 1. She left me a bag of candies and a photo.

Cameras were rare during her time. But she managed to have it as a hobby, Most photos were from commercial studio, which was the norm, and it was widely used for gifting to friends, even during my time in the 1970s.

The trade mark of the CulRev was to destroy anything foreign and old. Photographs were front and center in the stormy path. Relatives, friends and foes could be quick on their toe to expose your sin, real or trumped up,  to safe their own skin, such as her own brother.

So, I’m stunned, till this day, whenever I look at these photos. I’m eternally grateful to the people who risked their lives to save it, and gave me this precious gift. Although I’ve been seeking and religiously collecting, the major part of the collection was given to me before 1979 while I was living in Beijing, even I couldn’t remember exact who, where and when.

When they passed it on to me, I was a teenager, who could careless about old photos. Then I left Beijing for Hong Kong in the autumn of 1979, and moved around a lot before settling down in New York in 1988. I didn’t start the genealogy research till 1993, I suppose that I had an inkling of the callings, and kept these photos.

The survival of these photos is a pure miracle.

2024 would be her 90th birthday. I’d like to commemorate it by writing some essays, with something that she treasured.

Among hundreds of photographs, I knew very few people. By writing these guesstimates, I also hope that the descendants of these photos could find these treasured images for their posterity.

Thank you for bringing joys into her life, now mine.

Author’s Note

Paragraphs in italic is guesstimates. If a name had different spelling than pinyin, it will be noted at first occurrence.

Some details might seem inconsequential and redundant but it’s my effort, to record history as accurate as I possibly can.

Published in📚 Mom's 百家照

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