A Hollywood Romance Made in China

How I met my husband (regardless of what he may tell you)

Aimee Liu
Human Parts
Published in
7 min readMar 29, 2023

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At the Ming Tombs, 1979. Courtesy of author.

I’m holding a snapshot my mother took of me at the Ming tombs on the day my husband claims we met. Having just visited the excavated Dingling burial chamber — a dank underground mausoleum that the Red Guard trashed and emptied during the Cultural Revolution — I was making my way up the ramp to the wing-roofed Soul Tower when Mom told me to turn around.

She caught me in full tourist kit, hands full of camera equipment, LeSportsac slung over my shoulder, my dark hair yanked into a long ponytail. I’m wearing my personal uniform of that era: a collarless white vintage grandfather shirt tied at the waist with a bright colored Indian sash that Mom gave me. I’m by myself except for a couple of Chinese passersby. I look sober, annoyed by my mother’s insistence on framing me in her shot, but also alert and expectant, as if some part of me knew that my life had already begun to pivot on that warm gray day.

Although finding a husband was not one of my official goals as I toured China, the prospect made sense to me. Even as a child, I knew I’d have to travel far and wide to meet my man. My reasoning was basic fairy tale logic: if I was destined for one true love out of all the millions of men in the world, what were the chances I’d find him next door?

My parents had journeyed from Shanghai and Milwaukee, respectively, to meet in D.C. What romantic irony it would be if I had to travel from New York to China on a heritage trip to my father’s birthplace in order to meet my own husband. A few minutes after Mom snapped that photo, though, I was surrounded by a bunch of overheated American men who were most definitely not contenders.

Photo by Serg Balak on Unsplash

Brief encounters in Beijing

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Aimee Liu
Human Parts

Author, Asian-American novels (Glorious Boy), nonfiction on eating disorders (Gaining), writing, wellness. Published @Hachette. MFA & more@ aimeeliu.net