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Artist puts her stamp on life

THERE'S a Chinese saying that a young and beautiful girl is a gift of nature, but a beautiful mature woman is a work of art.

Wearing her favorite Issey Miyaki dress, Wang Xiaohui - who is in (gasp!) her fifties - still looks good.

But though many Chinese people tend to focus on and remark on a woman's superficial appearance (even when it's irrelevant), the reality is that Wang is multitalented. She is a photographer, a film maker and an architect.

Wang has recently launched two landscape stamps she designed for the Philatelie Liechtenstein Post Office. Titled "24 Houses in Liechtenstein," the stamps are based on photographs she took during a visit in 2010.

They are exhibited in the high-end tourist and shopping hub Xintiandi.

"I am very careless about beauty care and skin treatment," Wang says in answer to questions about how she takes care of herself. "I like Issey Miyaki because the dresses and clothing with many pleats are so convenient for travel. I never wear high heels. They are torture."

She says it only takes her three minutes to dress, put on makeup and jewelry before a social gathering or function.

"In my eyes, taste and temperament are in the blood."

At her age - remember she's considered old in China in her fifties - other women usually scale back their lives to care for their family, slow down and do everything they can to maintain their personal health.

But Wang, who is single, is still doing what's important and meaningful for herself.

"I work 16 hours every day," she said. "I have no time for dating."

It is said she is never short of admirers and those seeking a relationship.

"Oh, I hope so." she says with a smile.

Wang's tastes are pretty simple and she often eats at the canteen in Tongji University when she's in town.

"I don't enjoy household chores, but I am a good cook," she says.

She's no stranger to pain and loss.

Born in Tianjin in 1957, she was a little girl when her parents divorced, considered shameful at the time.

During the chaotic "cultural revolution" (1966-76), universities were closed. In 1977 when universities reopened, Wang scored well on the national entrance examination and enrolled in Shanghai Tongji University at the age of 20.

It was there she met what she calls her "once in a life-time soul mate" - Yu Lin, who was an architecture professor.

Everything was on track for a successful life in Europe after their overseas study, but in 1991 when they were traveling to the Czech Republic to attend Wang's solo exhibition, they were involved in a road accident. Yu was killed and Wang was badly injured.

"It was a holiday," she recalled. "We were so happy because I'd just quit my job teaching architecture at university to devote myself full time to photography, We were driving and listening to Verdi's 'Aida,' his favorite opera."

The accident was transformative.

While others try to conceal their scars and let time heal wounds, Wang addressed the pain head-on, "tearing at the scabs," in her words. She wrote a book, "My Vision Diary," a best-seller about Yu Lin and his death.

"Even today I see him as a perfect man," Wang said. "His good looks, talents, honesty and caring nature were unparalleled. I'm grateful I could spend the best time of my life with him."

"My Vision Diary" brought Wang instant recognition and praise.

Critics say she exploited the tragedy to make a name for herself and to drop the names of German celebrities who are her friends.

Wang wasn't too concerned.

She is now a cultural ambassador between Germany and China, promoting cultural exchanges in art, literature and architecture.

She has no plans to stop working and has a long list of projects on her waiting list, yet she admits that at times she feels exhausted.


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