60-year love story immortalized in graphic memoir

May.10,2017

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the French version of the graphic memoir.(Photo by press

By Cheng Lu, Fang Ning, Yuan Huijing

For Rao Pingru and his late wife Mao Meitang, love is deeper than the ocean and lasts beyond death.

After Mao passed away in 2008, less than five months before their 60th wedding anniversary, Rao, now 96, drew more than 200 pictures to memorialize his wife and compiled them into 18 albums.

His graphic memoir, titled "Our Story," was first published by Guangxi Normal University Press in 2013, and has sold more than 200,000 copies.

In January, a French version was released and more than 26,000 copies have been published. During recent months, it was the top seller in the China category on the Amazon France website.

An English version is expected to be published soon.

"This story took place in China, but will be read and shared by audiences across the world. It helps the elderly remember the past and makes youth yearn for everlasting love," said Yin Muyun, editor of the book.

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Rao Pingru attends a book promotion campaign in France in January.(Photo by press)

Overcome by the death of his beloved wife, the former magazine editor picked up his pencils and crayons, and drew everything he remembered about her, from their first date and wedding ceremony to first argument and her last teardrop on her deathbed.

Rao's granddaughter posted several pictures on Chinese microblogging service Weibo in 2012, which earned emotional comments and attracted publishers.

"Art is the best way to reach people. I just wanted record our story for our grandchildren, so they know more about their grandma," said Rao.

Their story includes romance, war, separation, disease and death.

It all began in 1946 when Rao and his father visited Mao's home to arrange their marriage.

A caption under that picture reads: "My father and I visited her home. Through an open window, I suddenly saw a beautiful twenty-something girl sitting in front of a mirror putting on lipstick."

Both were born into wealthy families in east China's Jiangxi Province, and Rao said they fell in love at first sight.

Another picture shows Rao, too shy to say "I love you", singing an English song "Oh, Rosemary, I love you" to express his feelings to Mao on a date in the park.

As well as happy memories, the memoir also tells of bitter experiences.

During a time when Mao looked after children alone in Shanghai, her work involved carrying 15-kg bags of cement for the construction of the Shanghai Natural History Museum.

"Every time I walk past the museum, I pause and look. I don't know which steps were made from the cement she carried, I wonder if her disease may have been caused by that experience," said Rao.

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Rao Pingru attends a book promotion campaign in France in January.(Photo by press

In 1992, Mao was diagnosed with diabetes and uremia. Rao stopped working to care for her.

The last picture shows the family's final visit to the hospital on March 19, 2008.

"I saw a tear in the corner of her right eye. In the afternoon, She left me for good," Rao wrote in the caption under the picture.

He kept a handful of her hair tied with a red string, which he took to France, along with their wedding rings, for the book tour in January.

"Death parted my wife and I. But by drawing our story, she will be with me forever," said Rao.

XINHUA

(Editor: Lu Ye)

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