In the palm of her hand

By Zhou Wenting(Shanghai Star)
Updated: 2014-11-28 17:09:09

Yuan Lifu and her husband Li Bingsheng pose for wedding photos 48 years after they first tied the knot thanks to NGO Frame the Vow. Photo provided to Shanghai Star

Yuan Lifu and Li Bingsheng's relationship has spanned more than half a century and survived remarkable hardship. Zhou Wenting has their story.

It all started in the summer of 1958, when Li Bingsheng walked past a short-haired young lady squatting on the ground and writing in a book placed on her knees near Tian'anmen Square. Cupid's arrow hit him.

The young woman was Yuan Lifu, who had once visited a fortune-teller who read her palm and told her that one day she would meet a man that she could rely on for a lifetime. Until that moment, Yuan didn't know that man was Li.

Yuan was born in Hunan province in 1937 and was raised by her uncle. She dropped out of school several times because of the family’s poor financial circumstance, but still managed to enroll in Tsinghua University where she was Li's classmate.

Li and Yuan developed crushes on each other but never expressed their affection. Romance was forbidden in college at that time.

In 1962, they attended a dance marking their university graduation. Afterwards, Li and Yuan took a stroll through the university's dimly lit corridors. "We were walking side by side and didn't talk. Suddenly she stopped, and said, 'I need to ask my uncle's opinion first'. We knew what each other was thinking about," says Li, 76.

After graduation Li became a teacher at Tsinghua University and Yuan continued her graduate studies. They were together and enjoying the best years of their lives. But the sweet time came to an end four years later when Yuan was offered a job in Baotou in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region and she had to go.

Two months before she was set to depart, the couple decided to get married. They got registered, visited a photography studio where their picture was taken dressed in their everyday street wear, and invited a couple of friends for a dinner in a colleague's dorm.

Yuan Lifu and her husband Li Bingsheng pose for wedding photos 48 years after they first tied the knot thanks to NGO Frame the Vow. Photo provided to Shanghai Star

They were apart for four years, meeting only once a year when Yuan took a business trip to Beijing. "We held the same picture, looked at the starry sky and thought of each other," Li says.

Four years later, Li applied to work in Baotou and not long after that, Yuan gave birth to two sons.

"We were apart for four years, so we cherished the days together and never wasted time in blaming each other. Life wasn't romantic or colorful at that time but it was like a cup of tea with a taste that lingers in your mouth for the whole day, and you don't want to miss it every day," Li says.

The family moved to Ningbo, Zhejiang province, in the early 1990s. The older son moved to the United States and the younger boy started his own business in Ningbo.

In 2005, their peaceful life was shattered when Yuan suffered a serious illness after taking the wrong medication. "She lost her memory and couldn't recognize anyone but me," Li says.

That was a difficult time for Li. He locked Yuan in the bedroom to prevent her from sneaking away and getting lost. On one freezing night she managed to leave the house, Li got out of bed and dashed out into the street bare-footed to look for his wife.

Miraculously, Yuan recovered fully five years later and they embarked on a blissful life in their twilight years. Li prepares breakfast for his wife every morning and wakes her up. He always calls her "my lover", a term usually avoided by the Chinese elderly.

Earlier this year, Li collected the pictures and memories of their life journey spanning nearly 80 years and made them into a PowerPoint slideshow. He collected his wife's pictures throughout her stages of life from a little infant in her mother's arms.

He can look at discolored and smudged black-and-white group pictures that were taken when Yuan graduated junior and senior high school, and point out his wife in an instant.

Li says the only time they argue with each other is when she complains about his cooking skills.

"We've felt a close affinity to each other through our lives and now hope to share the rest of our lives healthily and happily together," Yuan says.

"I'm lucky to have met the person destined for me in the palm of my hand," she says.

Yuan Lifu and her husband Li Bingsheng pose for wedding photos 48 years after they first tied the knot thanks to NGO Frame the Vow. Photo provided to Shanghai Star

About the couple

Him: Li Bingsheng, 76

Her: Yuan Lifu, 77

Married: Jan 15, 1966

Note: Their photo session was paid for by Shanghai-based NGO Frame the Vow, which gives elderly couples a chance to take wedding photos they did not have all those years ago.

WeChat: framethevow

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