Sha Bihong: Love is Joint Happiness (Excerpt)
After studying in Germany, she returned to China and worked from 1994 as the editing director of the program of CCTV, Women, Half the Sky and finished a range of documentaries that focused on women and children in poor regions, such as One Dream for Generations of Women, Flowery Spring and Fruitful Autumn, Social Care. The CCTV program Story she hosted moved many people by accounting a real story of life every day.
In 2003, the new production directed by Sha Bihong won Gold Award of Hamburg International Short Film Festival, and Sha was selected as a representative “Oriental Directress” by the series World’s Legendary Directress made by the Italian Television.
Sha Bihong: Love is Joint Happiness
Article by Chen Weiwen Photo by Gao Jin Makeup by Dao Dao
She pursues beauty, but not mechanically, she’s full of passion but not pretentious. She admires beauty because it accommodates sincerity and kindness -- two elements that run through her life.
- Who has influenced you most?
- My mother, who taught me to tolerate and show goodness. In 1998 when my mother died, I stayed sad for a long time. However, the best way to miss somebody is to inherit something. Under tough conditions, I directed a series of programs that focused on the disadvantaged for I hoped to sow love more widely and further, just like my mother.
- What do you think to be your most prominent personal traits?
- My passion is flame that never extinguishes. Once, at one midnight when I was a student in Harbin, as I was going to the toilet, I suddenly found bright snow all over the world. Then I excitedly shouted and awaked other roommates. Over 20 students came out first, then there were over a hundred. They made snowmen and fought with snowballs. Early in the morning, the playground was full of snowmen of various shapes and they were records of a night of surging youth. On another rainy day, I invited some students to Songhua River. On the way, some young men in the boat sang any song related to rain they could think of. Just before we approached the shore, large amounts of white moths drowned on the river surface like pear flowers. They thought the lamp in the water was where light came from, so all flied toward death. The scene was magnificently sad so that I cried. At the same time I realized that life is like the experience of the moths, and what matters is not the result but the beautiful process!
- To live a rich life, what is the most important thing for a woman?
- We should have more emotional carriers and do not put all our hopes for wonders in life just on love. The source of joy is not merely the man that belongs to a woman. Of course, I believe in love, but I have my own independent life and I have always been living according to my own wishes. Men are not Gods, and we should not view them as immortally burning fire but think of ourselves as fuel.
- How do you view the pros and cons in life?
- For example, after losing money, most people would become quite angry. I'd rather lose money rather than one of my favorite books or other objects. Because if someone found the money, it will still be used, but those that are associated with our emotions might be unique and could never be regained after the loss. It is very important to distinguish success from failure in life.
She likes a forthright and sincere emotion that is close to the human mind while disliking ambiguity and, what is worse, the so-called "game" - a word that signifies blasphemy to emotion of us.
- How is your marriage?
- My husband and I have a special way of living our common life after marriage. I met him in Germany and now he works in Shanghai. Because of the needs of work, we have to stay in separation for long. I, working in Beijing, can only travel in between. I became a mother after thirty. Then as long as there was time, even if it was at night, I would fly back to Shanghai. Seeing my daughter, I will be occupied by a sweet feeling that comes from the depth of my heart.
For a marriage separated in two places, I think the most important thing is trust. And, I hold a kind of speechless gratitude for my husband. Not every man has that tolerance and patience. All is just because his love for me and trust in me, otherwise it would be difficult to sustain the status.
- What do you think of extramarital affairs?
- I ever experienced a man's courtship outside the airport and consistent receiving of a young boy’s love letters and flowers, but I just smiled and told them clearly that it was impossible. Someone said: "You’ve been abroad for that long, so your attitude toward love must be an open one." But in fact, foreigners also value marriage loyalty and despise concealment or deception. I do not like ambiguous love and belittle those who treat extramarital affairs or sex as a game.
- In the current flood of fast food-like love, how do you think of temptation?
- I heard that, a woman who has three or more true, male friends is one with a mature personality, because not every woman has the ability to change a male friend that she likes into a bosom friend. That requires wisdom and composure. Compared with the "one-night stand", I prefer to turn temporary desire between men and women into long-term friendship and poetry.
- After your mother's death, family love must remain as one of the most important parts of your life?
- Yes, three brothers and sisters and I established the Shashi Film & Television Corporation, for which I designed the studio: clouds made of plaster were hung from the blue ceiling, and I asked workers to sculpt trees that I painted ... A decoration worker said, after we finished renovation for you, we have all become artists! In the studio, intimate talks of the four siblings of us are the most pleasant thing. Sometimes we make an appointment to climb mountains or drink tea together. I remember that during the days after our mother’s death, we were depressed and unable to accept this fact. On the Dragon Boat Festival of that year, after I worked on program recording till three o'clock in the early morning, I turned back to my residence exhaustedly and then started to sew Hebao pockets for my brothers and sisters, just the same as the time when our mother was alive. The pockets of that night, which were decorated with colorful lines, deeply moved them together with auspicious pictures posted all over the house. They understood my wish: to cheer up the family and encourage us to go on happily, which was also what our mother wished to see!
- It seemed that you found a partner for your father, then why do you have this idea?
- My father is the man I admire most. He is handsome and excellent in music, poetry, painting, calligraphy and lots of other arts. My parents’ love can be called a model on the earth, but memory alone could not warm my father's life in his seventies. He needed someone to accompany and care him. After the night of my mother’s leaving, I drank wine and held a painful talk with my brothers and sisters in the studio before finally making a decision: to find a wife for my father again! Because I thought that our mind should be like a broad river instead of a narrow stream! We should not build our selfish wishes on our father's loneliness. Thus, we made certain arrangements and found a wife for him. Then he had a home in Beijing.
Compared with the coat, she values the quality of underwear more. She likes to buy nice underwear. Even when she was wearing the nightgown at home alone, she always tried to make it comfortable and attractive. She believes that different underwear will generate dreams of different textures for women.
- "Refinement" has always been the background of your soul and life, is it an influence from your mother?
- Yes. My mother is a romantic and handy woman. In those poor years, kids could be totally satisfied just with clothing and food. But our mother never forgot to embroider beautiful patterns on our clothes. In each Spring Festival, my mother would do a lot of paper flowers to decorate the home, such as plum blossoms, peonies, etc. She also made exquisite fish lanterns with wicker and wire; on Dragon Boat Festival, my mother led the children to made Hebao pockets and made sweet bean buns with molds; before the Mid-autumn Festival, she would carefully keep living flowers in advance in the cellar. On the day of the festival, she then took the flowers out from the cellar and placed them everywhere in the small yard. A whole family sat together to spend a beautiful festival. In those poor years, we lived with incomparable enjoyment all because of my mother! Her love for life also infected my life.
- Being so busy, how do you enjoy bits and pieces of your life?
- In my luggage, I always carry dolls, family photos, and even bed sheet and a pillowslip. Even if it is a trip for just a night, I prefer to take a sleep in the warmth of home. I love delicious food, and there has to be fish or beef in my lunch and dinner. My friends and I joked that I was a "carnivore". I like wearing jingling jewelry and love doing needlework. I sew beautiful dresses for myself and a lot of beautiful fabrics have been saved due to this hobby. I have moved furniture several times, just to look for new feelings of residence...
Now as long as I have free tine out of the programs, I like to boil eggs with my daughter, just like what my mother did. Then we write different blessings and give them to friends and relatives. During Christmas every year, I prepare a gift several months in advance. It’s a very pleasant thing for me to buy a suitable gift and that kind of happiness fills my heart like rose fragrance.
- What abilities do you need for an exquisite life?
- It requires not only a delicate material foundation, but also a generous heart. If you just indulge in exquisite material wealth without a generous mind, the exquisite things would not be firm or stable. Only by opening your mind and becoming capable of seeing the light of gold in dust and dirt can you really enjoy an exquisite state. I always think of my interview with Tie Ning years ago. Tie Ning said that she cleaned off the polluted "junk” every few days that was not conducive to mental health. I quite agree with her point and am also willing to screen out those unpleasant things from my life while remembering the beautiful ones. I wish the home of my heart would be a garden without any haze!
Therefore, when others thought it really tough to live in the broken cave dwelling of Shaanxi for filming, I was lucky to see wildflowers at a small corner. With those flowers, I felt pleasant all night.
- Do you have particular expectations for the 45th year of age?
- I would like to enjoy leisure and quietness if have some free time then. In a room with a view, I will write whatever I want to. When tired after writing, I will plant some beautiful flowers and grass, paint with my brush or do some needlework. Then from that point, I will enjoy every part of my life.
Notes after the interview
She stood in the yard waiting for me, with calm eyes. On the balcony of the second floor, she pointed at the trees that extended to the front of the balcony: this was a magnolia, that was an osmanthus tree, and there, an acacia tree in blossom. Those pink flowers of the acacia tree, which were her favorite flowers as told by herself, were smiling in the sun of the afternoon. She said that she and her daughter felt really perfect to move their table here to have dinner.
A sweet sesame cookie with a South China flavor and some slices of watermelon are the main components of her "afternoon tea" session each day. When looking around at her garden, we saw: a white swing, a red-brick grill, flower pots where lay vivid frogs she brought from abroad, and a lovely scarecrow standing above the ground of her courtyard ... Seeing through the glass door of the living room, her daughter was looking at me, somewhat angrily but longingly. I had occupied her dear mother from noon, but what a precious afternoon it was for her to have the rare opportunity of spending time with her mother.
However, her daughter must have reason to turn happy now! In the spring of 2006, Sha Bihong told me in a call that she had moved her studio to Shanghai, and then her three family members would enjoy more time to happily stay together!
Edited by Wei Wei