T Magazine China: 20+, the Question Has Changed

For the first time in a long time, Haoran unlocks a new magazine (meaning it’s the first time he’s been on the cover of the magazine)! T Magazine China is relatively new, and doesn’t have a “tier” in terms of how it counts for magazine accomplishments, but fashion bloggers will usually group it in with VogueMe as a notable cover. For those keeping track, this is cover #11 for this year (cover was Tod’s + Tiffany & Co; he did wear a LV outfit in the shoot).

(And in case you’re wondering, the full interview for Cosmopolitan hasn’t been released yet which is why I haven’t translated it yet!)

Some background on T China: it’s owned by Feng Chuxuan and his Huasheng Media, who also owns Nylon China, Wallpaper China, Kinfolk China, and the newly launched WSJ China and Food & Wine China. The group is quickly becoming a growing contender in the Chinese media/fashion media market. Feng Chuxuan was also one of the media executives in attendance at the banquet that Tod’s threw for Haoran back in March.

The big topic on this shoot (aside from the mosquito) is the photographer in charge of the shoot: the great Japanese photographer Yoshihiko Ueda, who is known for his impressive portfolio, particularly in commercial photography. The photographer is known for his preference to keep things simple and in their natural state, so this was also Haoran’s first time starring in an unedited photoshoot.

About a month ago, one of the main fashion bloggers on Weibo had hinted that the renowned photographer would be working with a Chinese actor in his first collaboration with Chinese media, which led to a guessing game among netizens as there were several actors in Japan at the time (and as some pointed out, he could’ve come to China as well for the shoot).

Not only is this photoshoot probably one of my favorites of all time, the photographer also seemed to like Haoran a lot (though who doesn’t?) and was very gracious in his comments. The shoot primarily took place in Yoshihiko Ueda’s own private residence in Japan and as stated in the interview, only one other celebrity has ever been photographed there: Aoi Yu in 2012.

As for the interview itself, it’s actually quite short, but matches the photoshoot well as it’s quietly poignant – there’s a loneliness, a restlessness, and of course the ever present uncertainty and worry, that’s uncovered here.

(Original interview released 9.26.19)

Hayama is about a 90 minute car ride from Tokyo. The road lies parallel to a beach, and if you pass the Hosun Yamaguchi Memorial Hall, take an additional couple of turns, you’ll have arrived at Yoshihiko Ueda’s private residence.

As a two storied building from the Meiji era, the home has largely kept its traditional Japanese styling, aside from a kitchen that also operates as a restaurant (T/N: cafeteria? dining area? The Chinese word for this can mean any of the three). There is no air conditioning, and the summer is still hot, so you are completely reliant on cattail leaf fans, and an old proverb: if your heart is calm, you will naturally be cool.

“I want to buy a house like this in Beijing,” Liu Haoran says.

This type of house represents the spirit of the homeowner. To give a detail: Yoshihiko Ueda and his wife have collected over a hundred bowls and dishes (including ones from famous names) that are actually used. For example, the fruit bowl used to greet guests is a Wedgewood piece from the last century. The day before the shoot, Ueda’s students gathered here in reunion, more than 30 people, and from what we heard, didn’t leave until after midnight.

But on the other hand, this residence is very rarely open to the public. Japan’s NHK station (their national broadcasting organization) has asked to be able to film a documentary here, but were turned down. The reality is, before Liu Haoran, only Aoi Yu has ever shot a photoshoot here, and that was back in 2012.

Of course, that doesn’t really mean anything in itself. An artist’s willingness to use his own resources depends on how they envision their creative work comes together. Sometimes the reasons can’t be said, or perhaps it’s just a pure coincidence.

Whatever the case, Liu Haoran was accepted – when Ueda met him, he smiled, his eyes crinkling, and turned to tell his Chinese manager, “いいな (How good/nice)*.”

*T/N: I know we have some readers from Japan so apologies if the translation may not be perfect! Was translated into English from the Chinese translation.

All things considered, Liu Haoran is deserving of this praise. He isn’t timid and doesn’t make a fool of himself, but if you think that an actor would of course not be afraid of the camera, then you’re wrong. According to Susan Sontag (T/N: I’m quoting her directly instead of translating the paraphrased comments to make my life easier),

“To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability… All photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.” The only you can do is have the person being photographed respect themselves, in a mature way.

So when Ueda thanked “Mr. Liu for today’s performance”, he bowed. In the eyes of an elder, Mr. Liu took back something that belong to himself: though he was styled, and gave up a certain degree of “self”, he wasn’t a secondary element in this context, not a “youth” or a “didi” (younger brother).

He has long wanted to escape the title of “didi”. 22 years old, with success in his career, acknowledged in his profession. If he changed faces, most likely he wouldn’t be bound to these two words.

It’s something that constantly plagues him. Right now, Liu Haoran craves “to be able to speak up more, to make (my) own decisions. to be more of a speaker, and not just a listener”. To the point where sometimes he wants to disregard EQ.

This overwhelming but suppressed desire has made him hesitate when conversing/sharing his thoughts with producers and directors, but suddenly, an elderly man from another country has understood what he wants: Whatever you have suppressed in your heart, say it. Whether it can be heard or not depends on your own ability.

He looks at the environment around him, and feels like this is a perfect place to settle down.

Later, at the Andaz Tokyo hotel, in a suite on the 48th floor, Liu Haoran says, the urge to buy a house is just temporary, and it’s quickly put out. To someone who doesn’t even know of his schedule in two day’s time, “there is too much uncertainty.”

Two years ago, he didn’t think being impulsive was a bad thing. When he became interested in wine, he started stocking wine in the basement, and had many bottles of whisky, sake, and champagne, but he never drank them. When he wanted to go deep sea fishing, he rented a small boat in Yokohama, but wasn’t able to get pass motion sickness.

It was only until last year, when he was choosing a car that he decided practicality was most important, so got an economy car. Going back to the house, if he really was to buy that kind of house on the outskirts of Beijing, “Who would live there? With my mom and dad? It would be too cold and cheerless.”

As he’s saying this, he puts down the controller in his hand. These last few months, he’s been focusing on playing a game called “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild”. The main character, Link, has awakened from a long slumber and has been told to defeat the Calamity Ganon. This is a classic hero’s journey: the warrior’s fate depends on his determination, his skills and perseverance.

Throughout the journey, the warrior can win rewards that can help him fulfill his destiny. However, Zelda is a bit different. It tells the person controlling the character that just roaming in the wilderness is a type of heroism in itself. Heroes can be those who gave up on their mission but never gave up on themselves. People can pursue and fulfill only their own wishes.

Not sure if Liu Haoran enjoys that kind of fulfillment, but no matter what, he understands the value of it. He’s thought about it before: collecting wine, learning to sketch, practicing calligraphy, playing golf, and this includes playing games – it’s all to find a source of sustenance,

“My life is too boring. Aside from acting, work, I don’t have emotional sustenance. It’s not that I need to learn a skill, but I just want to find something (for my life) to feel more complete.”

In other words, he’s establishing his relationship with himself, by using the process of elimination.

If you think about it, Liu Haoran is like a model example in today’s entertainment industry. He became famous much earlier than expected – when he was at a performing arts school in middle school, his teacher would remind them that male actors normally achieve success at a much later age, and often won’t really emerge until thirty or forty (“You still have many hard days ahead of you”).

But for him – “it’s like winning continuous bets”, and he skyrocketed up (the industry). Liu Haoran emphasizes here, up until now, since he entered the industry, technically speaking, none of his early projects were decided (final decision) by him. It was the director’s design, and he just ended up being benefiting. The only decision he’s made is Novoland: Eagle Flag (“Because this project had its own destiny”).

*T/N: CSC’s said before Haoran decides whether he wants to take a project or not, and they’ll sit down together to discuss if it makes sense, with CSC having the final word. And Haoran basically confirms here that rumors were true – he took Novoland: Eagle Flag probably against CSC’s wishes (it’s said that CSC didn’t want him to do another drama, and such a long one at that).

So if at this time, he’s suffered from his own limitations, and didn’t have enough wisdom to digest, what can he do? What should he do?

The answer is right on his lips, but he isn’t sure of it yet: at an age where he doesn’t need to fight against limitations yet, not being in self-conflict is more important than career. He doesn’t want to say it out loud. There are some thoughts where if you say it out loud, it won’t become true. This is something that people in today’s era still believe, one of the few superstitions people still cling to.

He still plans on keeping with the tempo he has right now, to take care of and dismiss those feelings of desperation, over-enthusiasm, fear, over-sensitivities. And that includes temporary impulsive behaviors held down by his sense of propriety.

It’s like the end of this summer. In order to cooperate with the needs of the magazine, he temporarily welcomed autumn a little early. But by the sea, photographer Ueda suggested in the end that he take off the long corduroy jacket the stylist had prepared. Taking a step forward and welcoming fall for a day is good, but summer is not quite over yet.

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