Dominic Johnson-Hill & Laura Hutchinson
In 2003, British-born Dominic Johnson-Hill moved back to Beijing from Shanghai. He then proceeded to whisk Canadian Laura Hutchinson away from her then-beau, who also happened to be Dominic’s good friend. (The three have remained good friends to this day.) Dominic and Laura have been married for six years now, and are the founders and owners of Plastered T-Shirts. Both have lived in Beijing for over 11 years, and are now settled in a Beijing courtyard with their three daughters: Prudence (9), Winnie (5) and Rosie (3).
Where was your first date? Dominic: Our first date was at Café Sambal. And I was pretending to read The Economist.
Laura: The first time we met was in The Tree lounge and then our first date was Café Sambal, for which I was an hour late. And he looked so smart [reading The Economist].
What is your favorite thing about your spouse?
Dominic: I love her for a million reasons. Her love of life, and her sense of adventure.
Laura: He’s very funny and always makes me laugh. It’s what I noticed when I met him. He had me laughing right away and still does. Also, he has a good sense of adventure.
Is there a couple that inspires you?
Dominic: I would have to say Laura’s parents. And former President Jiang Zemin and his wife.
Laura: My parents are pretty impressive. They’re still really in love and they’ve been married for almost 40 years.
Where is the most romantic place in Beijing?
Laura: The old CCTV tower in Haidian.
Dominic: Yes, that’s the most romantic place in Beijing. There’s a revolving restaurant; you have a lovely dinner and just watch Beijing go around you.
Do you celebrate your wedding anniversary?
Dominic: We celebrate eights, like Plastered 8 and anything eight. We like eight.
Laura: We don’t celebrate our one-year. We met on August the 8th, which is pretty lucky. So on the 8th of every month, we do something small, like go out for lunch together.
In what ways does your partner inspire you?
Dominic: She inspires me to achieve, to follow through with my dreams and my ideas. Without her, I would never have done Plastered.
Laura: He inspires me to do things that I would never dream of doing, such as traveling to North Korea with a 7-month-old child. He inspires me in all aspects of life, with any ideas that I have.
If you had never met …
Laura: I can’t imagine it.
Dominic: I’d be looking for Laura.
Lue Zhiqiang & Dorothea Adam
Dorothea Adam first came to Beijing in 2003 to study Mandarin. The following year she left her home country of Germany permanently to start a life with Beijing-born Lue Zhiqiang. Together they founded the famous alternative music venue, Yugong Yishan, and a year later celebrated their wedding there. The couple has a bilingual son, Yiming (3) who speaks German and Mandarin.
How did you meet?
Lue: In 2003, I owned a bar called Loup Chante. A lot of punk and rock bands played there. I was at the bar everyday and she would visit.
Dorothea: He opened the bar during the time of SARS when I was studying. There was not much going on at the time; everyone was out of town or hiding at home. A friend of mine told me about this nice little place, so I went along one time and that’s how we met.
What was your wedding like?
Dorothea: It was in May of 2005. We just thought we’d do something simple and invite our friends to Yugong Yishan for a party.
Lue: There were 100 bottles of Prosecco and over 200 people.
What’s the key to a solid relationship?
Lue: First, you have to have the feeling that the person you’re with is a good person. Then, there’s the feeling that you really want to be together. We did have some difficult times but we were able to help each other, that’s also very important.
Dorothea: Apart from loving each other, we have a common way of thinking. There’s no huge gap in how we see things. For me, I think it’s also important that we fight a lot, especially because we work together. We don’t have time to put problems aside; we just have to deal with them.
What quality do you most admire about your partner?
Lue: She has this intimate understanding of me.
Dorothea: No matter what question I have in my life, he takes the time to dive into the problem and always has advice for me. He knows where the real problem lies.
Do you share the same taste in music?
Lue: Everyone is different. There is some music she likes that I don’t and vice versa.
Dorothea: We are very eclectic in the way we select music for ourselves and for the venue, but often we share the same taste.
What is the most important thing your partner has taught you?
Dorothea: He taught me to think outside of my boxes. He also helped me find out what I really want in my life, which is a great gift.
Lue: There’s so much. She has taught me a lot and we are still learning as a couple.
Rong Rong & Inri
Chinese photographer Rong Rong first met Japanese photographer Inri in 1999 at his photo exhibition in Japan. While they couldn’t speak to one another, they communicated through the Chinese characters in the photo captions. A year later, Inri moved to Beijing to learn Chinese and be with Rong Rong. The two married in Japan in 2001. They currently live in Beijing with their three boys and run Three Shadows Photography Art Centre in Caochangdi, which they founded together in 2007.
When did you know it was love?
Rong Rong: I knew on the second day. On the first day I met her, I didn’t know who she was, but on the second day I saw her work and I knew it was her.
Inri: I realized I loved him when I first saw his [photographs]. At that time, I liked his work and I wanted to get to know him better.
What is the key to staying together?
Rong Rong: We have the same beliefs, but if I say them, they will lose their meaning.
Inri: I think it’s not about character, but it has more to do with fate. I think it is fate that we are together. There are some things I like and some things I dislike about him, but we’ve been together for so long because of our connection.
How do your children influence you as a couple?
Rong Rong: Our children are an extension of our life; they reflect ourselves. They make us truly feel our existence.
Inri: Now because of the children we have a stronger connection in life, and a connection besides photography. They extend our relationship.
What role has your partner played in your life?
Rong Rong: She is my space. I am her space. My shortcomings become her strengths and her shortcomings become my strengths.
Inri: He’s very creative. I rather worship him.
Do you have any advice for other couples?
Rong Rong: I cannot give any suggestion to a new couple, because their heart is not my heart.
Inri: A good relationship is when you don’t want anything from each other. There’s no purpose for being together; you just want to be with someone.
If you had never met …
Rong Rong: If we never met, there would be no children and no romance. So there’s no "if," only fate.
Inri: "If" is for the future, not for the past.