• 1921

    Born in the city of Guiyang, Guizhou Province on September 14, nickname Lanlan.


    The Xie family was wealthy and liberal-minded. Her mother, Le Bi-Chun came from a well-educated family which was illustrious in Guiyang. Her father, Xie Gen-Mei, once the pupil of Le Jia-Quan (Xie Jing-Lan’s grandfather). Le Cherished Xie’s talent, betrothed the eldest daughter to him even before he had made a name for himself. Xie Gen-Mei later became one of the key officials in the Reform Movement in the late Qing Dynasty, he also participated in the Xinhai Revolution of 1911.


    Her family moved to Hankou, Hubei Province before she was one year old.



    Her family moved to Shanghai.


    Xie Jing-Lan with her parents, 1920s

  • 1929

    Her mother was fond of nature, and never adapt to the bustle of Shanghai. Hence, Xie Gen-Mei built a villa nestled in the Ge Hill in Hangzhou, and the family settled down beside the Westlake.


    Xie Jing-Lan enrolled in an American missionary school, Hongdao Girls’ School, receiving western education. She showed extraordinary talents in music and dance. Her father treasured her talents and specially bought a piano from an American family for her to practice.


    Xie Jing-Lan knew her own mind when she was young. She was baptized as Christian while studying at Hongdao, and had confrontation with her father, as she refused to honor their ancestors in ceremonial rites.


    View of the Westlake from the villa

  • 1935

    At the age of 14, her cousin who was a student of the Hangzhou National College of Art, introduced Xie Jing-Lan to Zao Wou-Ki, who was studied in the same college.


    The Zao family and the Xie family were definitely well-matched in social status. However, Xie jing-Lan’s father believed that artists were too romantic to have a lifelong commitment to marriage. He opposed the romantic relationship between the youths. But the young couple kept in touch secretly.




    The Japanese Invasion of China began in July. Xie Jing-Lan’s mother determined to return to Guiyang with her family, to escape the war-stricken zone.


    They left Hangzhou for Jiangxi by train, then traveled to Hankou by ship. They took a train to Hunan. From Hunan to Guiyang, that was a tough road trip as they spent four days riding over the mountain road. They arrived in Guiyang three weeks later.


    Her mother passed away in two weeks after arriving at her ancestral home.


    Xie Jing-Lan and Zao Wou-ki in Guiyang, 1938

  • 1938

    Following the Hangzhou National College of Art, Zao Wou-Ki moved to Yuanling, Hunan Province. He made a two-day trip during the summer holiday to Guiyang to visit Xie Jing-Lan who was in sorrow after her mother died.


    Zao’s sincerity finally moved Xie Jing-Lan’s father, and he gave the young lovers his blessings. With her father’s permission, Xie Jing-Lan engaged Zao Wou-Ki, then enrolled in the Music Department of the National College of Art.


    Xie Jing-Lan at the Hangzhou National College of Art, late 1930s

  • 1941

    Zao Wou-Ki’s grandfather passed away. The young couple ignored the tradition of "three-year period of mourning", got married at the Registry in Hong Kong during wartime.


    The couple returned to Chongqing via Hanoi on foot to bypass the Japanese occupied territories. The one-month journey was full of suffering, their newborn son died of leukemia about one week later.




    The couple settled down on the bank of the Jialing River. Their only son was born there, named Zhao Jia-Ling.

    1941 1941
  • 1945

    After the unconditional surrender of Japan in August, the Hangzhou National College of Art moved back to the bank of the Westlake. The couple settled down in the villa on Ge Hill. Painter Lin Feng-Mian, writers Xu Chi and Wu Ming-Shi were their honored guests.


    Xie Jing-Lan entered the Shanghai Conservatory of Music and studied voice with the Russian musician Vladimir Shushlin, who was known as the “founder of the Chinese vocal singing”. Then she fell ill and was misdiagnosed, her beautiful voice was ruined and unable to continue on the path of a vocalist.


    Zao Wou-Ki planned to go to Paris to further his artistic studies. 


     With Lin Feng-Mian (left) at Hangzhou

  • 1948

    With assistance from Vadime Elisseeff, the former cultural attaché of the French Consulate, the couple finally obtained their visas after two years. Zao Wou-Ki’s father supported the couple by giving them 30,000 US dollars.


    On February 26, Xie Jing-Lan boarded the André Lebon with Zao Wou-Ki for France. 


    On April 1, the André Lebon docked at Marseille. They took the same-day night train to the Station of Lyon in Paris. The couple checked into a hotel in the Montparnasse district, then visited the Louvre in the same day evening. During the first year in France, they indefatigably learned French, visited museums and galleries, and attended concerts.


    With Zao’s families before leaving Shanghai for Paris, 1948 

  • Xie Jing-Lan on "André Lebon", 1948


  • 1949

    The couple settled down in a small studio on Rue du Moulin-Vert in the 14th arrondissement of Paris, neighbor with the famous sculptor Alberto Giacometti.


    Xie Jing-Lan became close friends with Sanyu in spite of a wide age gap. She made frequent visits to Sanyu’s studio on Rue de la Sablière, until his death in 1966.


    Zao Wou-Ki met Henri Michaux in Edmond Desjobert’s lithography studio. Michaux introduced them to Pierre Loeb, Hans Hartung, Maria Helena Vieira da Silva and Jean-Paul Riopelle, etc. They frequently visited the galleries of Denise René, Nina Dausset. They were in close consultation with rising artists, like Sam Francis from America and Pierre Alechinsky from Belgium.


    She entered the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris (CNSMDP), and studied composition under masters such as Darius Milhaud, Olivier Messiaen, and Noël & Jean Gallon.

  • 1950

    Inspired by a documentary about Martha Graham, Xie Jing-Lan became intensely interested in modern dance. Accompanying Jean-Paul Riopelle’s ex-wife Françoise Lespérance and the legendary publisher Jean-Jacques Pauvert’s wife Christiane Sauviat, she went through the Graham Technique training at Le Centre American in Paris. Their teacher was Karin Waehner. 

  • 1952

    The violinist Marcel Van Thienen turned Henri Michaux’s poem La Ralentie into a piece of music, which was first presented to the public at Galerie de France. During the event, Henri Michaux introduced Xie Jing-Lan to the composer.

  • 1954

    Attended the premiere of Déserts composed by the “Father of Electronic Music”, Edgard Varèse, at Théâtre des Champs-Elysées on December 12. Introduced by Henri Michaux, Xie Jing-Lan studied composition of electronic music under the guidance of Varèse.



    Xie Jing-Lan spent six months in Mainland China. She explored how twentieth-century avant-gardes of music, dance, and painting could adopt the essence of the extensive and profound culture of China. 



    Xie Jing-Lan divorced Zao Wou-Ki, then moved to St. Quen in the north suburb of Paris.

  • 1958

    At the age of 37, Xie Jing-Lan married Marcel Van Thienen. Changed her name from “Lanlan” to “Lalan”.


    They established their first electronic music studio in the laundry room of Marcel’s parents’ house. Edgar Varese  was their honored guest and gave advice on the experimental pieces by Xie Jing-Lan and Marcel.


    After encouraging Marcel Van Thienen to create the first musical mobile, she received a set of watercolors from Van Thienen as a gift. She started to pick up painting.


    With Marcel Van Thienen at Mareil-en-France, about 1960

  • 1959

    Based on Xie Jing-Lan’s music composition, the Brazilian modern dancer Gilberto Motta choreographed a modern dance suite titled Surréalisme 2001, to participate the choreography audition held by the Association Française de Recherches Chorégraphiques (A.F.R.E.C.) at Théâtre Récamier on June 7.


    Xie Jing-Lan had shortly participated in the research group for electronic sounds (founded by Pierre Schaeffer) and the research team Musique Algorithmique (founded by Pierre Barbaud). She took part in the concert by the Musique Algorithmique at the Musée Rodin.


    However, Xie Jing-Lan did not stay long in either group – she was skeptical about the rules in these teams, and believed that materialistic requirements would weaken the creative artist’s sensitivity to music.


    Xie Jing-Lan performed "La cantate de la baleine"

    with the Musique Algorithmique group at Musée Rodin, 23 June 1959

  • 1960

    First solo exhibition at Galerie R. Creuze in Paris. The director of Musée Cernuschi, Vadime Elisseeff, wrote the bulletin for the exhibition. In her first abstract works, Xie Jing-Lan introduced symbols and forms inspired by Chinese oracle bone scripts, ancient bronzes and stone tablets, with intense color and thick strokes. 


    The French New Wave director, Chris Marker, invited Xie Jing-Lan to compose the music score for Description of a Struggle (Description d’un combat).


    Poster of solo exhibition at Galerie R. Creuze, Paris, France  

  • 1961

    Description of a Struggle awarded the highest prize in the Berlin International Film Festival, the Golden Bea. In the same year, Xie Jing-Lan was officially recognized by the Society of Authors, Composers and Publishers of Music (SACEM) as a movie soundtrack composer.


    She collaborated with her dance teacher Karin Waehner, and composed music for performances of Waehner’s modern ballet dance group at the Théâtre Récamier in Paris and cultural centers in other cities. She also composed for the performance of Rita Roitman’s dance group at the Kaufmann Concert Hall in Manhattan, New York.

  • 1963

    Second solo exhibition at Paperback Gallery in Edinburgh, the renowned playwright of the Theatre of the Absurd, Eugène Ionesco, wrote the preface of the exhibition catalogue.

  • 1965

    Moved to Mareil in the northern suburb of Paris. She faced artist’s block, and decided to leave off painting for a year. Instead, she did assiduous research on traditional Chinese landscape painting and the philosophy of  the Laozi and Zhuangzi. Through the works by Ma Yuan (known as "Ma one-corner") and Xia Gui (known as“Xia a-half”) from the Southern Song Dynasty, she achieved a new artistic language in composition and palette.  


    Her works changed from emotional abstract paintings to peaceful landscapes particularly depicting the sun, the moon, mist, peaks and rock formations. Soft tones of white, light yellow, gray and light blue, as well as rhythmic lines that evoke calm and peaceful energy, and reflect Xie Jing-Lan consciousness and introspection on life.

    1965 1965 1965 1965
  • 1966

    Third exhibition at the Galerie 7 in Paris. Eugène Ionesco wrote the preface of the exhibition catalogue.


    Xie Jing-Lan worked with Chris Marker again, made soundtrack for If I Had Four Camels (Si j’avais quatre dromadaires).




    She had a solo exhibition at the Galerie Hélène de Beauvoir in Strasbourg.




    Moved back to La Marais in Paris. 


    (from right) Ionesco and Xie Jing-Lan at the Galerie 7, Paris, 1966

  • 1971

    She innovated a brand new art form, named “Spectacle”, which merged music, painting, and dance. 


    She gave the premiere of “Spectacle” in her solo exhibition "Intérieur externe" at Galerie Jacques Desbrière in Paris.  Le Cycle, the musical dance in the show, was composed and choreographed by Xie Jing-Lan and performed by Mexican dancer Guillerma Palomare. 


    Sudden Blue (Soudain Bleu), the painting presented with the “Spectacle”, later became a permanent collection of the Culture Ministry of France.

  • 1972

    Made soundtrack for Chris Marker’s Vive la baleine (Three Cheers for the Whale).




    Organized by Galerie Iris Clert, Xie Jing-Lan staged the new “Spectacle” performance, named “Trivalence”, for the exhibition “5000 ans d'art chinois” at the Petit Palais, Paris.


    She received special funding from the Ministry of Culture for her research project, “A parallel study of paintings, music and dancing” (Recherches Paralleles sur la peinture, la musique, et la danse), and widely promoted “Spectacle”.


    At this stage, Xie Jing-Lan intended at strengthening the interrelationship between the general public and art, and believed that artists could preserve the freedom of creation only if the general public were in favor of their works. Therefore, she had held twelve “Spectacle” performances, and four paintings-sculptures exhibitions collaborated with Marcel Van Thienen, over different regions of France in the 1970s and 1980s.

    1972 1972
  • 1975

    Bought a deserted factory at Les Lilas in the east suburb of Paris and renovated it. After renovation, it became Xie Jing-Lan and Van Thienen’s permanent resident and studio. She presented the “Trivalence 2” in Maison pour tous, Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, and collaborated with this institution continued until 1983.




    Staged “rêve non rêve” in Maison Heinrich Heine, Paris. Music and mise-en-scene by Xie Jing-Lan, choreography and dance by Japanese modern dancer Yano Hideyuki.

  • 1978

    Representing the France 2 of France Télévisions, Xie Jing-Lan traveled to Beijing to propose a Franco-Chinese collaborative documentary project, “the Silk Road”. The project was aborted due to social and political instability in China.




    Her only son Zhao Jia-Ling and his wife and son settled down in Paris.


    French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, his wife

    and Chinese leaders at the French embassy, Xie Jing-Lan's Brèche dans le ciel on the wall, Beijing, 1980

  • 1981

    On June 26, the art critic, Professor Hus Kai-Yu from the San Francisco State University, visited Xie Jing-Lan at Les Lilas and competed a recorded interview “Xie Jing-Lan, who melted music, dance, and drama into painting” (Xie Jing-Lan: ses peintures imprégnées de musique, de danse et de théâtre) in August.


    Solo exhibition at the Galerie Bellint, Paris. The curator of the City of Paris Museum of Modern Art, André Berne-Joffroy, wrote the preface of the exhibition catalogue.

  • 1982

    Danielle Berthelot, a student of the Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientals, completed her master dissertation - “A Study of the Chinese Contemporary Painter – Lalan”.




    Staged “Trivalence 3” at Maison pour tous, Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines. Music by Xie Jing-Lan and Van Thienen, dance by Yano Hideyuki. This is the last “Spectacle” performance.

  • 1984

    Xie Jing-Lan returned to China several times. She found inspiration rooted in nature and Chinese culture and her works returned to the abstract. Compared to her bold style in the early years, Xie Jing-Lan’s colour palette became lighter, and her compositions became more complex. Her application of black dots can compare to quick and continuous steps in dance, and her delicate white lines bounce like the frequency of electronic music.

  • 1988

    Established a new studio in Bormes-les-Mimosas. The region's  Mediterranean climate attracted the couple to stayed longer and longer in Bormes. Most of her late works were completed here.

  • 1990

    Grand solo exhibition co-hosted by the Euro-Asia Cultural Exchange Association (L’Association Culturelle Confluences Europe-Asie) and the Espace Pierre Cardin. Jacques Chirac, the mayor of Paris at that time, wrote the preface of the exhibition catalogue. She attempted a new art form– La Naissance du l’Eau (The Birth of Water), a music video that included fifty-five slides, showing the genesis of landscapes as water moved through heaven and earth, paired with the electronic music by herself.


    With Zao Wou-Ki at the Espace Pierre Cardin, 1990

  • 1992

    The Ministry of Culture of France first established June 12 to 14, as the “Journéea pour la poésie” (Days for Poetry). Xie Jing-Lan was invited to join the exhibition of poetry and art with an Asian theme at the Guimet National Museum of Asian Arts. She was the only Chinese artist representative who had put forth works in both poetry and painting.




    Xie Jing-Lan participated in a joint exhibition titled “3 Femmes, 3 Recherches” (3 Femmes, 3 Recherches). Also in the show were works by painter Robert González and Yann Piat, a member of the Union for French Democracy.

    1992 1992
  • Xie Jing-Lan in her studio in Bormes-les-Mimosa, 1994
  • 1995

    Xie Jing-Lan was planning for a new “Spectacle” performance – Danse du Qigong (Dance of Qigong). She invited Dupouy Raphaël (the founder of Réseau Lalan) to shoot the rehearsal in her studio in Bormes-les-Mimosas on April 13.


    On April 19, she left the world in a car crash, at the age of 74.