Photos: Lee Lay Na
First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby, then comes… early retirement from showbiz?
For Xiang Yun and Edmund Chen, that’s basically how their relationship timeline pans out. The local celebrity couple made headlines over two decades ago when they said “I do” just three months after meeting on the set of SBC (Singapore Broadcasting Corporation) drama Patrol – back then, such high-profile flash marriages were practically unheard of, and their union stirred up a media frenzy.
That was in 1989. It is now 2016, and any naysayers who might have tsked at their reckless whirlwind romance, or even condemned it to be a short-lived one, have long been silenced.
For our In Bed With session, the couple was kind enough to share with us a large scrapbook filled with photographs, letters and miscellaneous precious memorabilia from as far back as their courtship days. Unsurprisingly, their favourite pictures are those with their two kids, 25-year-old son Yi Xi and 16-year-old daughter Yi Xin.
“Having children just completely changes your life,” said Edmund, 55, as his 54-year-old wife agreed, “Children are a wonderful thing to have.”
However, not everything was a bed of roses. Edmund was candid about the challenges and uncertainties they faced as not just a young married couple, but the first young married celebrity couple of their generation in the local scene. “We didn’t know if we would have the strength to carry on, so the only thing we could do was take each day one step at a time,” he said.
It looks like that simple method has worked wonders for them – last June, they celebrated their 27th wedding anniversary and are still going strong, if the sweet interactions we personally witnessed during the shoot are any indication.
Ahead, we take a look at some of the major milestones and stages of Xiang Yun and Edmund’s love life:
Before marriage: how Edmund charmed Xiang Yun
It was a scene straight out of a squeal-inducing, heart-fluttering romance drama: a cold, wet and shivering Xiang Yun was struggling after filming in the rain for Patrol, when Edmund gallantly appeared and draped a large towel around her (cue the slow motion replay and love ballad background music).
“Girls can easily be fooled (into falling in love) like that – they must take things slowly!” Xiang Yun quipped. “But you really were a gentleman, and someone with your demeanour was quite rare back in that day.”
Another aspect about Edmund that attracted Xiang Yun was his liveliness and similarity to a certain Hollywood star. “That era was all about men who are either studious or rebellious, but you were like John Travolta from a time when people would suddenly break out in dance in the middle of walking – it made you stand out.”
Before they set out to seal the deal, Xiang Yun and Edmund consulted a fortune teller. In addition to confirming their compatibility as husband and wife, they were also told that they would have four kids, all boys. “I was so scared – I preferred daughters!” said Xiang Yun.
Well, as we all know now, she had nothing to be worried about.
Married life: The good, the bad, and what ended their onscreen collaborations
The honeymoon period of their marriage was as sweet as sugar. In fact, Xiang Yun and Edmund remembered waking up with their limbs intertwined, having cuddled themselves into a complicated embrace in their sleep.
Not quite as enjoyable were the occasional red-faced rows and pet peeves, such as Edmund’s snoring, Xiang Yun’s teeth-grinding, and how they would clash over the proper way to squeeze toothpaste or put the toilet roll on. There was even a time when Edmund, dreaming that he was battling a dinosaur, suddenly woke up and strangled poor Xiang Yun in the middle of the night.
Perhaps one of their most extreme squabbles happened on the set of 2004’s Double Happiness: while preparing to film a scene at a government building, Xiang Yun and Edmund, who were already wearing their microphones, got into a war of words that was so intense, the crew quietly left the area. “After that day I told myself that I can no longer work with you!” laughed Xiang Yun.
The birth of their first child, son Yi Xi
If we’re being honest, the dramatic circumstances around the birth of the Chens’ firstborn sound like a nightmare for every first-time parent.
First of all, the anaesthetic somehow ended up numbing Xiang Yun’s upper body instead of her lower body, making her dizzy and in pain. Secondly, the air conditioning in the hospital had stopped working, causing her to sweat profusely and, as a frightening result, the unborn baby to become dehydrated and have a rapid heartbeat.
Then, as it was getting too difficult to deliver little Yi Xi, a suction cup had to be used to take him out. This flattened his delicate head on one side, making him resemble a deformed plastic ball (as Edmund so vividly described it). Fortunately, his skull could be massaged back into shape, and the baby was safe.
The birth of their second child, daughter Yi Xin
For a long time, Xiang Yun and Edmund believed that Yi Xi would be an only child – until one fine day, almost a decade after their son was born, a friend of theirs prophesied that they would have a daughter. Although they didn’t believe it at first, Xiang Yun really became pregnant, and when they found out that it was indeed a baby girl, the couple looked so stunned that the nurse asked if they weren’t happy with the news.
While both parents were clearly thrilled and smitten with their new addition, Edmund confessed about being worried at first, as Yi Xin looked like a boy. “People would tell us, ‘Your son is so cute!’” he said. To remedy the problem, they accessorised her with loads of flowers, ribbons and other typically feminine items.
According to Xiang Yun, she observed that while Edmund loves both his kids dearly, he has a special type of affection reserved for his little girl. He explained that in addition to possibly being mellowed by age, he wants his son to grow up tougher. Xiang Yun, on the other hand, believes that she should be stricter with Yi Xin because girls need to be more disciplined.
Edmund retires from acting to go into art
“When you told me you wanted to quit acting, I was shocked,” Xiang Yun recalled, referring to Edmund’s decision to step down from showbiz in 2008. Apparently, the move caused some tension between them. “Do you remember we quarrelled a lot?”
However, as Edmund elaborated, they were left with little choice as their notoriously long and busy filming schedules made it hard to give their children their full care and attention. “Our daughter once fell off the bed so hard that she left tooth marks on the floor, and our son was always getting sick – one of us had to make that sacrifice for them,” he said.
Although post-semi-retirement life was not without its concerns, Edmund finally settled into a comfortable rhythm and got to pursue another passion of his: art. While many people, including his own wife and daughter (who has never witnessed her father flaunt his acting chops), would love to see him back on television screens, he admitted that he is too used to his current lifestyle that it would be difficult to return – although he has considered it.
“Just don’t do it when you’re 70 years old!” said Xiang Yun, echoing the sentiments of us all.
Hey, looks like Xiang Yun's not bad at drawing too!
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