Finding My Laotong

So I recently read a book called Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. It quickly became one of my favorite books. I recommend it! I won’t get into too much detail about it, but it’s about the relationship of a Chinese girl named Lily and her laotong Snow Flower.

Laotong means “old same” or kindred spirits. In old China, young women would be matched together and form laotong relationships. These are lifelong intimate friendships that offer emotional support throughout all of life’s ups and downs.

Throughout the book, the author goes through a detailed history of Lily and Snow Flower’s laotong relationship. However, reading this book, my heart ached. It was well-written and amazingly descriptive, but my heart ached. As I read about Lily and Snow Flower’s ability to have a life-long friendship (with some extreme ups and downs), I felt a piece of loneliness. I don’t believe I’ll ever have the ability to have a laotong relationship.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have a wonderful supportive fiancé who has been one of my best friends for the past five years. Even when we weren’t dating, he’s been my rock and my support system. I have friends who I consider close, but they’re scattered all around the globe. From the Northern Hemisphere to the Southern Hemisphere, it’s just hard to consider someone close when they’re so far away. I do cherish my friends closely, but the lack of a “sisterhood” in my life has become apparent. There’s not much I can do to change it.

I have had friends in the past, that I have considered close enough to be a laotong. I cherished them like family. I put them up on a pedestal, praising their life achievements, being the rock when they had their downfalls, and supporting them throughout thick and thin. Those feelings were obviously not returned and over time we grew apart. I didn’t grow resentment towards them, but simply pain that these people could find themselves abusing my kindness. It’s may me weary in becoming close to people at all.

Most recently, I’ve found myself dealing with this situation again. I won’t say much about it because I’ve felt like a weight was lifted off of my shoulder. The “friendship” caused me more agony and pain. It’s like coming out of a bad relationship. You feel so revolutionary, ready to take on the world. In my heart, there still longs for a fulfillment of my empty laotong relationship. I’ve noticed with a lot of people in my generation that we cannot find friends who are faithful and loyal. I’m sure it’s not different than the generations beforehand, but it just seems as if less people are willing to engage in friendships. I count the blessings of those who do have friends who are like laotong sisters. I secretly envy them as well. Perhaps in some time in the future, there is someone out there looking for a friendship as I have. After being burned so many times, it’s hard to even take a step towards a friendship.

Do you have any friends that you consider close enough to be a laotong? Have you had any bad experiences with friendships?

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Angelica Yarde
My name is Angel Yarde. I am a designer, front-end developer, and speaker. I am the editor and designer of Studio 404 whic was founded in December 2006. In January 2014, I launched Studio 404 Paper, a paper shop which includes type-focused greeting cards, note cards, and prints. I currently reside in Celebration, Florida where I co-own a branding strategy studio, Sevenality, with my husband.
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10 Comments

  1. Well, you don’t need to be living next to someone in order to maintain your friendship… I think it’s OK to have friends that are far away from your home! And yes, you might not be as close as you were before, but real friends stick together when things get tough… You know?!

    Do you have any friends that you consider close enough to be a laotong? Have you had any bad experiences with friendships? Yes, I do. Well, I guess so… There was this one friend who was constantly spreading “rumors” behind my back, and when I confronted her, she denied it completely, which made me really angry because she was lying to my face, if she told me the truth, I would’ve probably accepted it!!

    Peace.

  2. I love this concept. It sounds so wonderful to have someone so close to you for a lifetime. Personally, I don’t think I’ll ever have that sort of relationship. I’ve never really been very close to anyone before; I guess I’m just a very distant person.
    .-= Krissy´s last blog ..Just A Minute… In September 2009 =-.

  3. I have an awful time reading things like that, because I feel so lonely. I’m much better than I have ever been in my life (with all of two and a half friends), but I have most definitely never had a laotong friendship.
    .-= Stephanie´s last blog ..Back to school… =-.

  4. I’ve been looking for a new book to read, I hope that my local library has this, your review makes it sound like it’s a really good read.

    Do I have any friends who I would consider to be a laotong? A friend who I would have considered giving this title to before has been drifting away, it has been happening during the whole summer and with university coming up I don’t think that we’ll ever be that close again. I hope to one day have a friend like that, someone who I can trust fully and who can fully trust me, I envy people who have friends like that too.

    And have I had bad experiences with friendships? Yes, but I think that we all have. Friends turning their back on me, lying, not being trustworthing, etc. But they were experiences, and I’m glad that I had them, as it made me more aware of what people can be like.
    .-= Becky´s last blog ..Guess who’s back? =-.

  5. Laotong is a very tradional thing which was carried out in China for girls as they cannot go to school and so it is hard to find friends. In order to have comparionship, mothers do match swornsisters or laotong to their daughters. It is a great idea to have laotong. Unforturnately, in today’s society, we will never follow this dream as having a laotong.
    The world circumstances has changed the human ways of living and even today, in China, I believe, there is either no such things going on or very few. It is sad as it is a nice and warm tradition. But a piece of friendly advice to those people who feels lonely…the best laotong you ever have is yourself in today’s world because “Men” fails “men” or if you are religious, the best laotong, is your “Father in Heaven”. For when one relies on Him, one may be alone but never lonely. Only when one relies on human being that one will feel lonely.
    Yes, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a lovely, heart breaking story. But it is a novel and a lovely novel to read but not to live in it. Not in today’s world. So, be good to yourself and those around, just to make the world a better place for all to live in.

  6. Their relationship is so beautiful. As a human being I can empathize with their pain. Life has many challenges, and it’s hard to live in this cruel world. Having a companion is something all humans need in order to live harmoniously. I have a relationship similar to that of Laotong. I believe in fate, and she is my fate. We came together as sisters through hardship. I was young and hated the world for taking away my chance to have a normal life. I tried desperately to push her away, but she saw through me. She saw my pain and loneliness. She made me see her as a person by showing me her pain. When I saw her I loved her and I gave her my heart. Our trust in each other is absolute, and the most beautiful relationship I have in my life. The relationship we have is something you can’t describe, and can only be felt. Like Laotong we have a secret language, but it isn’t spoken. We learned to speak with our faces. One look could tell a story that only we understand. Sometimes we get mistaken for lovers on the streets because of our open affection for one another. I think what we have is better than the relationship of lovers. I’ve had many lovers, but I’ll never have another like her. People fall out of romantic love, but I’ll never stop loving her, never stop needing her. So, if that is what a Laotong is She will forever be my Laotong.

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