Xie Jinglan, nicknamed Lalan (formerly "Lanlan"), was born in Guizhou, China in 1921 and brought up by a scholarly family. Her grandfather was a famous scholar and her father was a traditional Chinese literati. At a young age, Lalan had a musical gift and had the opportunity to cultivate her talent thanks to her family’s support of the arts and academia. When Lalan was seven, she and her family moved to Shanghai and soon thereafter, moved to Hangzhou where she entered the Music Department of the Hangzhou School of Art in 1937. During her time in Hangzhou, Lalan met Zao Wou-Ki. In 1941, they married in Hong Kong and in 1948, the couple travelled to Paris to start a new phase of life together.
Finding themselves in the centre of the art world in the late 1940's, the couple quickly became enamoured with France’s artistic metropolis and world-famous museums. Lalan and Zao settled into a studio in Paris Montparnasse where they became neighbors with Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti and befriended artists Sanyu, Georges Mathieu and Pierre Soulages, as well as the poet Henri Michaux who had helped both Lalan’s and Zao Wou-Ki’s artistic development.
Lalan continually pursued her passion in music, while Zao Wou-Ki’s career in the visual arts progressed. During this period, Lalan studied music composition at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris, and later, she studied modern dance at the American Cultural Centre after watching a documentary on Martha Graham. As mentioned, the poet Henri Michaux was a supportive figure in Lalan’s artistic growth and he introduced her to the distinguished and avant-garde American-French electronic composer Edgard Varèse who offered Lalan the opportunity to learn about electronic music. As a result, this experience led to Lalan’s realization of her genuine passion to express her inner world of artistry.
In 1957, Lanlan divorced Zao Wou-Ki and moved to St. Ouen in the north suburb of Paris. One year later, she married Marcel Van Thienen, a French musician, and changed her name from “Lanlan” to Lalan. From then on, she started a new life as an artist, devoting herself to painting, music, dance and poetry.
Lalan never ceased to paint with vibrance and spirit until an accident took her life in 1995. Most significant to her work was the conveyance of her intuitive artistic vision and the freedom of self-expression.
Lalan’s works are collected by the Culture Ministry of France, the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, the Shanghai Art Museum, the Macau Museum of Art, etc.