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Colour Is in the Eye of Beholders

8 November 2006

Yes, they are twins. But no, no, their names are not Alicia and Jasmin, but Meilun (美轮) and Meihuan (美奂).

Chinese twin girls: Meilun (right) and Meihuan (left)

Conceived naturally, the sisters from Shengyang, north of China, were born in January this year.

Both black hair, black eyes and a light olive complexion, Mum Ms Yao does not have a Jamaican or other African heritage, and Daddy Mr Liu wasn’t bon in Germany or other European country. They got married in 2004 and live all their lives in China, and their parents are and their ancestors were also married and living all their lives in China.

Ms Yao said she was not shocked when she saw how different her daughters were.

"It amazed me nothing, I just noticed one was a bit darker and the another was a bit lighter," she said. "When they were born a nurse saw there was a colour difference straight away. But we didn’t think much of it. We just found they were equally beautiful."

"We knew when I was pregnant that we were going to have twins. We were delighted and discussed how to name them. My husband suggested that if they were girls, they could be called Meilun and Meihuan, because when you put the two names together, they mean Perfection. So it is truly wonderful we do get twin girls."

"As they grow up, they become prettier. When we go out, people stop and stroke their faces and touch their noses, or take photos of them. Sometimes people also ask me if I was sure there wasn’t a mix-up at the hospital. I always assured them it was absolutely impossible."

So far, Ms Yao has not yet thought about how interesting it might be when the twins go to school, or whether by then they will wonder why they look so different from each other. But if it happens, one thing is certain, she won’t be able to find an easy way to explain. She can’t just say - like what Australia’s Natasha has intended – that one took after Mum, one took after Dad.

But in previous 10 months, Ms Yao didn’t think there was a need to prepare an answer anyway. She and her family paid more attention to the differences of the girls' personalities than anything else. Meihuan, the lighter one, is more light-hearted, eager to show off her dancing talents and loving to communicate using her self-invented language. Meilun, the darker one, seems to be a character with depth, and her way of communication is through action and sign. She would utilise her little chubby fingers prodding on people’s arm or wink her eyes to convey her messages. As for the difference of their skin colours, no one in the family took much notice of it.

Until very recently.

Some days ago, a neighbour showed Ms Yao a newspaper, on which there was a photo of duel-coloured twin girls. "Are they Meilun and Meihuan?" asked she.

Australian twin girls Alicia and Jasmin

Ms Yao later reflected on her own reaction: At the first I thought wow, since when my babies became so famous in Australia! Then I realised they were actually not my daughters. But they look so alike that I was nearly tricked.

Seemingly the difference of the colours is less than skin deep. That is if you do not pay much attention to it, it does not even exist.

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