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Sunday, July 30, 2000, updated at 19:43(GMT+8)

Nude Photos Controversial in China

University freshman Zhen Zhen just had her photo taken in the nude, something she plans to haul out in the future to remind herself of those younger, firmer days.

The 19-year-old resident of southwest China's Chongqing city says that even though she did travel 500 kilometers to the Sichuan provincial capital Chengdu -- where no one would know her -- to pose for a local photographer, there's nothing wrong with nude photos, they aren't necessarily expensive, and it's not illegal.

"I think it's indecent," sniffs her mother, Chen, who was cleaning her daughter's room when she came across the photo in a bookcase.

Like others of her generation, Chen says the popularity of nude photographs among young people is just one more sign of moral decay in modern China.

Zhen says she just wants a record of her history, and her boyfriend, who accompanied her on the photo shoot, says it's nobody's business but Zhen's.

On the other side of the argument, a 50-year-old teacher from Sichuan Education College, who declined to give her name, said young people should focus their attention on their studies. "Taking nude photos cannot be simply explained as degeneration; it reflects unhealthy psyches," she commented.

Other girls in Chongqing are even braver than Zhen, deciding to get their pictures taken in the nude by hometown photographers.

Liu Mei had her photograph taken in the nude as a 19th birthday present to herself. The total cost for the pictures was 1,000 yuan (US$120).

Nude photo fees range from several hundred to several thousand yuan.

A journalist said she had many nude photos taken during her pregnancy. "It is my history, and also the growth history of my daughter," she said. "I would have done as Zhen Zhen has done if people in my time lived the way they live today."

Nude art has always been a very sensitive topic in China.

A Chinese exhibition of nude paintings in the mid-1980s stirred up the hottest debate ever over this branch of art. The husband of a women who had modeled nude for some of the paintings threatened her with divorce when she was recognized by others in the pictures.

To date, there is no law in China which prohibits taking nude photos.

"Taking nude photos is a serious art," said He Shan, a photographer in Chengdu. "It is a challenge both for the photographer and his client," he added.

He said that the work is strictly monitored from the beginning to the end. He is helped by three female assistants when taking photos, and negatives and damaged photos from each shoot are usually destroyed in front of the clients.

Ge Peng, a photographer from the Yuan Ye photo studio in Chengdu who snapped Zhen Zhen's pictures, said he has a problem with people's double standards when it comes to nudity in art.

"Men and women all appreciate nudity in paintings, so what's wrong with it in photographs?" he asked.

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University freshman Zhen Zhen just had her photo taken in the nude, something she plans to haul out in the future to remind herself of those younger, firmer days.

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