(Attributed to) Edena Co., "Liou Seng-Sen and Liou Tang-Sen", 1903, gelatin silver print, 10x8”. Courtesy of Ariel Shanberg, Woodstock, NY.

(Attributed to) Edena Co., “Liou Seng-Sen and Liou Tang-Sen”, 1903, gelatin silver print, 10×8”. Courtesy of Ariel Shanberg, Woodstock, NY.

(Attributed to) Edena Co. (Philadelphia, PA)

Conjoined twins Liou Seng-Sen and Liou Tang-Sen were born in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, China, around 1886. Their juncture was classified as Xiphopagus, meaning they were joined between the navel and breastbone, seen here in this image believed to be dated 1903. When they were born, their frightened mother made a crude attempt to separate them by ligating their connecting tissue, but their circulation was disrupted and she quickly removed the tourniquet, never again attempting to divide them. She died when they were two years old, leaving them in the care of their father. Under his management they began a career in show business at age six, traveling from fair to fair in China, and later to Korea, Japan, India, Australia and Europe. When the Lious and their father came to the United States around 1902 to pursue a career with the Barnum Circus, immigration from China had been recently banned and anti-Chinese sentiments were running high. They were “repackaged” as Korean-born and advertised in American press as having “typical Oriental features” with their new birthplace said to be Kong Tsiou, a small village on the Keum-Kang river. Despite appearing quite solid, the connecting tissue between them was so flexible that they could stand either side-by-side or facing each other and were able to walk, run and play games with ease. When one twin was given alcohol, the other felt the effects. They fell asleep at the same time, but one could be awoken without disturbing the other. As children, they were ill with smallpox simultaneously. They were quite intelligent and learned English while residing in Bridgeport, Connecticut, with their father. When examined by Dr. LaBarre J. Leamy of the Medical Chirurgical College in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in 1903, they were said to be fluent in the language and “ever ready to respond to inquiries concerning themselves”. Later, they took an interest in learning photography. Unlike many other conjoined twins, Liou Seng-Sen and Liou Tang-Sen retired from show business while still young, returning to Nanjing at the age of 19, where they both got married and had children. However, at the age of 63, their dwindling fortune forced the brothers to make a brief comeback until one of the twins contracted bronchitis in 1957. The twins underwent a groundbreaking operation at China Union Medical College in Beijing in 1957 and the ailing twin passed away, while the other survived to meet an uncertain fate. At 71, the Liou brothers were the oldest conjoined twins ever recorded.