Three Words From a Chinese Father | Speaking of China

18 Responses

  1. chinaelevatorstories
    chinaelevatorstories September 13, 2013 at 2:48 am | | Reply

    This made me tear up a bit. I love Dorcas’ essays, I recently searched all the web for her essays and I’m looking forward to reading her memoir.

    I do think that people sometimes place too much importance on the words “I love you”. Like she writes in this essay, sometimes you know people love you without them saying it. It’s not very common to say “I love you” to people other than your bf/gf/spouse in Austria, or at least it isn’t common in my family. But I actually think it’s not so common in the German language in general, which also differentiates between two similar phrases of “I love you”, one being used between lovers and the other being used between parents and children, which doesn’t mean that we’re all cold-hearted people who don’t love their family members, but rather that sometimes you just know that your family members love you without them saying it (or saying it all the time).

  2. Bruce
    Bruce September 13, 2013 at 9:03 am | | Reply

    In Chinese culture, we always use action over words. I can say “I love you” all the time but those 3 words don’t mean anything unless I have to prove it like doing something for the family. Taking your kids fishing and providing everything for them are considered ” I love you”.


  3. Lina
    Lina September 13, 2013 at 9:37 am | | Reply

    It made my ‘eyes sweat’ and think of my dad, hecould be a steretype Chinese dad – he hardly says I love you but I know he would kill anyone who hurt me and he even put an effort to translate it to my husband, even thought they like each other a lot. Now I’m far away from my parents I try to say I love them everytime I call, I haven’t done that face to face for a long time. And at the beginning I couldn’t understand why my husband doesn’t hug his mom he hasn’t seen in a year, my mom pushed him to hug her at the aiport. But he says it’s not about words, they will not say thank you, just nod their head and they will know what does that mean. They won’t say I love you but he will feel that when he gets the biggest piece of meat and best looking veggie, giving him good chance to study etc. I sometimes tell him ‘write to her how is she, tell her you love her’ his only respond is ‘she knows it’. Hope he won’t regret. Not only him but anyone won’t regret they didn’t say some things they maybe should say.

  4. Manny
    Manny September 13, 2013 at 11:59 am | | Reply

    Great post by Dorcas, but I liked more the post about “How to be mistaken for a prostitute in China” as it is about the success of WM/AW. I love to read about funny and successful stories about WM/AF. I am sorry to hear that Dorcas was mistaken as a hooker in China and was mistreated there even though she looked like a Chinese lady but was ridiculed for not being able to speak Chinese so well. My condolence to you Dorcas for losing your daddy O.

  5. Nicki Chen
    Nicki Chen September 13, 2013 at 1:37 pm | | Reply

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful post.

    Surprisingly, when I read it, I thought of my Scotch-Irish dad not my Chinese husband. I don’t think my dad ever said “I love you,” but I never doubted his love. He loved my sister and me by cooking breakfast for us each morning, surprising us with gifts (stilts, water skis, etc.) that showed he’d been thinking of what might make us happy. When he became sick with lung cancer, our bond was so strong that I suffered with him even before I knew he was sick.

    My Chinese husband, on the other hand, was outwardly affectionate and spoke his mind. He taught me all I ever knew about Chinese cooking. But I did notice once I started studying Chinese that the language gives more responsibility to the listened to understand what’s being said, whereas in English we expect the speaker to be responsible for explaining himself clearly. I think this carries over into Chinese and American attitudes.

  6. Tracy
    Tracy September 13, 2013 at 5:57 pm | | Reply

    Sounds a lot like my beloved Japanese father-in-law, who recently passed away and whom this post made me miss again. For the almost 10 years I knew him, we barely ever had a conversation–mostly just a lot of bowing and smiling. I don’t speak much Japanese at all, his English was really rusty, but mostly he was just a man of few words. But we spent a lot of time together, especially after he got sick, just taking walks with his wheelchair or eating meals together. At first, his silence, especially at the dinner table, unnerved me, but eventually I learned from him the incredible peace that can come from just sitting in silence with those you love and from not feeling the need to fill that silence with meaningless chatter. And he also taught me, like this post, how in Japanese culture (and Chinese, I’ve now learned), bonds are strengthened not through words but through caring actions. An unusual lesson for a chatter-box American like me!

    Thanks, Jocelyn & Dorcas

  7. Ember Swift
    Ember Swift September 13, 2013 at 7:24 pm | | Reply

    I really love this essay. It’s poignant and crisp–no extra words that don’t bring me right to the heart of the emotion. I, too, really look forward to reading more by her. About the topic, I was certainly much more verbose! Here’s my blog about the realization that Chinese people (namely my husband) prefer not to use the words we Westerners so very much want to hear!

  8. Sveta
    Sveta September 13, 2013 at 8:56 pm | | Reply

    Sorry I’m responding late, but wow, a very beautiful essay is all I can say.

  9. Dorcas Cheng-Tozun
    Dorcas Cheng-Tozun September 14, 2013 at 2:38 pm | | Reply

    Thank you, everyone, for these lovely and thoughtful comments. This was a very hard essay for me to write–lots of tears–but it was so worth it for me to be able to put into words how my father loved me without words, and to have the chance to hear others’ similar experiences. May we all become better at both giving and receiving love in many different ways!

  10. namenotgiven
    namenotgiven September 14, 2013 at 11:24 pm | | Reply

    Lovely post, made me tear up a bit, and think of my dad.

  11. Bruce
    Bruce September 15, 2013 at 1:23 pm | | Reply

    By saying ” I love you ” to your spouse is still not enough. You forgot about her birthday and didn’t make it up even though you said ” I love you” . Helping your spouse with house chores and massage her sored body mean a lot more .

  12. Susan Blumberg-Kason
    Susan Blumberg-Kason September 15, 2013 at 5:32 pm | | Reply

    What a fabulous post! I, too, love Dorcas’s writing and can’t wait to read her memoir! This essay reminded me of my former Chinese in-laws, but also of my own non-Chinese parents. Before my father passed away, he never told me that he loved me. But I knew he did from his actions, namely that he was a part-time stay-at-home dad at a time when that wasn’t common (not that it is now) and definitely wasn’t cool in our very traditional neighborhood. I didn’t always make the best decisions, but my dad never made me feel bad about myself. To make sure I don’t do this, though, I’ve nicknamed my firstborn “Love”.

  13. MM
    MM September 15, 2013 at 9:12 pm | | Reply

    Beautiful writing!

    The phrase “I love you” is powerful and poignant and shouldn’t be bantered around so easily and lightly, many Europeans are like Chinese in that they express their love through actions and not words.

    In saying this I believe it’s important for a child to hear these words from a parent/parents and also vice versa no matter how awkward or embarrassing it may feel.

    My father passed away 8 years ago and we as a family never told him we loved him an he never told us (even though we knew), it was painful because I believe we need to hear these words in our life time. I now make a point of telling my mother (who is 73) that I love her; not all the time but at those moments when I need to hear it or when she needs to hear it.

    As we get older we don’t have much time left so words to express ourselves becomes important more so then just action.

  14. AMWF Couple
    AMWF Couple September 16, 2013 at 5:06 pm | | Reply

    This is really beautiful. Bought a tear to my eye.

    I never say anything love related except to my boyfriend and my rabbit. My Dad doesn’t either. The rest of my family says the odd thing like “send everyone my love” but we’re not really into being too affectionate towards each other. I know they all love me and I don’t really want them to say those words because I don’t need to hear them.

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