Some of the best creative works about Chinese men and Western women in love came from Western women who never once had a Chinese husband. I’d like to salute five of these women, who in my opinion will always be honorary yangxifu (foreign wives of Chinese men).
Pearl S. Buck
Pearl Buck didn’t just make her mark in the literary world with her novels about life in China — she also was one of the first to write about love between Chinese men and Western women in East Wind: West Wind. Pearl married twice, both white American men, but some allege she was a secret lover of the famous Chinese poet Xu Chimo. Maybe her supposed affair inspired some of those on-the-page Chinese man-Western woman romances? Who knows, but she’ll always be the ultimate honorary yangxifu in my book.
Rachel DeWoskin tied the knot with playwright Zayd Dohrn, but some of her heart still belongs to China. She dared to love Chinese men in real life and on a Chinese soap opera, as she shared in her book, Foreign Babes in Beijing: Behind the Scenes of a New China. She also wrote Repeat After Me, a beautiful novel about a surprising relationship between a Chinese dissident and an American woman. I’m looking forward to her upcoming screenplay (and secretly hoping she might squeeze in a little Chinese men-Western women romance).
Kate Furnivall is happily married to fellow British author Norman, who goes by the pen name Neville Steed. But her mother spent her childhood in Russia, China and India, and those experiences inspired her to pen two beloved novels, The Russian Concubine and the sequel The Girl from Junchow, which feature a love story between Lydia Ivanova and Chang An Lo.
Anna Sophie Loewenberg
As Su Fei, her hilarious alter ego, Anna Sophie Loewenberg explored the idea of a Jewish-American woman dating Chinese men of all stripes in Sexy Beijing, inspired by her own actual relationships in the past with the Sons of Han. Sure, Sexy Beijing feels a little campy at times, but you have to admit she made the idea of loving Chinese men look cool and kind of sexy too. Just last month, Anna Sophie married her Venezuelan sweetheart, but this fabulous filmmaker will always have a seat at the yangxifu table.
If Nicole Mones even has a Chinese husband, Google won’t say, and neither will she (her bios normally state that she lives in Portland, Oregon with her family). But her two novels, Lost in Translation and The Last Chinese Chef, offer some of the most sumptuous and even sexy portrayals of romance in China between Chinese men and Western women — not to mention that they’re written with such intelligence and depth. You also have to admire a woman who entered China in 1977 and ended up running a textile business there for 18 years, smashing the unspoken rule that only men can be “China hands.”
What other artists/authors/filmmakers do you think deserve a shout out for sharing stories about Chinese men and Western women in love?