‘African Jasmine Flower’: Ruth Njeri Finds Success, Love on Chinese Stage

Among the many talented foreign women who happened to marry Chinese men, there’s Kenyan Ruth Njeri, who rose to fame – and found love – on the stage in China.

Njeri is also known in China as “非洲茉莉花“ (fēizhōu mòlìhuā, the “African jasmine flower”), a nickname she received from the country’s former president Hu Jintao after meeting him and singing together with him the Chinese folk song “茉莉花” (Jasmine Flower) in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2006, which landed her in the national TV news in China. As China Daily reported in an April 7, 2013, story titled Chinese Tones:

Njeri’s patience and persistence in learning Mandarin paid off in April 2006 when Hu Jintao, then China’s president, visited Kenya. Because of her progress in Chinese, she was selected from the Confucius Institute to meet him.

“I was quite nervous meeting him, and I heard my voice trembling while talking to him. He is actually a nice person who is very approachable and likes to chat with young people.”

Njeri completed her studies at Nairobi’s Confucius Institute in June that year and moved to China to pursue a degree in language and literature at Tianjin Normal University a month later.

She also received a scholarship for her studies, thanks to winning the Chinese Bridge Competition in Kenya.

In the next several years, she went on to appear numerous times in TV shows on networks all across China, including the country’s prominent China Central Television, or CCTV, which named her one of the most influential foreigners of 2007.

But her greatest moment – the one that changed her life and love forever – came with her high-profile singing performance in the 2011 Spring Festival Gala, or Chunwan, China’s annual Chinese New Year’s Eve show broadcast across the country on CCTV on the most important night of the year. That year, she shared the stage with Ya Xing, a Chinese man she first met in a Shanghai:

Ya, 40, hails from Luoyang, an industrial city in Central China’s Henan province. He met Njeri, 34, from Nairobi, Kenya in a restaurant in Shanghai while she was studying on a Chinese government scholarship. At the time, they were both participating in the World Expo and met again a month later in Shanghai just before sharing a stage during the CCTV Spring Festival Gala in Beijing in 2011.

“It was fate, Yuánfèn“, Ya said.

The two of them would go on to perform together on TV many times.

Njeri also sang for the 2013 Spring Festival Gala as well (a year that saw Celine Dion perform for the event).

And as for Njeri and Ya:

Three years ago, Ya Xing married Ruth Njeri before his friends and family in China. He is considered brave among his peers for starting a new life in Kenya but the ebullient entrepreneur, once a TV host, does not think so.

“I am in love,” he said. “It might look complicated to marry into a new culture, but I think people think too much of it.”

Read the full story — and see a photo of the delightful couple — at China Daily.

Bilibili has a more recent video about Ruth Njeri’s life in Kenya, including highlights from her performances.

For people in China, here are links to Ruth Njeri’s performances on CCTV, including this CCTV performance of Ruth and Xing, and this other CCTV performance by the couple

You can learn more about Ruth Njeri at Baidu Baike (written in Chinese).

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