Ask the Yangxifu: Chinese Men and the Marriage Proposal

Western woman showing off her engagement ring from a Chinese man
If your Chinese man likes it, how does he put a ring on it? Jocelyn takes on the topic of creative marriage proposals from Chinese men. (photo by wvermeulen)

Friend asks:

I was going to ask if you were going to make an entry on how chinese men propose, and maybe personal examples from you or others. Some thoughts ran around my head while I was listening to that cheesy but semi-adorable song by David Tao, Today you’re going to marry me (今天你要嫁给我). Although a lot of western guys come with a bunch of fun and neat ideas of proposing, there’s no lack of creativity from Chinese guys, shy as they may be.


Maybe I’m not the best person to write about creativity from Chinese guys in the proposal arena. John and I pretty much beat all of the mystery out of our impending marriage when I once brought up the subject of whether we would marry, at a little Greek restaurant in Shanghai. So much for surprises.

Still, John did surprise me almost a year later, when he called me in Taiwan (I was stationed there for a couple of months of work) with his Declaration of Love. I’m sure he’s going to lob some pickled garlic at me for posting some of this up here, but that’s okay — it’ll be all good after I buy him some barbequed ribs ;-). Here’s a little excerpt:

This is my declaration of love.

I want to tell the whole world that I love you!

You are the free love bird, following the call of your inner God, coming to me from far away.

You are the most precious gift that God had sent to me.

And I promise you I will accompany you to continue the journey.

We may have seen marriage miles ahead, but he still had a way of turning our impending engagement into something worth swooning over for hours (which I did after I hung up the phone. Sigh.).

But if this is the Olympics for best marriage proposal from a Chinese man, I’m not even close to being on that podium. And Tianjin Shannon reminded me why:

Tony showed up at my workplace somewhat dressed up (sure it was no Aladdin-style Arabic costume — thank goodness — but more of a rugged John Smith-type of look instead of the usual t-shirt and jeans).

We headed out to a fancy Thai restaurant (my favorite!) and dined in a private room. Tony still wouldn’t budge about giving away what I knew was to come but inside I could feel the excitement building. The next stop was the Renaissance Hotel…one of the nicest hotels in Tianjin. Okay, sure, it was no castle and I didn’t let him climb up my hair to get to the window but it was still a nice suite on the 40th floor. When I walked in the door the first thing I saw was a bouquet of 99 red roses. In Chinese language the word for 9 is “jiu”. This word also has another meaning, forever. So, 99 roses symbolizes “forever, forever.”

Ninety-nine roses! Wow! And John only bought me flowers once, a mixed bouquet for my birthday, years before we even talked marriage (I write this trying to shake off a slight sense of feeling jilted over my bouquet deprivation.)

Chinese men can spin verses of love, and even plan evenings with a big, red, floral climax — all in the name of marriage. So, there’s no doubt that the creativity can be there.

But I’m not the only foreign wife of a Chinese man, and neither is Shannon. So I wonder — what’s your marriage proposal story? Did your Chinese romeo whisk you away and woo you for life with words or actions?


Do you have a question about life, dating, marriage and family in China (or in Chinese culture)? Every Friday, I answer questions on my blog. Send me your question today.

14 Replies to “Ask the Yangxifu: Chinese Men and the Marriage Proposal”

  1. im a hangzhou college student,my english teacher (from America)advised me some foreign sites to improve my shabby english,lol.
    in my view,in short,we chinese boys seem to be reserved and shy,especially in emotional involment…
    omg,time to eat wishes,forgive my shabby english.
    say hi to all of you,hangzhou is a really beautiful city,u r so welcome

  2. My husband played a trick on me when he proposed. We also had talked about marriage long before the actual proposal happened, and I told him that although in China an engagement ring is not as important as it is in the West, I really wanted one. I told him it didn’t have to be expensive and even that I wasn’t really that crazy about diamonds. But I wanted something–just something material to show as evidence that we were really engaged. So he came to my apartment as usual one evening, before we went out for dinner, and he said, “I know you want an engagement ring, and actually I bought one, but it’s not that good. You don’t need a great one, right? Actually this ring only cost me 3 kuai (about 45 cents). Can I show it to you?” I didn’t know what to say…I had, indeed told him the ring didn’t need to be expensive, but 3 kuai??? So he pulls out this horrible, too-big (fake) silver band and slips it on my finger. The look on my face was very uncomfortable…then he started to smile. “You don’t like it?” he said, “well maybe you’ll like this one better,” and he pulled from his backpack a gorgeous white gold ring with a blue sapphire surrounded with tiny diamonds. And he said, “will you marry me?” Funny thing is, that was the most perfect way to propose to me. And the rest is history.
    My husband never wrote me a declaration of love, but he did send me some very romantic text messages that he would absolutely die if I shared with anyone! So I’ll refrain 🙂

    1. OMG!!! Your story is amazing! It was soo exciting to read it. Definitely, your husband is a very creative man. Thank you for sharing this beautiful marriage proposal.

  3. All of the three stories above are really romantic. With my ex-boyfriend (Chinese) I proposed him which was a huge mistake. He said yes, but wasn’t truly committed to me. Lesson was that I’m not going to propose anyone again. My current boyfriend, also Chinese, surprised me by proposing after dating for 4 days! I told him, that I really don’t know him yet. When he asked again two days later I asked why did he propose even we have known for a really short time. He said he was afraid I’m not serious with him and going to run away soon. If he ends up being a good guy I’ll give him the yes later on, but now he’s just letting the feeling of a first love get his head dizzy 🙂

    But now I know how to propose in Chinese, so when the real proposal comes one day I’ll understand what he’s saying. First time I had to ask him to repeat with different words so I could understand with my poor Chinese 🙂 (he doesn’t speak English).

  4. Ahem, gulp. The marriage proposal I recieved is so non-memorable that I don’t even remember it! In fact, I don’t think it ever actually happened :). We were just friends (so I thought, though he knew better), and then I was clearly being courted, and then somehow we began gradually over time talking about our future together, our marriage, and what kind of wedding we should have. Viola! I think you’d have to ask my clever husband how he managed it. It’s kind of like we just knew it. But that was twenty years ago, mind you. However it happened, I’m just so glad that it did.

  5. Thanks for including my story, Jocelyn! I should add that my fiance didn’t just subconsciously know how to propose to an American woman, but he DID know that it should be special (I mean, come on, he’s seen movies!) So…he started by emailing my best friend in the states to ask her what he should do AND THEN he spent a lot of time on good ole’ Google typing in things like, “how to propose”, “how to propose to an American”, “how to propose to an American woman.” Adorable, huh? 🙂

  6. My Chinese fiance and I had talked about marriage prior to getting engaged – whether we wanted it, when, etc. I’d had the experience of other Asian guys I dated claiming their love for me WAY too soon, so we had also talked about how the people had to take their time and be certain before taking those steps and making those commitments. We also talked a lot about the differences between proposals, weddings, and marriages in China (for him) and Canada (for me). I explained to him about how an engagement is usually a longer time in the West, and how there is usually a ring given, but also told him I understood that it’s different here in China.
    After all this, in the weeks leading up to my birthday, my fiance was horrible for dropping hints (saying he was all ready for my birthday, with extra emphasis on the “ready”, playing with my finger, asking me if I liked the rings that other women had). But as much as I thought he might be planning to propose, I also didn’t want to let myself become too convinced that he would and then be disappointed if he didn’t.
    My birthday came and we went out for dinner that evening, just the two of us at a really sweet, quiet little Chinese restaurant. We chatted, we ate, then he said he wanted to give me my present. Across the table came a small bag. I opened it to see…two stuffed tigers. “Because it’s the year of the Tiger and you don’t have one yet!” he explained. Hmmmm. Oh well, I thought. We’re happy and when it’s supposed to happen, it will happen.
    The next evening, we were going to have my birthday dinner together with many of my coworkers and some other friends of ours. Although I was feeling sick, I got ready and we arrived to see almost everyone else there already, sat down and ordered the food. I opened presents from some other friends. Then suddenly I heard, “Wait, I have one more present for you!” He left the room and came back a few seconds later with a beautiful bouquet of roses. As I turned around and he handed them to me, he then got down on one knee and I saw the box in his hand. He opened it up to reveal a gorgeous ring! Funnily enough, he never actually asked me to marry him, as we both got caught up in the moment, although I did ask him if he was serious!
    He has been told numerous times that he is very brave for asking me in front of all those people – what if he had been rejected?! And for me, it was nice to have some close friends there to share it with us, as well as take a few pictures to show my family back home. My most memorable birthday to date!!

  7. You already know the story of how I had to propose to my Chinese husband but I don’t think I’ve ever told you about the engagement ring he bought me a few weeks later.

    I was in Germany doing an internship and he had made a special trip to Hong Kong to buy my ring. He called me to say he’d made the purchase and I asked what it looked like. He said it was white.

    A white wedding ring?!

    I asked if the metal was white or the stones were white. He said it was the stones. This did not conjure up good images for me.

    I asked if the stone was a diamond or a pearl and he said, “It’s a pearl. No wait, it’s a diamond. No wait, what’s the difference again?”

    Suddenly I seriously regretted letting him buy the ring alone. But in fact it was a diamond, and a beautiful one at that. I’m wearing the ring right now and it’s perfect.
    .-= melanie gao´s last blog ..Caution – Drive Safely =-.

  8. what is a ‘declaration of love’? and engagement/wedding rings aren’t common in China?
    i’m curious, my Chinese boyfriend sometimes mentions marriage but i don’t know how they go about with the engagement..

    1. @Lynsea, the “declaration of love” I refer to is simply a poem John wrote for me. As for engagement/wedding rings, I’ve started to see wedding rings pop up more and more in China — certainly I’ve seen ring exchanges at weddings, which are not anything close to being traditional in China — but engagement rings are not always used among couples.

      Still, look at Michelle Chu — she told her Chinese boyfriend she only had two requirements when it came to getting married: a proposal, and a ring. And he came through with both in this surprise Beijing subway proposal.

  9. Couples are making movies on proposals and you can be your own actors if you’re not shy like me. Yes, this is new and taking it to another level!!!

  10. We are find one girl for our marriage. My name is kasun and my age job is PRIVAT teaching and we have a computer shop. My brothers name sheyn.his age18.we are looking for very kind, innocent, girl. We are Sri Lankan boys. Our E-mail: ([email protected]). /dont joke,kidding please. We are not smoking and drinking. I hate to do this.

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