Riding the ‘Love Train’: Matchmaking Express Takes Off in China’s Chongqing

Move over, Love Boat. Southwest China’s Chongqing has discovered a more creative vehicle for matchmaking with its own “Love Train”, which has gained momentum since its opening in 2016, as China Daily reported in a recent story. The train whisks nearly 1,000 single men and women on a two-day, one-night journey within Chongqing, with one destination in mind: romance. Here’s an excerpt from the story:

“Such activities are more creative than matchmaking. The train is like a magpie bridge, bringing people from different places together to get to know each other during the journey,” said Huang Song, one of the participants. “Even if you don’t find the right one for you, you can still make a lot of friends on the train.”

And with a little luck, they could discover that special someone. Ten couples who met on the train have already tied the knot, after all.

(Interestingly, the train runs under the number 999, a lucky figure for lovers which signifies “together forever” in Chinese.)

To read the full story and check out the photos, head on over to China Daily to see The pursuit of true love is hopeful aim on matchmaking train.

What do you think about the idea of a “love train”? Do you think trains are a good place for matchmaking? Would you enjoy hopping on board in an effort to find love?

Photo credit: https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:China_Railways_YZ22_336250_in_2678_Ordinary_Fast_Train_20131001.jpg

New Romantic Chinese TV Series to Sweeten Up Your Qixi Festival (Chinese Valentine’s Day) – Rec’d by China Daily

Qixi Festival, or Chinese Valentine’s Day, is coming up (this year August 7). If you’re a fan of TV series — and enjoy watching in Chinese — consider sweetening up the holiday with one of these new Chinese shows, as featured in the China Daily article Romantic dramas a sweet TV treat for Qixi:

In the past, realistic or tragic TV dramas dominated the Chinese TV market. But this year has seen a big shift as more viewers, especially young women, are turning to sweet romantic dramas with a happy ending.

All of these TV dramas have a similar format. The leading male and female characters are very outstanding in their studies and careers, and have rarely had romantic relationships before they meet. Usually, they fall in love with each other at first sight or after they clear up some misunderstandings. And the couple continues to show affection through the drama.

Anyone whose guilty TV pleasures happen to include romantic, lighthearted picks (such as movies from Netflix or Hallmark) should find something to love in the 10 recommended TV series in the article, which include Gank Your Heart (陪你到世界之巅), the TV series featured in the image above.

Those of you studying Mandarin might also give these TV series a try. After all, some of the best learning aids are those that make it fun! When I started out, I spent a lot of evenings engrossed in TV series about young people falling in love. My desire to understand everything on screen pushed me to learn more Chinese words and characters. (After all, how else will you know why they’re breaking up or who has a crush on who?) 😉

Head on over to China Daily to read Romantic dramas a sweet TV treat for Qixi. And then start watching!

Happy Qixi Festival (Chinese Valentine’s Day) to everyone!

‘Made in China’ Movie: Franco-Chinese Man Dating White Woman Reconnects with His Family

The latest film from Julien Abraham that hit the theaters earlier this summer, explores many themes typical of family comedies — such as family estrangement and pending parenthood. But “Made in China” does so with a twist less often seen in the French cinema, let alone movies worldwide  — through the eyes of a 30-year-old Franco-Chinese man together in Paris with his pregnant white girlfriend. Here’s an excerpt from the synopsis on IMDb:

François, a young thirty-year-old Asian, has not been back in his family for 10 years after a violent dispute with his father Meng. Since then, he has always tried to avoid questions about his origins, until he lies to believe that he has been adopted. But when he learns that he is going to be a father, he realizes that he will have to reconnect with his past and his origins.

The film stars Frédéric Chau, a lead from the French hit Serial (Bad) Weddings series, in the main role, and Julie De Bona as his girlfriend. A review in the Hollywood Reporter praised the film, saying:

In a country where Asians have often made for easy punchlines in movies and TV shows, and where a more aggressive racism toward the Chinese population has reared its head these past years, Made in China comes as a welcome reminder of France’s evolving demographics…

It’s also a welcome reflection of the lives of many interracial and intercultural couples around the world, grappling with similar issues. The movie, in French and Mandarin, may still be in theaters in France and Germany. Otherwise, you can watch this trailer on Youtube (or this promo on QQ, if you’re in China) and then stay on the lookout to stream it online.

What do you think of “Made in China”? Have you seen it, or would you see it?

‘The Sun Is Also a Star’ Movie: Blasian Love Hits Big Screen

The movie adaptation of Nicola Yoon’s best-selling YA novel “The Sun Is Also a Star” opened last weekend in theaters across North America, with many noting its romantic leads – the Jamaican girl Natasha (played by Yara Shahidi of “Black-ish” and “Grown-ish”) and the Korean American boy Daniel (played by Charles Melton of “Riverdale”).

While I’ve yet to see the film (though read the book), it has drawn mixed reviews, putting it at a little over 50 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. Still, I believe “The Sun Is Also a Star” merits a look for a number of good reasons.

Yes, we’ve got to start with the “R-word” here – representation. This modern day Romeo and Juliet tale pairs up a black girl and an Asian boy. It’s rare enough to see either black women or Asian men cast as romantic leads, let alone both together. Here’s what Charles Melton had to say about his turn as Daniel Bae in a conversation with AsAm News:

Speaking of handsome, it hasn’t been lost on Melton he’s getting the rare opportunity to play the male lead in a romance.

“To see not only that, but to see a character that embodies a full masculinity, it’s very endearing. It’s very aspirational. It’s a love story,” he told me. “The way Daniel is its like it’s great that he’s Asian. People will be able to connect to that . He’s also like the modern  man- to be open, to be a hopeless romantic. It’s an honor.”

The story also takes representation a step further with characters that eschew the usual stereotypes. Natasha is a rational young woman who aspires to become a scientist, while Daniel is creative and secretly yearns to be a poet.

Meanwhile, “The Sun Is Also a Star” puts a human face on immigration — a timely theme in this era — with Natasha. As an undocumented immigrant who came to the US as a child and must face the prospect of deportation within 24 hours, she symbolizes immigrant kids like the DREAMers as well as the ways in which the US immigration system can suddenly threaten young hopes and futures.

Do you plan to see “The Sun Is Also a Star“? Or have you seen it already? What do you think about the movie?

Are Highly Sensitive People More Accepted in Chinese Culture? One Study Says Yes

One of the fascinating things I learned from my husband when we began dating many years ago is this – that, as a more quiet and sensitive kind of guy who excelled at his studies, he was popular in school growing up in China.

This was the complete opposite of my own experience growing up in America. Being quiet and sensitive didn’t exactly help me rise in popularity among my peers, particularly in junior high and high school. Add to that the fact that I was a straight-A student near the top of the class, which led a number of kids to just write me off as another geek.

Over the years, I’ve found myself more at ease in China, and I would often attribute it to a number of things, including this sense that I felt my personality was more accepted in the culture. Imagine my surprise to read Elaine Aron’s The Highly Sensitive Person and discover a study that actually revealed that Chinese culture appears more welcoming to sensitive individuals:

If you remember only one thing from this book, it should be the following research study. Xinyin Chen and Kenneth Rubin of the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, and Yuerong Sun of Shanghai Teachers University compared 480 schoolchildren in Shanghai to 296 in Canada to see what traits made children most popular. In China “shy” and “sensitive” children were among those most chosen by others to be friends or playmates. (In Mandarin, the word for shy or quiet means good or well-behaved; sensitive can be translated as “having understanding,” a term of praise.) In Canada, shy and sensitive children were among the least chosen. Chances are, this is the kind of attitude you faced growing up.

Think about the impact on you of not being the ideal for your culture. It has to affect you — not only how others have treated you but how you have come to treat yourself.

Reading this was like a revelation, an ah-ha moment that confirmed something I had understood for years – that my personality felt like a better fit in China compared to the US.

How about you? Are you a highly sensitive person who has lived in the East and the West? Have you also felt more at ease in a culture in the East, such as Chinese?

Eddie Peng’s Flirtatious Scarf Exchange in Longines Ad Makes Me Smile

I’m not often one to notice advertisements, but this campaign from Longines, featuring Taiwanese-born Canadian actor and Longines brand ambassador Eddie Peng, has me — and my husband — all in smiles.

First off, I love how Eddie plays this ultimate kind of gentleman — all debonair in a fine gray suit, strolling around a horse racing venue with the kind of easy confidence of someone like James Bond. Nice to see an Asian man represented in such a positive, aspirational role in a TV commercial.

But it’s the subtle flirtation between him and a white woman in the commercial that always gets me. While walking past him, her silk scarf gets blown away — only to be caught by Peng’s character in one graceful lunge. Her face lights up in a smile, and as he offers the scarf back to her, their hands nearly touch, leading to the kind of blushing faces and playful glances that could only happen when two people share a “moment”.

And as the young woman walks away, she gives him one last wistful look, as if contemplating the possibility of something with this handsome gentleman.

This commercial never fails to make me and my husband laugh. We have this inside joke that he’s the guy in the spot, giving me back my silk scarf — totally corny, I know!

If you’ve never seen this Longines commercial with Eddie Peng, take a look on Youtube:

Or, if you’re in China, see it on Bilibili.

What do you think of this Longines commercial?

‘How I Became Russian’ Movie Pits Shanghainese Man Against Future Russian Father-in-Law

Years ago, when Philip Wong of Wongfu Productions cited Meet the Parents as a movie that should have starred Asians in one of the major roles, the universe must have heard his plea. That’s because a new Sino-Russian collaboration How I Became Russian (Как я стал русским), set to hit the theaters here in China on Jan 25, stands as a perfect example of a Meet the Parents-style tale, with a Sino-Russian twist.

The movie’s Chinese name Zhandou Minsu Yangchengji (战斗民族养成记), which roughly translates to “Notes on Battling Nationals”, pits a young Shanghainese man engaged to a Russian woman against his future Russian father-in-law, a nightmare of a man determined to put the newcomer through the wringer to prove his love for his fiancée.

Philip Wong would definitely approve of the casting, as he once stated “the basic premise [in Meet the Parents] of the “outsider” boyfriend meeting his fiancee’s ‘all-American’ family would be even more strengthened if said boyfriend was really ‘different’ i.e. Asian.” In this case, there’s no doubt who’s the outsider — the Shanghainese fellow met and proposed to his Russian fiancee in China, and then they travel to Russia, a foreign country, to meet the family.

And if the trailer is any measure, How I Became Russian also has lots of comedic potential with the hurdles the gun-toting Russian father throws at the Shanghai boyfriend. These include drinking duels with vodka, sweltering in saunas, shivering in the frigid cold and a showdown with an armored tank. The bottom line, like Meet the Parents, appears to be the same — it’s yet another father who doesn’t trust his daughter’s fiancee and will make him fight for the right to love her.

The movie stars Dong Chang (董畅) as the Shanghainese boyfriend, Elizaveta Kononova as the Russian girlfriend, and Vitaliy Khaev as the Russian father-in-law. Learn more about the movie in Chinese on Baidu (where you can also see trailers).

What do you think of How I Became Russian? Would you like to see this film?

‘Crazy Rich Asians’ the Movie Opens in China. How Will It Play With Audiences?

While much of the world welcomes the start of the holiday season, this weekend brings great cheer for moviegoers in China who happen to adore a certain novel by Kevin Kwan. Yes, Nov 30 marks the opening date in China for “Crazy Rich Asians” the movie.

The movie hasn’t even hit the theaters yet and many of my chat groups filled with other women with Chinese husbands and boyfriends are buzzing about the film. And why not? “Crazy Rich Asians” is the highest-grossing romantic comedy in a decade,  and it hopes to cash in on the same success in China, poised to become the world’s largest movie market.

But while “Crazy Rich Asians” could enjoy a splendid run in here in the Middle Kingdom, Chinese audiences already have a different perspective on the film.

Just consider its Chinese title, zhāijīn qíyuán (摘金奇缘), which others have translated into English as everything from “Tales of Gold-Digging” to “Gold-Picking Romance” or even “An Unexpected Gold-Digging Romance”.

It’s a bit misleading, as the character of Rachel Chu, played by Constance Wu, isn’t dating the “crazy-rich” Nick Young for his money, and doesn’t initially know he’s the scion of one of Singapore’s wealthiest families. But it does suggest that, here in China, people see “Crazy Rich Asians” through a different lens.

Look at what some Chinese have had to say about “Crazy Rich Asians” the movie on China’s movie review site Douban, including this:

One user criticized the film for its lack of authenticity, comparing it to Americanized Chinese food. “As a native Asian, I feel it’s like eating General Tso’s chicken in a Chinese restaurant” in a foreign country, chimed in someone in Los Angeles who goes by the moniker Durian Cake Brother (link in Chinese). “It looks like a film about Asians, but the spirit of it is American. The leading actress is an ABC. The story is about how Asians look in the eyes of the Americans.”

Professor Han Li, in an opinion piece for Sixth Tone, also writes in a similar vein about “Crazy Rich Asians”, singling out perceptions of the character Rachel Chu as a potential point of difference:

Despite my reservations about the movie’s portrayal of Chinese culture, there’s no doubt it struck a chord with Asian American audiences. It’s less clear, however, whether it would be met with the same reception in China, should it open here. The character of Rachel, in particular, might not be quite as popular. While some viewers may appreciate her depiction as a young, independent professional and be impressed with the way she has realized the American dream as a second-generation Chinese immigrant, others might see her not as the movie wants them to, but as Eleanor does — Chinese on the outside, American on the inside.

Jeff Yang echoes that in a piece about “Crazy Rich Asians” prospects in China, saying:

…the very thing that made “Crazy Rich Asians” so meaningful to Asians in the US might have given China’s cinematic powers-that-be pause: its focus on the global Chinese diaspora in America and Singapore.

…most Chinese don’t understand or find interest in the identity politics of more racially diverse societies like the US. The experience of Chinese Americans feels niche in China, where Chinese are the mainstream.”

Indeed, speaking of identity politics, don’t expect viewers or critics here to chime in on some of the controversies that arose in the West surrounding casting decisions (like having half-white/half-Asian Henry Golding play Nick Young, which some perceived as whitewashing). China has embraced many mixed-race celebrities (such as Fei Xiang), so it’s hard to imagine audiences having concerns about Golding.

Overall, these differences in perspective have a lot of critics uncertain about the film’s prospects in China, with some (like Victor Zheng at SupChina) even forecasting the possibility of a flop.

Nevertheless, as Jeff Yang notes, “Ultimately, of course, the biggest driver of the success of the film in China is likely to be its outsized success in America.” After all the movie topped the box offices for a record three weeks and raked in an incredible $230 million plus to date. That kind of triumph may be enough to power a strong run in China. We’ll see.

In the meantime, as for one tiny little demographic here in China — foreigners dating or married to Chinese — if the chat room conversations I’ve seen are any measure, I expect many of us will flock to the theaters in China for “Crazy Rich Asians”, success or no. Movie meetup, anyone?

What do you think about “Crazy Rich Asians” the movie in China? Do you feel audiences will embrace the movie anyhow? Or do you foresee a flop for the movie market in China?

Men Can Model Lipstick, and Still Be Men

Zhu Zhengting, the hot new heartthrob from boy bands Nine Percent and NEX7, stared at me from an ad, with his finger lingering seductively on the lips. It almost resembled those typical images of male models or stars, using their gorgeous faces and physiques to sell everything from jeans to jackets. But there was one striking difference.

He was wearing lipstick, a soft carnation pink, to help sell it, along with other cosmetics from a brand I discovered on Alibaba’s Tmall, an online shopping center.

A man as the brand ambassador for lip gloss, even wearing it? It’s unimaginable in the US, my home country, for a guy to model makeup, let alone vouch for it. Unless of course you’re a celebrity drag queen like RuPaul.

But Zhengting doesn’t do drag, and he isn’t playing up his feminine side, despite the makeup and softness of the photograph. Instead, his intense brown eyes seem to reach out to you, as he points to his lips, as if to say, Go ahead and kiss me.

Actually, that’s the part of the idea behind having young men help sell lipstick and lip gloss, which didn’t start with Zhengting, as China Daily reported in the article Love me, love my lipstick:

When Japanese superstar Takuya Kimura attentively stares at you, applying rouge on his tempting lips in a 1996 TV commercial, does your heart skip a beat?

Of course you can’t have him, yet having a lipstick he used might just bring him a little closer to you.

It seems Kimura’s fans had the same idea. That year, thanks to him, more than 3 million Kanebo lipsticks sold out within just two months, an unprecedented sales record stunning Japan.

The article goes on to detail other Asian celebrities who became the face of other cosmetics brands and more. But it underscores the growing importance of men in marketing cosmetics.

So does the emergence of male beauty bloggers like Li Jiaqi:

Dubbed “Taobao’s king of lipstick”, Li needs to test more than 300 types of lipstick on his lips every day during a seven-hour live broadcast, taking no breaks except to drink water or go to the bathroom.

“Many people question me, believing men do not have enough expertise to recommend female beauty products,” Li said.

But he believes he has advantages in this field. While many women may find their lips hurt after testing three lipsticks in a row, he can test as many as 380 lipsticks a day.

“Testing lipstick can damage the lips, but I do not treat my lips as lips,” Li said. Therefore, his fans have given him the nickname “iron-lipped brother”.

What a moniker!

Of course, all of this talk of men fronting lipstick brands, even wearing or testing different colors, would likely shock a lot of folks, including my fellow Americans. In the US, any man who dares to model cosmetics would surely find someone questioning his masculinity or even sexual orientation.

Admittedly, it’s a bit surprising for some Chinese audiences, as China Daily notes in its article Love me, love my lipstick: “If some people still feel confused about men advertising lipsticks, they may feel nervous when male stars also make commercials for other more intimate women’s products.”

Nevertheless, the trend of male celebrities advertising lipstick has gained traction in East Asian countries, including China.

I don’t exactly know why this works in East Asia, but it does. And there’s a part of me that wonders, is it evidence that East Asian countries like China are redefining masculinity in a new way? Is it driven by K-POP, where members of boy bands embrace makeup as part of their look? (See: K-pop boy bands defy traditional idea of masculinity)

Personally, I find it fascinating and even refreshing that there’s a corner of the world where a man can model lipstick and still be a man. I’m not sure the same would hold true in the US.

In the end, I decided to buy the lip gloss. While it had nothing to do with the arresting eyes of Zhu Zhengting, his face, and lips, certainly left an impression — in a soft carnation pink.

What do you think about men modeling lipstick?

‘Love Battle’ (爱情保卫战): Cross-Cultural Couples Collide in Chinese TV Show

Can you resolve your cross-cultural dating dilemmas and boost your Chinese at the same time? Maybe, if you’re watching the Tianjin-based Chinese reality show Love Battle (爱情保卫战), where couples in crisis present their problems in front of a panel of “dating doctors,” who later offer their advice before a live studio audience. (Talk about “bearing your soul”!)

It’s not exactly what you’d call relationship counseling — in the few episodes I did watch, the panelists (who range from matchmaking experts to even actors and TV personalities) doled out a lot of pointed, even tough-love advice to troubled couples, a sharp contrast to how real counselors and psychologists usually handle couples therapy. But that’s reality TV for you.

What is interesting about Love Battle (爱情保卫战), however, is the fact that the show welcomes cross-cultural and international couples to take part, touching on a number of issues common to such couples. Even issues that resonate with me.

For example, there’s an African woman who doubts her Chinese boyfriend because he won’t introduce her to his parents. The reason (which I won’t reveal — you’ll have to watch this short clip for yourself) is one that I once faced in a relationship (and it ultimately led to our breakup).

In another segment, a Chinese man doesn’t understand why his Russian girlfriend wants her own space and independence in the relationship. Meanwhile, she thinks he’s too clingy and can’t understand why he doubts her commitment. Sound familiar?

Here’s a selection of a few other episodes of Love Battle (爱情保卫战) with international, cross-cultural couples if you’re curious and would like to watch:

  • Episode 20140821, with a Kenyan man and a Chinese woman, and a Russian man and a Chinese woman
  • Episode 20151231, with a Chinese man and a Kenyan woman, a Chinese man and a Russian woman, a German man and a Chinese woman, an Equatorial Guinean man and a Chinese woman
  • A segment published in April 2017 with a Russian man and a Korean woman
  • Episode 20170809, with a Kenyan man and a Chinese woman, and a Turkmen man and a Chinese woman

For those of you in China who can’t get on Youtube, watch episodes from the show here at CNTV.

Have you ever watched Love Battle (爱情保卫战)? What do you think of the show?