Photo Essay: 8 Favorite Pics of My Chinese Mother-in-Law, Showing Her Love

Recently, fellow blogger Marissa at Squirrels of a Feather did a post titled 10 Reasons Chinese Mother-in-Laws Rock. When I read her post, I was reminded of the many ways my Chinese mother-in-law is also amazing.

I’m not able to spend this mother’s day with any of the moms in my life (including my extraordinary stepmom back in America, who is as much of a mom to me as my own mother was). But I thought I’d take a moment to share a few of my favorite photos capturing some of the love my Chinese mother-in-law has shown me over the years. And here in China, where families rarely say “I love you,” it’s the actions that truly matter.

Wishing all of you a happy Mother’s Day!

Recently I wrote a column for China Daily titled Connecting Nature, Food, Life in Mountains, and it was inspired by the time my Chinese mother-in-law invited me to come up the mountain with her to gather wild edible plants. Here’s a photo from that day, with my mother-in-law holding a handful of wild bamboo shoots. It was so lovely of her to share this experience with me.

When I was staying with my husband’s family one summer, I complimented my mother-in-law on her mouthwatering pickled radish and asked about the recipe. So one afternoon, she actually taught me how to make it — and yes, it was as hands on as it gets!


Every spring for the Tomb-Sweeping Festival (also known as the Qingming Festival), my mother-in-law prepares Qingming snacks from scratch. The green color of the snacks comes from the aromatic mugwort, which grows wild all over the village and the mountains. Here she’s preparing the dough, which will eventually be shaped into sweet rounds and savory turnovers.


A number of holidays during the year, including Chinese New Year, call for savory turnovers known as migu and my mother-in-law always spends time making huge batches for us and relatives who visit. Here she’s laying out the finished turnovers, which will later be steamed or fried and then served up.


I’ve often praised my mother-in-law’s homemade tofu (including in a China Daily column I wrote up for Chinese New Year this year) and it’s extraordinary to witness her in the kitchen, going through the process of crafting this essential Chinese food. She always makes extra for me, the vegan, and sends me home with more than any person could humanly consume.

People close to me know that vegan Chinese shaobing, or stuffed flatbread, is one of my favorite treats, and that includes my mother-in-law. For a time, whenever I stayed with her I would soon catch her in the kitchen cooking up another batch of what I think of as “Chinese pizza,” and always send me home with a huge stack of them for quick meals. Yum!

During the winter solstice, my mother-in-law showed me how to make sesame balls or maqiu, a traditional holiday treat. It was fun learning the process as well as helping to keep the fire-powered wok supplied with wood!

My mother-in-law and I stand before the family home during a Chinese New year.

Wherever you are in the world, here’s hoping you have a wonderful Mother’s Day!

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9 Replies to “Photo Essay: 8 Favorite Pics of My Chinese Mother-in-Law, Showing Her Love”

  1. Ummm… would your mother-in-law like an extra daughter? I promise to eat all that delicious food 🙂

  2. somehow, i have a feeling that you are more chinese than some of the overseas chinese ( or maybe even local chinese ) that i know of. best wishes.

  3. Wow, now I want to go gather bamboo in the wild! That looks like so much fun 🙂 The pictures make me remember the time we climbed the mountain the the middle of summer to go visit the ancestors.

    And your MIL’s cooking looks so authentic! I bet she and my MIL would get along famously.

    Thanks for the mention…it’s so true that Chinese families don’t say “I love you” as often…instead, they show it through their actions. Have you ever read the book, The Five Love Languages? I had to read that book to adjust to being married to my Chinese husband, as I am a words-type of person. After nearly 10 years together, now I get it 🙂

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