Double Happiness: “Enter Zhao Ming…China’s Answer to Arnold Schwarzenegger”

Ming and Rosalie at their wedding in 2007 (Photo courtesy of Rosalie Zhao)

I love stories that challenge stereotypes about Chinese men. Well, you can’t get much better than this love story, where a white American woman goes to China and ends up falling for a guy she considers the Chinese version of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Thanks to Rosalie Zhao for sharing her amazing story, which just might inspire more Western women out there to give Chinese men a chance.


Thanks to a relative’s cute Chinese neighbor, I went through a brief phase of yellow fever in high school. It came and went in the same fashion as most things (Josh Hartnett, Doc Martens) I pined after during my teenage years. I didn’t think my attraction to Asians would resurface, even as I packed my bags for my post-college teach in China stint. Just a week before I left, in February 2005, my cousin Nicky called it, “You’re gonna fall in love in China.” I couldn’t help but laugh.

Fast-forward a couple months later and you’d find me in China, sweating it out at the local gym. I’d never been much of a gym rat, but with a 12 hour per week teaching schedule, virtually no English-language television, and no home internet (remember—this was 2005 and I was in a small Chinese city) all that was left to do was hop on a treadmill.

Me exercising is no picture of grace and beauty, nor is it a time during which I enjoy critique or idle chit-chat. Enter Zhao Ming, seemingly China’s answer to Arnold Schwarzenegger. As I made my feeble attempts to use five pound free weights, Ming took it upon himself to criticize my form. While I understand now that Chinese people often offer unsolicited advice as a gesture of kindness, at the time I was thoroughly annoyed. Who did this meathead think he was? And he could hardly speak English!

Ming and Rosalie in June 2005 (Photo courtesy of Rosalie Zhao)

Though awkward, I was relieved by our failure to communicate. It meant Mr. Muscles would leave me alone. It wasn’t but a few days later, while I was on the treadmill jogging, thoroughly red-faced, that he made his second approach. I tried to politely ignore him, but as anyone living in China knows, you cannot politely ignore a Chinese person who really wants something. This guy was on a mission. In a tone that sounded a bit rehearsed, he asked, “Can I with you walk home?”

I decided it was best to stick with honesty. “Oh, sorry. I have to go home and take a shower,” I replied. His face was thrown into a state of utter confusion. He really didn’t understand English. Continuing my jog, I began to pantomime while yelling, “US, NO WALK. ME, GO HOME. SHOWER.” His face lit up; he understood. But a second later his expression collapsed, realizing I wasn’t willing to walk with him.

Over the course of the next two weeks we repeated the same song and dance—him asking to walk me home and me gesturing my refusals. It wasn’t until one night that he cornered me at the gym exit that I finally decided to give him a chance. What was the harm in letting him walk with me?

So we walked, with few words, just his bicycle and our foolish grins between us. He stopped and bought us each a yogurt, then carefully unwrapped the straw and stuck it in the drink, smiling at me widely. I felt my insides melt. When we reached my apartment I decided to run upstairs quickly to grab my Lonely Planet phrasebook. Somehow we fuddled through an hour’s worth of “conversation” before it started to rain lightly. We quickly ran into the building’s stairwell, laughing. Then he kissed me. In that moment I somehow knew that I could, in fact, find love in China. And here we are, eight years later, five years married, and still very much in love.

Rosalie with Ming and his family in December 2011 (Photo courtesy of Rosalie Zhao)

Ming later revealed to me that his approach at the gym exit was going to be his final attempt to ask me out. I’m so glad I didn’t turn him down. Looking back, I’m not sure why I found the thought of finding love in China so humorous and inconceivable. In a country of 1.3 billion people, the majority of them male, why did finding a boyfriend seem so implausible? My closed-mindedness and arrogance nearly cost me the love of my life. A cautionary tale? Maybe. But more importantly, just a reminder—anything is possible, even love for the single foreign female in China!

Rosalie Zhao resides with her husband in Hebei, China, where she writes a blog in Chinese and English called An American Woman in China.


We’re looking for a few good stories from Chinese men and Western women in love — or out of love — to share on Fridays. Submit your original story or a published blog post today.

44 Replies to “Double Happiness: “Enter Zhao Ming…China’s Answer to Arnold Schwarzenegger””

  1. Aww, what a story! Thank you Rosalie for sharing it with us! There must have been fate between you two, his final attempt and you finally, for some reason, let him to walk you home. While I read your story I could see it happening in my head, very well written!

    This is a great example for all of us of how little it sometimes might take to find your love in life. When you least expect it, you might end up finding your road.

    I would like to think that fate had something to do with me and my boyfriend meeting too. We had a common friend, but the night we met and hit if off, our Japanese friend had invited him to a pub, he had also invited a Finnish guy who then invited me. And like this we ended up in the same table, talking endlessly about things. If we had met in another time and another circumstances, perhaps the outcome also would have been different? But luckily it happened this way 🙂

    Thank you again Rosalie and Jocelyn for sharing!

  2. really? Arnold is a high level dedicated bobybuilder who won international titles, so it’s inherently assumed that his feats of strength are no small matter.
    Not to mention his efforts in diets. Mentioning a dude who doesn’t look half as good as Arnold in his bulking or off-season time, whose job is not solely lift, eat and find better ways to diet is kinda pretenious

  3. I’m glad that another Chinese man loves bodybuilding!

    @Anonymous, Arnold used steroid and ALL professional bodybuilders use steroid. Without steroid, you won’t look like Arnold and you need good genes.

  4. @ Rosalie. Wow!!! What a story! Persistence paid off for the China boy. Congrats to you both.
    As a White boy in love with a China doll, I tried on several occasions to chase down a Chinese goddess but to no avail. Finally, one of my sisters felt sorry for me and she met one of her college girlfriends who was an ABC girl. Then my sis intro’d me to her and now we are solidly in love. Now I have met her parents and they seemed to like me a lot (I think!) and we talking increasingly more about marriage and kids.

  5. @Manny,

    Still enjoy trolling? Where are your two sisters? Love to hear your grandfather’s story once more.

    Now China doll? love that expression.

    I’ll wait here while I’m having milk with cereal Crackers.

  6. @Anonymous: If you’re going to call someone pretentious, at least man up and do it as yourself, not as Anonymous. And I honestly don’t think Rosalie thought to herself, “Hey, this guy is a high level dedicated bodybuilder who’s won international titles, he spends all his time eating, lifting, and dieting, and oh yeah, he’s also got a secret love-child with his housekeeper. He’s EXACTLY LIKE Arnold, except Chinese.”

    @Rosalie: Great story! Something interesting I learned in college that I still remember is when you’re working out, your endorphins are higher, which creates more positive feelings. So the gym is a smart place for men to pick up women because the women will attribute those feelings of excitement to talking to the guy (of course this doesn’t apply to all guys, and in your case, those feelings were legit).

  7. I love this story!
    Persistence is something that always pays off.
    At the beginning I was also quite on denial but this guy…he has knows what he wants! 🙂
    It is nice when persistence is done carefully and with respect!
    I am very happy to read your story and to learn that here we have another brave Chinese man !

  8. Great you gave him a chance!

    @Laura: I agree that persistence can pay off, but sometimes only unto a certain point. There has to be something more than just persistence to connect two people’s hearts. Persistence can make you see things (or a person in that case) that you didn’t see before, so it can definitely be a good thing!

  9. This is such a sweet story.

    Now I am kind of happy that I grew up in a Western country that has virtually no Asian men which also means no stereotypes (apart that they all eat rice.) So when he made his first move I didn’t have to fight off the conditioning that dating an Asian man is somehow silly.

    But I think it’s great that Ms. Rosalie Zhao managed to do just that 🙂

  10. @Michelle: who says I have to use my real name online to call someone pretenious? plus, would it change anything if I fill in the name field as something else? You still wouldn’t now who I really am.
    if you really wanna trace it, the email I use is linked with my youtube account, which I put videos of myself lifting.
    This story isn’t much different from as if my ex gf tells people she was dating an Asian equivalent of Georges St. Pierre. I would have laughed my ass off hearing that before telling her to stop the analogy.
    plus, his commitment to the gym must be stellar preying on women like that heh?
    @Bruce: you’re such a Strength and Conditioning expert ain’t ya? NO matter what dosage and what type of steroids you take, you won’t look half as good as Arnie (spoken from a guy who abhors bobybuilding with a passion)

  11. @Anonymous,
    It’s just simple. If you think his off-season bulking is not worth your time, skip it.
    It’s just too much simple. If you think Arnold is a sole builder Zao Ming can’t even be compared, skip reading this.
    It’s again way too simple. If you think Rosalie is asking her husband Zao Ming to go and compete in international bodybuilding competition and dethrone the Arnold, you’d better look out for some other website like bodybuilding dot com?

    This topic is about sharing the story of how she met a guy in the gym. She would have mentioned Arnold in the sense of the place where they met, the GYM. But you’re picking bones with her comparison of Arnold and project negative comment.

    You’re entitled to your opinions. You may be taller than Zao Ming, more muscular than Zao Ming, more handsome than Zao Ming, after all, you might be a body trainer after all. But what’s up with that his wife thinks her husband is good enough for her and living together for 5 years? What’s up with that?

    This is the story sharing topic, one way or another, all those stories tend to be a bit of surreal experience and exaggeration.

    What more do you want?

  12. “plus, his commitment to the gym must be stellar preying on women like that heh?”

    Preying?? Seems to me he met a ONE girl he genuinely liked and didn’t simply give up on the first try.

    Was persistent in a respectful manner (never got pissed as if he felt entitled to her attention), and learned a foreign language without being like the creepy Asiaphile who says “NI HAO” to every female in sight that remotely looked Asian.

    As told in the story, he was prepared to stop, with the good fortune that she finally said yes on his final attempt. Two weeks of persistence seems long to me, but, hey, it worked out for the best didn’t it?

  13. @chinaelevatorstories,

    Agree! Need a combination of qualities, of values, from both sides! Not only being persistent but also other great qualities. And also from Rachel’s part! Is the whole combination what makes that relationship work so well. He “used” persistence in a good way, he lifted those qualities to a higher level, and let’s say, someone people don’t know how to be persistent, they just cross the line, not easy!

    Cyberbulling is everywhere, if someone wants to call you something and he cannot even show who he really is don’t even take him into account. As my friend likes to say to this kind of people…. Man up.

  14. @Anonymous, good genes will determine a career in professional bodybuilding. Let’s not compare people will ya! It’s like comparing rich people or your rich friends with you or others.

    At least I give credit to Ming that he had the confidence to approach his wife. Yes, working out will build up your confident level. I personally know that.

  15. I think the guy benefits from no inferior complex being in a small Chinese city. He did not speak English and probably not exposed to lots of negative opinions either. Sometimes it is best not to know and to chart your own course. If a couple remains in China, they will continue to be insulated.
    To build on a relationship will need more than persistence like someone else mentioned earlier.

  16. @Laura: if you think I need to man up, then true, I can stand to gain some more balls. i mean, this little boy has only been in an MMA cage, pro-Muay Thai rings… you know, stuffs that little sissies do… unlike Mr chinese Arnold over there

    @Bruce: mind you, it isn’t me who brings up the comparison between this dude and Arnie

    @the rest of you whiny folks: read the title and tell me who’s being more ridiculous?

  17. @Anonymous,
    I believe masculinity is not something only about appearance, work out. Masculity is more link to grown ups, those who are mature enough

  18. Why get so worked up about a title….it’s tongue in cheek, even when she (Roalie) says ” Enter Zhao Ming, seemingly China’s answer to Arnold Schwarzenegger.” it’s done with humour.

  19. It’s just a title . We shouldn’t fight over little things like this . Anyway, I still give Ming the credit for his effort.

    Actually, I like Ronnie Coleman over Arnold. I like the freaky looks. Arnold’s time is from the 70’s but Ronnie is the freakiest I think. No comparison dude.

  20. How do you guys want Asian men to look like ? Comparing 40 or 50 yrs old Asian men with White men, Asian men tend to look much younger. Look at George Clooney man! He’s 52 but look like 72 dude. Yes we do have less body hair and less winkles :).

  21. You can clearly see that Anonymous is using this opportunity to take cheap shots at Asian men, as he feels that the author is trying to challenge his bigoted notion of Asian masculinity (or lack thereof).
    Guess in the West, openly flaunting bigotry against Asians is considered acceptable.

  22. @Rdm: username: mike2011989
    @Henry Yeh: I am an Asian dude, what benefit does it gain me taking cheap shots at Asian men?

  23. ^Anonymous,
    Nice snatch. But I have to say Zaoming’s Biceps and Triceps are bigger than yours. Maybe his is off-season bulking. Yours is when all season? I don’t know.

    What can I say? I’m a whiner.

  24. Yeah when did I say my biceps or triceps are bigger than his? Keep whining and maybe one day you will obtain a sport scholarship at a prestigious university

  25. ^ I don’t usually comment. But when I do, I see the troll.

    I don’t know when you said that. But you said his is off-season bulking, didn’t you?

    You came here as if calling Zaoming as an answer to Arnold in China is ridiculous.
    You came here to read Chinese man and Western women pairing story.
    You blamed when a Western female (who is now officially a wife of a young Chinese men) complimented her husband for whatever reason.

    Then you left the hint like you’re in MMA cage, Pro-Muay Thai, and now with a sport scholarship in prestigious university, while demeaning other couples story in terms of comparing Zaoming to Arnold.

    Let me just say a final word to you, dude.

    I’m a Chinese from US. When I caught a glimpse at your Ontario board at the back, I thought I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt at least for your achievement. Now with the hubris?

    Dude come and visit my Ivy league university in US. It’s claimed the most beautiful campus among Ivies.
    I’m gonna leave the part where scholarship counts.

    I’m not here trying to compare your achievements and others. You came here and saw Zaoming and his wife photos right in front of your computer. You have the advantage of seeing how Zaoming looks like and how his wife looks like in real person. While nobody here knows how exactly you look like and what you’ve been up to. Then you came and read their story, left the negative comment the first of which is something to do with his off-season bulking, not to mention with “Anonymous” nickname. Then all others shot you down, and you came up with the title issue, and called everybody here as “whining folks”.

    Only after did I ask you to show me yours, you came up with your youtube. And when I officially “whine”, you came up another line of “sport scholarship in prestigious university.”

    I’m not against your achievements and effort. But don’t act like everybody here is 12 years old teenager who is a lonely virgin, waiting to read some of those love stories every now and then with “ridiculous” comparison.

    As a friendly advice to you, don’t come up with hubris.


    I’m gonna go off 3, 2, 1…..

  26. well, part of a public discussion: there will be people disagreeing with you… probably should learn to deal with it. So far the rebuttal to my disagreement has included infantile tactics like calling me trolls, calling me an idiot.
    Well, I can tell you all the achievements I have hinted are true. hell, I even let others see who I am and what I do, it’s the rest of you who are hiding behind the computer anonymously. As for the name, that field space can be written as anything….. Anonymous, Rdm, Laura without any verification required.
    Ok, you`re saying just because I am in canada, I don`t have a prestigious school offer. OK then it`s your entitled opinion.
    If I put on my youtube channel, saying that just because I date my gf, a blonde girl with D cup, should I say it`s my answer to Scarlet Johanson?

    p.s: i dont read chinese

  27. Anonymous,

    I’m curious on your wrestling scholarship dude since you’re an Asian guy. Normally, Asian students don’t get scholarship for sports except for academics . Jeremy Lin supposed to get a basketball scholarship but didn’t get one because he was not black/white. It’s called discrimination.

    I love bodybuilding for a long long time until now. I love it so much that I have to pose everyday in the mirror :). I have a horse shoe shaped triceps that I love . I’m in my early 40’s and I still work out 2 to 4 times a week. First of all, how can we compare with Arnold and other professional bodybuilders when we don’t us steroid. It’s not humanly possible to maintain a 3% body fat at 240lbs or 280lbs all muscles. Look at the peak of their muscles and muscle mass dude. Normal human won’t reach this level because you get tired and your muscles won’t recover that fast with a 6 days exercise routine. Actually, I haven’t age that much because I work out religiously but I do get weaker with age.

  28. @bruce: well, I guess in my case I didn’t get discriminated, because we Canadians are awesome????
    plus, it wasn’t me who compare Arnie with this dude. It was the original post that did, and it was me who said comparing the two is pretenious.

  29. I don’t see the benefit of winning an argument and making others angry. Sure everyone is stranger on internet, but the attitude may carry on in real life. It is not good for professional and personal life. Just an opinion.

  30. I won’t get too sentimental since I’m a guy, but its a very nice story. Its meant to encourage (Chinese) guys to approach, and Western women to at least keep an open mind.

    Nitpicking and cutting people down is more ridiculous than any inexact or uneven comparison made in the narrative. Let it go.

    Ming seems like a decent fellow and I wish the couple much happiness. Thanks to Rosalie for sharing.

  31. It’s much easier if you work on your body and women will notice you. More than a decade ago, I worked out with my friends and we didn’t have much problems finding gf or dates. It’s just easier when you have the body . No matter if the woman is black, white or Asian. Once you stand out from the rest of other men, women recognize you.

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