Ruzhui: When Chinese Men “Marry Into” Wife’s Family

A man falling upside down
Ruzhui -- where Chinese men "marry into" the wife's family and have the child take on her name -- turns Chinese marriage tradition upside down. (photo by Charlie Balch)

Before I even entered his apartment with John, my Chinese husband, I knew O’Neil – a close Chinese friend of John’s from middle school – had marital distress. But I never imagined that – among other things — it would have anything to do with a struggle over the next generation’s name. “At first, her parents demanded ruzhui,” he shared late Friday, May 27, as John and I sat side by side on a sofa in his apartment for one on Hangzhou’s West Side.

I raised an eyebrow at this strange Chinese word. “What’s ruzhui?

“You marry into her family, and your children have her name,” explained O’Neil. Unlike O’Neil, who came from the countryside, his wife was the only child of a proud Hangzhou family – a family that didn’t want their name extinguished in the next generation, just because they happened to have a daughter. It turned Chinese tradition — the woman marrying into her husband’s family and giving her child his name — upside down.

O’Neil documented far greater transgressions in their marriage (the parents bought them a car, but only gave their daughter a key; on an apartment deed, where they were required by law to write their son-in-law’s name and give him a share in the real estate, the parents gave him only one percent of the value). If anything, the suggestion to ruzhui was almost understandable in a Chinese sense – except that the parents hadn’t discussed it with him before the marriage. Continue reading “Ruzhui: When Chinese Men “Marry Into” Wife’s Family”

Ask the Yangxifu: Chinese Boyfriend Thinks I’m Fat

Feet standing on a bathroom scale
A big woman and her Chinese boyfriend plan to go to China -- and all of a sudden, he wants her to lose weight. (photo by Julia Freeman-Woolpert)

Elizabeth asks:

So I’m a really big girl and my boyfriend knew this (obviously) before we started dating.  He’s been really open and supportive about everything about me but recently he has wants me to travel to China with him but he also mentioned that he wants me to lose weight.  I got upset about it and we argued, which is something we haven’t done been before, and when I asked him why?  He said that because when I’m in China, we will be looked down upon because not only am I fat but because I’m with a guy who’s smaller than me.

Being raised in America, yeah there are image issues but really, with the majority being fat, everyone is all about self value and not caring what people think.  I know superficial skinny people will just be like, “Lose weight then.”  But mostly I’m hurt that he cares what people think about me.  It has me thinking, “Why is he dating me if he cares how I look?”

I’ve read that that is the way things are in China and he said something like that too but…We’re not in China and we are going to visit, not live there.  I’m also not a miracle worker, I can’t lose as much as he wants, between now and the time he wants to leave.

So this whole topic has me really insecure right now and I don’t even want to be undressed in front of him because I think he thinks I’m unattractive.  So, my question for you and everyone is:  Is the weight issue truly that big of deal in China and is it worth the insecurity to lose the weight to make him not feel ashamed of me? Continue reading “Ask the Yangxifu: Chinese Boyfriend Thinks I’m Fat”

Ask the Yangxifu: Unlucky in Love in China

A stiletto high heel crushing a rose petal
Friday the 13 -- the perfect time for stories of unfortunate love. (photo by Aleksandra P.)

Programming note: from May 2 until May 13, I’ll be in the process of flying to and then settling down in China for the summer. During this time, I’ll be digging up some classic content from the archives, and sharing it with you in the form of theme-related posts. And don’t worry — I’ll be back on May 16. Promise! 😉


This is Friday the 13th, one of the unluckiest days of the year — a perfect time for tales of star-crossed lovers, and relationship woes, Ask the Yangxifu style:

Cheating With a Married Chinese Man. An American woman clings to an illicit relationship, and wants to believe it could be so much more. Too bad he’s married with children.

When a Chinese Man Buries His Love. There’s nothing worse than when he loves you, but decides he won’t move forward with the relationship. Makes me want to cry over Love in the Time of Cholera one more time.

Can Western Women Love a Communist Military Man? A military man in China would love to date Western women. Only problem? The government forbids it. This has all the makings of a modern-day version of Romeo and Juliet set in China.


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

Ask the Yangxifu: Are Chinese Men with Tattoos Bad?

Dragon tattoo on a man's arm
Are Chinese men with tattoos bad people? Should they be branded forever out of your social circle?

D asks:

Hi I have a Chinese classmate and he has always been very friendly with me, and he talks to me and sends me texts almost everyday. When he heard I was interested in learning Chinese, (even though I am still at the beginner stage.) He straight away offered to give me his skype address so that we could practice together online because he is also interested in improving his English pronunciation. He also invited me to go to a bbq at his house so that he could introduce me to his friends. Things seem to be going quite well.

However even though that all sounds great, there is one problem, he has a tattoo on his arm. I know normally this isn’t a big deal in European countries and USA lots of men have a tattoos. When I introduced him to some other Chinese friends of mine. They were shocked and told me don’t get to close to him, this type of man is not normal. Have you had any experience dealing with Chinese men or women with tattoos? Continue reading “Ask the Yangxifu: Are Chinese Men with Tattoos Bad?”

Ask the Yangxifu: Getting a Chinese Foreign Student To Notice You

Chinese character
A woman at a Western university has a crush on a Chinese foreign student, and wonders how she can get him to notice her? (Photo by Magda Dlugaj)

Mizu asks:

Well, there is this Chinese guy in my college that I find very attractive but the only thing is that I have no classes with him and I’m not too sure on how to approach him. I think he might be a year or two ahead of me. He’s usually alone with his Mac or with friends that he only talks for minutes and leaves. I’ve tried my best for him to notice me but he doesn’t seem to be interested. He looks very shy and maybe has a little bit of trouble speaking English [he’s usually carrying a portable translator, that I’ve seen] I’ve tried and thought of a way of making small talk, but the only thing that comes to mind is asking him for help in learning Chinese, but I don’t want to offend him in any way or weird him out. I’m a very shy person when it comes to guys that I crush on, I’ve never made a move on a guy with a different ethnicity than mine, so I’m not too sure what are the dos and don’ts in this case or if there’s any. Any suggestions or advice in talking/make him notice me is helpful, thank you.

Side note: I’m not too sure if our ages should matter in this case, I’m 19 not too sure about his; he must around 19-20.

—– Continue reading “Ask the Yangxifu: Getting a Chinese Foreign Student To Notice You”

Ask the Yangxifu: Showing a Chinese Man You’re Interested

Bok choy
A Western woman has a crush on a Chinese man at her grocery store. How can she show him, not tell him, that she's interested? (Photo by Ted Cabanes)

groceries asks:

So, I have this Chinese acquaintance.  He works at this Asian Supermarket that I frequent and I have a feeling he’s liking me too.  But when I try to make conversation with him, he like speeds through what he says like he’s trying to politely brush me off.  He makes me feel really intimidated.  I’m not a timid person, but I sort of felt like I was making a little progress, but then my best friend (who’s a guy) went to the store with me twice in a row and I feel like everything fell back to square one.  Which is horrible because it’s not like I got very far in the first place.  I kind of feel like I have no real change with him because, I am just a customer, but I want to at least try.  I feel like if I can make him realize I like him without making him feel awkward by confessing, then it may give him a little change to let me know either way, of how he feels toward me.  Any suggestions? Continue reading “Ask the Yangxifu: Showing a Chinese Man You’re Interested”

Ask the Yangxifu: Birthday Gifts for Chinese Men

Birthday cake lit with candles
Chinese men don't usually celebrate birthdays. But a Western woman may never see her Chinese friend again, and wants to give him something to remember her by. (Photo by Zsuzsanna Kilian)

foreign friend asks:

My 哥哥‘s birthday is coming up in the first week of March, and I want to give him a gift…. And he’s actually leaving soon, to China…next month as well and I want to give him something that he will remember me by. (I’m just kind of worried that in the future, he’ll forget about me…and just move on with our friendship, because he’s not coming back to our city where we attend school at.)

I know, from reading one of your articles about your husband and celebrating his birthday, is not that big in Chinese culture, but I just am wondering, what’s the best gift? Continue reading “Ask the Yangxifu: Birthday Gifts for Chinese Men”

The Personal Side of Solving Personal Problems in China

My Chinese friend, Caroline
When I asked my Chinese friend, Caroline, about her "personal problem," it wasn't a problem to her, but my way of showing I cared.

Last night, I asked my Chinese friend Caroline about her “personal problem” (个人问题 or, gèrénwèntí).

This wasn’t some euphemism for her latest gynecological issue, or a death in the family, or some neurosis that sent her running to the counseling center.

Caroline bust out in an embarrassed laughter. “No, I haven’t solved my personal problem yet,” she sighed. This “personal problem” was about solving the “problem” of being single.

Sometimes, I feel weird even asking friends like Caroline about their status like that. Continue reading “The Personal Side of Solving Personal Problems in China”

Of Love, Money and An “Unsettled Relationship” With a Chinese Man

Wedding rings and money
When I asked my Chinese husband about why he took out a loan to treat me on our first "official date," the answer -- which said a lot about how he viewed love and money -- surprised me.

On our first official date, John gave me a copy of a Dream of Red Mansions, treated me to a Buddhist vegetarian Chinese feast, and then romanced me beside the West Lake in Hangzhou. An unforgettable night with the man who would become my Chinese husband? Priceless.

Except for John, who not only paid for it, but actually took out a loan to make it happen — from his friend, a guy we call “Lao Da.”

But when I asked John why he went to such great lengths to pay for me, he gave me an answer I never expected: “Our relationship wasn’t settled yet.”

“What do you mean by that?” I asked him, rocking back and forth in his arms playfully as we traded smiles. Continue reading “Of Love, Money and An “Unsettled Relationship” With a Chinese Man”

Ask the Yangxifu: London Woman Wonders About Chinese Man At Office

Businessman at work
A London woman wonders if a Chinese coworker in her Beijing office is interested in her. (photo by Celal Teber)

London Girl asks:

I’ve been in China for 2 months. I’m based in Beijing and work for Chinese company who like to employ a few foreigners.

On my first day I was introduced to a very pleasant Chinese guy. As soon as I met him he told me he has relatives in the UK, studied in US and has travelled in Europe. Since these past 8 weeks we talk nearly every day at work about our interests and whats in the news, etc. He also follows European sport and knows my team.

One day at work he spoke to me in German! Then he said somebody told him I also speak German. So now we converse in German. This makes me feel that he’s been talking about me?

From reading some of your advice it would appear that Chinese men are friendly although would not go out of their way to befriend someone if they weren’t interested.

He’s a little younger than me. I’m in my early thirties and he’s mid twenties. Although everyone thinks I look early twenties…so I know age might not be an issue…

However I’m a little scared about misinterpreting my feelings for him. And I’m not sure if he will actually suggest something outside of work. Im concerned about ruining my work values if I befriend this guy even more… Continue reading “Ask the Yangxifu: London Woman Wonders About Chinese Man At Office”