Pooja and Robbie: Chindian Couple in Singapore Vlogs on Love, Life

If you’re looking for a new vlog to watch on Youtube, check out Pooja and Robbie, a Chindian (Chinese and Indian) couple who does videos highlighting their multicultural family backgrounds (Indian, Chinese, Singaporean and American) and culture.

In a Q&A about their interracial relationship, Robbie talked about how, when the two of them are in public, people often don’t assume they are a couple due to stereotypes — something I’ve also experienced with my husband.

Pooja also meets Robbie’s Chinese grandma, who shows how to prepare a special tofu dish that has been a tradition in the family. Watching this brought back memories of spending time with my mother-in-law in her kitchen, learning how to cook all kinds of specialty foods, including my favorite flatbread.

Subscribe and watch Pooja and Robbie on Youtube.

P.S.: Are you a Youtuber with a channel you’d like to recommend? Or do you know of a good Youtube channel you’d like to see featured here? Let me know in the comments — or contact me today about it.

‘Touching Home in China’ Explores Nation, Lives of Girls in Insightful, Intimate Curriculum

China’s rise has continued to drive interest in learning about the country and its culture, as well as also a need for more insightful resources for the classroom. Touching Home in China, an open source multimedia curriculum created by Melissa Ludtke, Julie Mallozzi and Jocelyn Ford (which includes a textbook), offers a very compelling and intimate take on China by following Maya Ludtke and Jennie Lytel-Sternberg, two Chinese adoptees in America who journey back to their birthplaces in the country, two rural communities located in Jiangsu province.

Readers explore China vicariously though not only Maya and Jennie, who discover what their girlhoods might have been like in their birth villages, but also through the many rural girls they meet. Their own stories, along with photographs and videos (available online), become woven together with the academic, bringing to vivid life trends, statistics and scholarly insights.

For example, a section titled “Becoming a Wife”, which starts off with the idea that families in China typically expect girls to get married and have children, shows how Mengping always gets asked if she has a boyfriend every time she returns from Shanghai to visit family in her rural village. The same section concludes with a conversation between Maya, Mengping and another girl in the same village, where they discuss gender roles in marriage in China and the US.

The thread of self-discovery in Touching Home in China also extends to identity, something Maya and Jennie ponder while visiting these rural villages where they were born. For example, in one conversation the girls talk about feeling at times not entirely Chinese or American. It’s enlightening to read about how each of the girls grapples with their own evolving sense of self throughout the curriculum, helping readers to understand their perspectives and the experience of feeling tied to two different worlds, yet wondering where you belong.

Touching Home in China has such a fresh approach that it even captivated me, someone who has lived over a decade in the country and picked up countless books on the subject. When you read about these girls’ dreams, disappointments and hopes, you can’t help but care and root for them as you follow their paths through school to graduation and beyond. Not every story ends happily. Still, I found it heartening to observe the ways in which the girls in both countries gained something from these cross-cultural exchanges — from learning more about who they are to finding inspiration in new possibilities.

You can access Touching Home in China at its website or buy the companion textbook at Amazon, where your purchases help support this blog.

P.S.: To learn more about Touching Home in Chinaread my interview with Melissa Ludtke.

Chinese Bass Player, American Woman Start Lifelong ‘Duet’ in Guangzhou

Girl sees boy performing at a concert, longs to meet him, and somehow destiny helps kickstart a lifelong duet. That’s the heart of this story from a US woman living in Guangzhou.

Do you have a love story or other guest post you’d like to see published on Speaking of China? Have a look at the submit a post page, where you can learn more about writing for this blog.


September 3, 2017: The Day We Met

What a summer it had been. I had just decided to become a full-time Chinese language student at South China University of Technology, so I was finishing up the last few days at my full-time job, had just moved to an apartment near campus, and was feeling both stressed and clueless about how to get a student visa.

Besides those recent life changes, that summer had also had its ups and downs in regards to dating. I had gone on a few dates with different Chinese guys, but nothing was working out at all. While visiting my family in America, I re-centered my focus and realized my identity was not based on my relationship status. Although I was only 23 years old, I knew I had grown up since moving to Guangzhou the year before. Little did I know what would happen during my second year in the Middle Kingdom.

The morning of Sunday, September 3, started out a little more hectic than usual because after just moving in, my room was a mess with clothes and belongings scattered everywhere.

Guangzhou was hot and sticky that time of year, and lately I had only been wearing T-shirts and shorts, as digging through boxes to find cuter clothes felt like too much work. Fortunately, that morning I put in the effort of wearing a skirt and minimal makeup. It was my first time going to church from my new location, so I rushed through the unfamiliar metro route and luckily made it on time. To my surprise, my best friend Jasmine was waiting for me at the bus station. “Today is the concert! I’m so excited!” she said. Unknown to her, I had totally forgotten the promise I had made weeks ago to attend the symphony concert with her that afternoon.

Flash forward to a few hours later, and I’m with three friends, talking about my lack of success in the dating department. “Don’t worry! You can find another shuai ge (cute boy),” they assured me.

As it was time for the concert to begin, we found seats together in the left-hand section. We continued to giggle and chat as the band entered the stage. “Look! There’s a shuai ge!” my friend said.

I looked up, and low and behold, was an extremely handsome Chinese man, carrying a giant cello called a double bass. He was tall, well-built, and had a perfectly styled Cantonese haircut that I liked so much.

Later, there was an introduction for each member of the band, and as I heard more about him, I knew I had to meet him. But how?

At least I had the whole concert to think of a plan! I took photos and videos during the concert, focusing on him only. Towards the end of the performance, I rushed to the bathroom to apply lipstick and touch up my hair, thankful that I chose to wear a skirt that morning! Now that the concert had ended, I knew I had to act quickly. My friends gathered around me and pitched their ideas. We knew one other boy in the band; maybe we could ask him to introduce us?

Suddenly, Jasmine started running up to the stage! What on earth was she doing? In my anxiety I part of me wanted to tackle her and part of me wanted to run out the back door! We couldn’t just run up and talk to guys as cute as him! These things had to be planned! When I saw her talking to the shuai ge, my heart pounded and face burned.

However, in that moment, I knew I had a choice. The concert was over and this shuai ge would soon leave, and if I ran away without meeting him, I might not ever see him again.

I weighed the risk of staying and asking for his WeChat. Worst case scenario, he would not be interested and I would be a little embarrassed. Best case scenario, he would be interested, one thing could lead to another, and one day he could even end up becoming my husband. I knew that risk of losing my face was a small price to pay for taking a shot at the best case scenario. Chances are that nothing would come of it, but I would never know if I didn’t try.

Jasmine then came back to our group and told me that she had asked the shuai ge if I could take a picture withhim, and he had said, “yes.” My heart still pounding, my friends took me to the stage and I walked shyly towards him. I smiled brightly, while also trying to contain my excitement to avoid scaring him off.

“Hello! Can you speak English?” I asked him in Chinese.

“No, I can’t.”

“No problem, what’s your name?”

“I’m Timothy,” he said with no expression on his face. I knew that girls must approach him
all the time, as it seemed he didn’t care in the least.

“It’s so nice to meet you. Where are you from?”

“Shantou. Stand to the right.” He pointed for me to stand behind the double bass for the
photo that our friend, Jianwei, was taking with his professional camera. I smiled happily and nervously.

“Can you send me the picture?” Timothy asked Jianwei.

“You two should add each other on Wechat, and I’ll send the picture soon,” Jianwei replied smoothly.

Wow! Jianwei was a genius! Thanks to him, we added each other’s WeChats so naturally. Timothy then said he needed to put away his instrument and get going.

My friends and I exited the stage and the girls immediately grabbed my phone to start searching Timothy’s WeChat Moments. We saw there was a girl in many of his photos. My heart started to sink, and my friends scrolled even more frantically.

Finally, we found a caption saying the girl was his younger sister! “Mei Mei! Mei Mei!” My friends cheered as they jumped up and down! Since he appeared to be single, maybe, just maybe, I had a chance.

The rest of the day was extremely busy, but at some point that evening, Timothy messaged me. I waited a little while to reply, because I wanted to make sure I could really commit to the conversation. He said sorry for rushing off so quickly that afternoon, and thought Jasmine had told him that I wanted to learn music from him.

“Oh no,” I thought to my nonmusical self. “If I pretend to be interested in taking double-bass lessons, I don’t think this relationship will get very far.” I don’t remember how I responded, but probably something about how I was not looking for a teacher, but did really enjoy his performance.

We kept messaging back and forth until my mom called me. My mom and I talked on and on for a long time, covering everything there was to say about my recent life changes. Finally she asked me, “Well, is there anything else to tell me?” I thought for a moment, and then said, “Oh! Today I met a shuai ge!” I told her a little bit, but then said, “He probably won’t like me because my Chinese is not very good and he doesn’t speak English.” My mom was still excited to hear my “latest news” and told me to keep her updated.

Timothy and I kept messaging into the night; I had so many questions to ask and could not wait to know more about him! I had to translate his every message and think for a long time about how to reply back in Chinese. While I was typing one message, character by character, Timothy kept sending more and more messages. I worried that he would think I was uninterested since I was replying so slowly. It was almost midnight, and normally I would cut off conversations to go to bed, but this time I decided to stay up longer and keep messaging.

Finally, Timothy said it was time to say goodnight, but that he really enjoyed chatting with me. I knew that after this conversation ended, he may not message me again. However, if he did, it would definitely be a good sign that he is interested. Reluctantly, I said good night and drifted off to sleep.

When I woke up the next morning, there on my phone, was already a message from — you guessed it — the shuai ge!

Well, now it’s July of 2019, and a lot has happened since September 3, 2017. It turns out that despite my imperfect Mandarin, the shuai ge really did like me. We have been married for a little over a month now. Our wedding was held at our church in Guangzhou, the same place where we first met. We recreated that first photo, which brought us together. Thank you to my friends who made it happen!

2017 年 9 月 2 日:我们认识的一天 那时候真是一个很难忘的夏天。我刚决定我会去华南理工大学开始学习中文,所以我离

职我的全职岗位,搬到学校附近的房子,也还不知道怎么办我学生签证。那个夏天有一些开 心和不开心的事,比如我约了几个中国男人,但是关系一点儿都没成功。在美国探望我的家 人时,我发现我的身份不存在于男人身上,也不存在于其他人对我的看法中。虽然那时候我 只有 23 岁,我知道我从去年搬到广州后就已经长大了一些。我也完全不知道我第二年在中 国会发生什么样的事情。

9 月 3 日开始有点忙碌,因为我刚搬家了,房间里到处都是东西和衣服。那时候广州的 天气是炎热和潮湿。那时我就是穿运动裤和 T 恤因为翻箱倒柜找更漂亮的衣服太麻烦了。刚 好,那天早上我努力找到一条裙子,也化了一点儿妆。 这是我第一次从新的地方出发去教 会,所以我匆匆穿过陌生的地铁线路,幸运的是准时到达。我很开心看到我好朋友 Jasmine 等我在公交车站。她说了,“今天是那个音乐会!我好期待!”她不知道,我已经忘了我几个 星期前答应她,我会陪她去在聚会结束后的音乐会。

过几个小时后,我跟三个朋友们一边等音乐会一边讨论我最近单身的问题。“别担心,” 她们说了,“你可以再找其他的帅哥。” 音乐会快开始所以我们去找位置。乐团开始上台的 时候,我们还在聊一聊。“你看!台上就有个帅哥!” 我抬起头,看见一个非常英俊的中国 帅哥,抱着一个低音提琴。他个子高,身材魁梧,有一个完美的广东发型,我非常喜欢。后 来,乐队的每个成员都被介绍了。听完他的介绍,我知道我一定要认识他。但是,怎么样去 认识?刚好有整个音乐会可以想个办法。我在音乐会上拍照和录像,只关注他。快结束的时 候,我冲到洗手间涂口红,整理我的头发,很感恩那天早上我选择穿裙子!音乐会结束后, 我知道我必须迅速采取行动。我的朋友们聚在一起分享想法。我们在管弦乐队认识另外一个 男生,也许我们可以请他介绍一下我们!

突然 Jasmine 就跑到台上!她到底在干嘛?我是充满了紧张,一边生气她也一边想从后 门逃走了!我们不能随便跑过去和跟他那么帅的人说话!这样的事情必须有计划!我一看她 跟帅哥说话,我感到心跳动和脸燃烧。

然而,那一刻,我知道自己有个选择。因为音乐会已经结束了所以这位帅哥会很快离开, 如果我先跑走的话,我可能一直没有再次碰到他。如果我留下来问他的微信,最坏的情况是 他不会感兴趣,但最好的情况他可能也喜欢我。如果感情过的越来越好,有一天他可能成为 我的丈夫。我知道虽然有失去面子的风险,但也只是为有机会认识他付出的小小代价。很有 可能什么都不会发生,但我永远不知道我是否尝试过。我的心还在跳动,我的朋友们把我带 到舞台上,我害羞地朝他走去。我笑得很灿烂,同时也试图抑制自己的兴奋。

“你好!你会说英文吗?“

“不会。”

“哦,没关系,你叫什么名字?”

“我叫 Timothy。” 他说的这句,脸上没任何表情。因为他表现得这么无所谓,所以我认
为应该总是有很多女生这样追他。

“我很开心认识你,你是哪里人?”

“汕头。站在右边。” 他指着我站在低音提琴后面,我们的朋友 Jianwei 正准备用他的专业 相机拍摄照片。我高兴而紧张地笑了。

“我们怎么可以收到照片?“Timothy 问了 Jianwei. “你们两个加微信然后到时候我就发。“

哇!Jianwei 那么聪明!让我们那么自然地加微信。扫一扫之后,Timothy 说他要先去收 拾乐器。我和朋友们兴奋地下台,朋友马上抓我的手机快看 Timothy 的朋友圈儿。我们在他 的许多照片中看到一个女生„我的心开始下沉„我的朋友们疯狂地翻阅照片。终于有个评论 说她是他的妹妹!“妹妹!妹妹!” 我的朋友们跳上跳下时欢呼起来!因为看起来他应该是 单身,我可能有个小小机会。

在那天晚上的某个时候,Timothy 给我发了一个信息。 我一直等到我忙完了回答,因 为我想确保我能真正投入到谈话中去。他说了不好意思他那么快就要离开,也说 Jasmine 跟 她说我想和他学习低音提琴。 “哎呀,如果我装作对学音乐感兴趣,可能对我们的关系不 太好。”我忘记我怎么样回复他,大概的意思是我不是找老师,但是我真享受他下午的表演。 我们一直在聊天,直到我妈妈给我打个电话。我和妈妈煲了电话粥,说了所有要说的内容。 最后她问我:“嗯,还有什么要告诉我的吗?”我想了一会儿,然后说:“哦!今天我遇到一 个帅哥!“ 我告诉了她一点,但后来说他不会说英语, 所以他应该不会喜欢我,因为我的 中文也不太好。但我妈妈很兴奋,她告诉我一定要随时跟她汇报进展。

Timothy 和我一直在发信息到晚上, 我好开心跟他聊!因为那时候我的中文不太好, 我要翻译他的每一条信息,并思考了很长时间如何回复。当我慢慢地输入一条信息时, Timothy 会不断地发送越来越多的信息。我担心他会认为我对他不感兴趣,因为我回答得太 慢了。已经快到午夜了,通常我会停止谈话睡觉,但这次我决定继续交谈。最后,Timothy 说该说晚安了,但他真的很喜欢和我聊天。我知道在谈话结束后,他可能不会再次跟我微信 聊天儿。不过,如果他真的再次发信息,意思肯定是他对我有点感兴趣。我不情愿地说了声 晚安,然后就睡着了。

第二天早上我醒来的时候,我的手机上已经有一条信息从„„你猜对了„„那个帅 哥!!!

现在是 2019 年 7 月,从 2017 年 9 月 3 日,确实发生了很多事情。虽然那时候我的中文 比较一般,那位帅哥后来很喜欢我!我们已经结婚一个多月了。我们的婚礼举行了在我们广 州的教堂,就是我们第一次认识的同一个地方。在我们的婚礼上,我们照了一张新照片,和 我们第一张合照的姿势一样。感谢我的朋友们帮助我们认识!


Speaking of China is always on the lookout for outstanding guest posts! If you have something you’d like us to feature, visit the submit a post page for details — and then submit yours today.

‘A Jewish Girl in Shanghai’ Animates Chinese-Jewish Ties in WWII Ghetto

The 2010 animated film “A Jewish Girl in Shanghai” (犹太女孩在上海), the first Chinese movie to take on the Holocaust, puts Chinese-Jewish ties in the spotlight through the heartrending story of a European Jewish girl who flees to Shanghai’s Jewish ghetto with her brother during World War II and finds support through her friendship with a Chinese boy.

Here’s a description of the film from the Jacob Burns Film Center:

This beautifully crafted story offers a rare glimpse of Shanghai’s Little Vienna—the neighborhood where 30,000 Jewish refugees found shelter during WWII. The story centers around the extraordinary friendship between Rina, a feisty and independent European Jewish schoolgirl and A-Gen, a courageous teenage Chinese pancake seller, who teach each other about their different worlds as Shanghai struggles under the harsh Japanese occupation.

According to an interview in Asian Jewish Life with the writer Wu Lin, the film was inspired by his Chinese graphic novel of the same name as well as stories of the Hongkou Jewish ghetto and even meeting a former refugee:

[Wu] was moved by the struggle the Jews endured during that time and saw parallels between their struggles and those of the Chinese against Japan and explains that it was a very hard time for both people in the face of fascism….

“Mutual help and support during the harsh time illustrates the harmony and friendship between the two races,” he says. “Hence I came up with the idea of writing [a graphic novel] to demonstrate this period of history which would also provide more or less positive impetus to the peace of the world.”

You can see a trailer for the movie “A Jewish Girl in Shanghai” (犹太女孩在上海) on Youtube and also on Bilibili (accessible in China). Learn more about the film at its Wikipedia page.

Have you seen the animated film “A Jewish Girl in Shanghai” (犹太女孩在上海)? What do you think of this story?

‘Shalom Shanghai’: Musical Drama Features Jewish-Chinese Love Story in WWII

While doing some research for a recent article about Rachel DeWoskin’s new book “Someday We Will Fly”, which highlights Shanghai’s Jewish settlement during World War II and Japanese occupation, I discovered there was also a musical drama set in the same era called “Shalom Shanghai“ (苏州河北 in Chinese). It centers on a love story between a Jewish woman and a Chinese soldier, and the complications they faced in the tumultuous times. Here’s the short description a few years back from China Daily:

A Chinese Casablanca, a difficult moral dilemma. 1943, in a Cafe run by a Jewish father and his daughter, came Jewish refugees escaping the Holocaust, Japanese officers in love with western food and beauty, and underground Chinese fighters getting medicine for their comrades. Suzuki pursued Shana, who couldn’t afford to offend him but had in her heart only Song Yao, a Chinese resistance fighter. She had to decide whether to follow her heart or sacrifice herself to save her father. Song Yao was drawn to Shana, but he had a mission he could never overlook. And there was also Ying, a childhood friend and comrade… The story unfolds in English and Chinese, integrating popular Jewish, Hollywood and Chinese melodies from the period.

The only other English-language article I uncovered about this drama appeared in Shanghai Daily, with the title ‘Shalom’ delves into romance during chaotic era. Here’s an excerpt:

Based on a script written by William Sun, a professor with the Shanghai Theater Academy, the bilingual show portrays a love story between Jewish girl Shana and a Chinese soldier. Things become more complicated when a Japanese officer also courts Shana.

Sun says the drama’s scenes are set in a Jewish-run cafe along Suzhou Creek. It explores the intersection of Jewish refugees, Japanese officials and Chinese people co-existing in Shanghai during World War II. It also depicts the life and friendship between local people and the Jewish community during a turbulent period of history, despite differences in language and culture.

The drama actually had performances at the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum (pictured in this article in Chinese).

Have you seen the musical drama “Shalom Shanghai”? What do you think about the Jewish-Chinese love story at heart of the work?

Liverpool’s Lost Chinese Sailors, and the Families Left Behind in the UK (AMWF History)

Liverpool, England, is home to one of those shameful, forgotten chapters in history — when the UK suddenly deported Chinese sailors, who had bravely served during World War II, devastating they families they left behind.

In the early 1940s, the British Merchant Navy recruited some 20,000 Chinese sailors to assist in the war efforts. And of them, an estimated 300 had relationships with British women (either through marriage or cohabitation). As the SCMP reported:

Many of the women who set up home with Chinese mari­ners and started families did not formally marry, either because, like Grace, they were under 21 years old and couldn’t get parental consent or because, in the 1940s, when women married foreign nationals they surrendered their British citizenship and assumed the nationality of their husbands.

Married or not, they earned a reputation in ultra-conservative post-war England as being “loose women” and, in another archive, Charles Foley found that government officials dismissed those married to or cohabiting with a Chinese partner as “the prostitute class”.

“I was very angry when I read that,” Foley says. “They obviously hadn’t met my mother.”

While Britain had initially welcomed the Chinese sailors, things changed after they had a strike to fight for higher wages in 1942, as reported by the BBC:

These men were in demand and so they won, but were considered to be “troublemakers” from then on, according to shipping firm Alfred Holt’s documents at the Ocean Archive.

After the war, British authorities moved swiftly to force the Chinese sailors out of the country. The BBC noted that a UK Home Office document from October 1945 cast the sailors as “an undesirable element in Liverpool” due to an alleged “1,000 convictions for opium smoking” in recent years. However, as per the BBC:

…Belchem says that was an unfair analysis. “There were one or two with criminal records, but the government used this minority to stigmatise the whole Chinese population.”

“If you look at the way most people see it, they would be absolutely model migrants. They were respectful, well-behaved, believed in education, weren’t violent, looked after their wives, looked after their children.”

Adds the website Half and Half:

This statement by the Home Office directly conflicts with report after report, letter after letter from the Liverpool and Birkenhead Chief Constables. Going back to the early years of the century they repeatedly praise the law-abiding nature of the Chinese.

Nevertheless, the reality didn’t matter to Britain. The country also didn’t care about the loved ones left behind, either as the BBC reported:

…during a series of police swoops on the Liverpool dock area, deportation orders were served on the Chinese sailors.

“He just went out to the shop, and my mum was waiting for him to come home, and he never came,” Linda Davis said of her father.

And as the SCMP noted:

Officials argued that no Chinese seaman married to a British-born woman had been forcibly repatriated – the legal situation was complicated and the government did not want to appear to be splitting up families – but Charles Foley has seen evidence that this was not true. At least one married man, with three children, was “rounded up” and deported.

And for the unmarried fathers who were sent home, some did not have time to say goodbye.

It’s heartbreaking to imagine what these families had to go through. Some of the children of Liverpool’s lost Chinese sailors have spent much of their lives searching for their fathers — see the BBC story Looking for my Shanghai father.

To learn about the whole dark episode, you can also visit the website Half and Half, where you can also help the families by contacting them with any information about these lost Chinese.

Additionally, an article originally written by China Daily and reprinted by the Telegraph includes two stories from Chinese ripped away from their lives in the UK.

What do you think about Liverpool’s lost Chinese sailors?

Chinese Man Seeks Lost American Wife, Son Who Disappeared in Hangzhou

I first learned of this story on WeChat when people began sharing news of a lost mixed-race 2-year-old boy who went missing in Hangzhou. Later reports revealed the boy had actually disappeared with his mother, an American woman. I’ve translated a news story on the incident initially published in Chinese.
—–

“All-powerful circle of friends, please ask everyone if they have seen this child. He is lost. I already alerted the police, but still haven’t received any information about him. Yesterday this information was heavily reposted on social media, saying this 2-year-old boy went missing at Xin Qingnian Guangchang. His name is Chenchen, also known as Milan. Accompanying the information is a picture of the little boy. He has really big eyes, just like a foreign child.”

The person who sent this information is the boy’s father Xiao Xue, a 27-year-old fitness coach in Hangzhou. Yesterday, when someone was trying to get in touch with him, he was a little embarrassed to say, “The boy probably left with his mother.”

The boy’s mother is an American. Her Chinese name is Bai Xue, and she’s two years older than Xiao Xue.

The two of them got together in a romantic way on April 4, 2015, when they both met at the Drum Tower, where it was love at first sight.

At the time, Xiao Xue had been in Hangzhou for about a year or so, while Bai Xue was a foreign student at Zhejiang University. “She was a very bright student and did well in her studies. She could speak many languages, at least eight,” Xiao Xue said, his voice showing pride as he spoke of his wife.

Bai Xue was beautiful, while Xiao Xue was handsome. The two young people had no language barrier to deal with, so they quickly moved from meeting each other to love, and, hand-in-hand, entered marriage together.

“Our relationship was very good, and there was no doubt she loved me,” Xiao Xue said. After they married, his wife Bai Xue’s living habits gave him a bit of a “breakdown”. “She loved to do as she wished, and she would leave things all over the house, and didn’t like to put them back in their place.”

Xiao Xue however prefers things to be neat and tidy, and he would remind Bai Xue about this many times. When Bai Xue became angry over his words, Xiao Xue would soothe her and the situation would pass.

After one year of marriage, their son was born – fair-skinned, chubby, and a mixed-race child. He was very cute. The young couple took care of him themselves and found an Ayi to help them out.

With the birth of their child, the differences in living habits between the two turned into a more acute conflict. During the day, Xiao Xue would work, and Bai Xue would take care of the child.

They were both young and had no experience caring for children. But Xiao Xue said, there were times when he would come home and see the child in the middle of winter with one bare foot, or wearing mismatched shoes, etc. He would say something to Bai Xue, but she felt Xiao Xue was nagging.

Later on, Bai Xue found a job at an early childhood education center, and she could take her son with her to work, so they got rid of their Ayi.

On May 20, also known as young people’s “520” online Valentine’s day holiday, Xiao Xue had to work that day. When he got off work and came home, he was very upset to see an entire box of children’s clothes lying on the ground. All of his desire to enjoy the holiday disappeared. He tidied up the clothing on the ground and then waited for Bai Xue and the boy to return.

After 9 pm that evening, Bai Xue and the child came back, and Xiao Xue asked Bai Xue to put away the clothes on the sofa. But Bai Xue said she wanted to go to sleep. On that day, Xiao Xue was in a bad mood, so he spoke in anger. “That day I was a bit harsh to her, I said the house is such a mess, you must put your clothes away!”

In anger, Bai Xue placed the child in bed, and organized the clothing. Xiao Xue grabbed his notebook to write a journal entry. It wasn’t until after 1 am that he returned to the room and found that Bai Xue and the boy were gone.

Xiao Xue ran outside the building to look, and couldn’t find a trace of the mother and son in the gardens there. Bai Xue’s usual electric scooter wasn’t there either.

Xiao Xue said, Bai Xue had stayed in Hangzhou for over 10 years, she had classmates and friends there. So he sought them out, but they didn’t know where she had gone.

Xiao Xue then reached out to his mother-in-law in the US. She said she didn’t know were Bai Xue was, but she received a Skype message from Bai Xue, asking her to send some living expenses.

In early June, Xiao Xue went to the police station to make a report, and the police searched for information. They discovered that, on the second day that Bai Xue had run away from home, she had gone to Xinchang, then two days later returned to Hangzhou, where she stayed at an inn near Zhejiang University. “I was too slow, she had checked out of the room.”

In early June, Xiao Xue heard friends say they had seen on social media that Bai Xue was carrying her son in Ledigang in Gongshu district.

Xiao Xue has been unable to contact Bai Xue. After she ran away from home, she canceled her WeChat account. Xiao Xue sent her emails but she hasn’t replied.

Bai Xue hails from a scholarly family. Her mother is a university professor, and her father is an expert in nuclear physics. She also has two younger sisters, and one of them is a Chinese girl born in Hubei who was adopted by her parents. “I saw that it said on her Skype that in early June she went to the place where her younger sister was born,” Xiao Xue said. He guessed that she had possibly gone to Hubei. “She is a very innocent person, and I fear that she has been conned by someone.”

When all is said and done, in fact these two young people just didn’t know how to get along after marriage.

“When we were first married,we often went out for fun in the evenings and enjoyed holidays together. After our child was born, there were fewer holidays,” Xiao Xue said, noting he may have neglected Bai Xue’s emotional needs.

Xiao Xue said that, concerning their marriage, while Bai Xue’s father supported his daughter, her mother had some dissatisfaction. At the end of last year, Bai Xue’s father passed away and she returned home. Xiao Xue, because he had to work and also perhaps feared seeing Bai Xue’s mother, didn’t go with her, staying at home to care for their son.

As for Xiao Xue, perhaps he harbored some macho ideas. He thought that he should go out to earn money, while his wife should take care of things at home. Now, Xiao Xue said he really regrets his behavior: “That day I shouldn’t have been so angry at her.” Xiao Xue said that, previously, because Bai Xue had made the home so untidy, he threatened to break up with her and such. “Those were angry words, but she probably thought I was being serious.”

What do you think?

‘The Chinese Exclusion Act’ on PBS Reminds Me Asian Stereotypes Haven’t Changed Much

The other night, I had the chance to stream The Chinese Exclusion Act, a nearly two-hour film documenting the events that led to America’s one and only piece of legislation targeting a specific nationality and race, as well as the aftermath and eventual repeal. The Chinese Exclusion Act was signed into law in May 1882 and didn’t end until December 1943.

Much of the film centers on the mid- to late-1800s, and yet it feels timely because many of the stereotypes originating from that era still persist to this day, continuing to shape US media portrayals of Asians as well as how many Americans still view the rise of Asian countries such as China.

Here are 4 stereotypes from the 1800s that have still survived – sometimes in slightly different forms – to this day, as mentioned in The Chinese Exclusion Act.

#1: The stereotype of Asian men as “inferior”

A few years ago, I wrote Debunking the “Model Asian” Myth: Five Ways Asian-Americans Still Face Discrimination for Hippo Reads, which includes the following paragraph:

Justin Chan spoke for generations of Asian men when he wrote, “Are Asian Men Undateable?” in Policy Mic. Years of pernicious stereotypes have branded Asian men as emasculated, weak, asexual, and even too small in a certain department—essentially, editing them out of the most eligible bachelor pool. Not surprisingly, Freakonomics calculated that an Asian man would need to earn $247,000 more than a white man to be equally appealing to a white woman. That’s like requiring every Asian guy to own a Bentley before asking out the white girl next door.

So it shouldn’t be surprising that, back in the late 1800s, when Yellow Peril took hold, white Americans cast Chinese men as being inferior to white men, as experts point out in part 1 of The Chinese Exclusion Act (emphasis added):

John Kuo Wei Tchen, Historian: So what happens is that class and racialization converge – get confused. And the “Coolie question,” and the Chinese question, really become the big question nationally of labor and class.  Can the American man compete with this degraded Asian male form of labor?  They don’t eat as much; their nerves are farther away from the surface of the skin, so they don’t feel as much; they eat rats.  You know, all this  gets played out even more and more around not just class lines and racialization, but also around gender.  The Chinese male is inferior – is not the same as white manhood, right.  So you have that famous cover – “Meat versus Rice.” American manhood vs. Asiatic coolie-ism,?   And, of course, the Asian male is inferior – but tenacious, because there are a lot of them.  So they’re dangerous because they’re so many of them, right.  Not because they really rival the actually superior white male.

#2: The stereotype of Asian women as “sexualized”

A major stereotype that still persists is this idea of Asian women as sexualized and subservient (see Kristina Wong’s post earlier this year titled I Give Up On Trying To Explain Why The Fetishization Of Asian Women Is Bad).

And again, we see echoes of that stereotype in the late 1800s in America, prompting the 1875 passage of the Page Act, which forbade the immigration to America of those coming to work under contracts and as prostitutes. The latter prohibition was aimed squarely at Chinese women, as The Chinese Exclusion Act explains (emphasis added):

Scott Wong, Historian: There developed this sexist, racist, misogynist attitude among Americans, that Chinese women were naturally prone to become prostitutes.  And, therefore, Chinese women, who wanted to come to the U.S., had to prove that they were never prostitutes; that they weren’t prostitutes then; nor would they ever become prostitutes.  Now, of course, one can’t prove what will not happen or happen in the future.  So many women chose not to even go through that humiliation. So we had that first act that’s passed, that is very racial and gender-specific.

#3: The stereotype of Chinese “stealing jobs/opportunities from Americans”

When major elections roll around in America these days, there’s one thing you can count on – those politicians claiming China is “stealing” jobs and opportunities. And as Chinese students still comprise the largest group of foreigners studying abroad at US institutions of higher education, you’re sure to hear complaints from Americans, alleging Chinese are also “taking away” slots at colleges and universities that belong to American students.

Sadly, this narrative has hardly budged from the late 1800s, when white workers concocted this stereotype that Chinese were also plundering their economic opportunities back then, as The Chinese Exclusion Act noted in years following the California Gold Rush (emphasis added):

Narrator: As surface gold in the river beds became scarcer – hydraulic mining run by companies increasingly displaced the lone prospector panning for gold.

Ling-chi Wang, Scholar: A lot of white independent prospectors went bankrupt and became unemployed. But instead of turning their anger against the gold-mining company and the water company for exploiting them, they turned against the Chinese.  They say: “Ah, the Chinese were here.  They take away our jobs.” And so that is really the beginning of white working-class agitation for Chinese Exclusion.

#4: The stereotype of Asians — including Chinese — as “perpetual foreigners”

Back in 2016, Christopher Hoffman penned the post Perpetual Foreigners: A Reflection on Asian Americans in the American Media, commenting on a racist segment aired on Fox News titled “Watters’ World: Chinatown Edition”, and noted the following:

The larger problem is the segment clearly challenges the American identity of Asian American citizens in Manhattan’s China Town. Frank H. Wu’s Race in America Beyond Black and White defines this idea of Asian Americans as the “perpetual foreigner.” By assuming Chinese Americans have a better relationship with the country of their ancestral heritage, Watters is placing Chinese Americans in a second-class citizen role, unable to fully adopt all the characteristics to become a full citizen of the United States of America. This idea of the “perpetual foreigner” is not limited to Chinese Americans, but a xenophobic image many Asian Americans from a variety of Asian backgrounds must face.

This xenophobia can be traced back to the late 1800s and the Chinese Exclusion Act itself, where people believed it was impossible for Chinese to ever be fully American, as The Chinese Exclusion Act explains:

Martin B. Gold, Attorney: It really did two things.  One is an exclusion from immigration, and the other thing was an exclusion from citizenship.  at the time there were approximately 105,000 Chinese in America.  Now, they were just two-tenths of one percent of the overall American population.   So what happens to the people who are already here – people legally in the United States?  And what that law said was, “These people cannot assimilate.  They are too different in terms of their culture – in terms of their appearance – in terms of their language – the clothes that they wear – and the food that they eat – and the gods that they worship.  They cannot assimilate into the American population.  And in that sense, they are different from European immigrants.  So we’re going to make, as a Congress, a judgment.  We’re going to say that because they are an unassimilable population, they cannot come to the United States, and those that are here cannot become American citizens.”

If you haven’t yet viewed The Chinese Exclusion Act, I highly recommend streaming it — and noting how the legacy of oppression still lingers to this day.

What do you think?

“Mom” And “Dad” Is What I Call My Chinese In-Laws — and Here’s Why It’s Easier Than I Thought

Years ago when my husband Jun and I got our little red marriage books in China, I remember traveling back to his village and proudly showing off the photos of our civil marriage ceremony. While it still didn’t count to his family as a real wedding (in China, it’s normal to get married on the books, called dengji/登记 in Chinese, well before you actually have a wedding ceremony), they were pleased to see the two of us committed for life.

And as I learned, that commitment meant changing how I addressed Jun’s parents. From then on, Jun instructed me to call them Laoba (老爸) and Laoma (老妈), just like him. Or Baba (爸爸) and Mama (妈妈) — the universal Chinese words for “Dad” and “Mom” — if I so desired. The bottom line was, I would now refer to them as if they were my own parents, in the most intimate terms once only reserved for my father and mother.

This isn’t the norm in the America I grew up in, where you call your in-laws by their first names. And given all the jokes about in-laws (and the American tendency to want to live as far from your in-laws as possible), I’m sure there are some Americans out there privately referencing their in-laws using expletives. The bottom line, though, is that in America there’s always this implied distance from your in-laws — a distance that I was never expected to have with Jun’s parents.

Being suddenly asked to call two people who never raised me “Mom” and “Dad” should be an adjustment. And to be sure, it did take some getting used to. But it was actually a lot easier than I thought for a very simple reason.

I was calling them “Mom” and “Dad” in Chinese, not in my native language of English.

Even though Laoba, Laoma, Baba and Mama were just as intimate as the words “Mom” and “Dad” that I grew up using, I had never called my parents by the Chinese versions. So in way, it actually freed me to easily adjust to using them with Jun’s parents. I didn’t feel like I was stretching any definition of who “Mom” and “Dad” were because it sounded different.

Now it’s like second nature and I don’t even think about it anymore. That’s who they are — Laoba and Laoma.

So I have to wonder, is it harder for Chinese people to get used to this? Do they struggle to refer to in-laws with such intimate terms?

Then again, this is just about what to call someone. Now family relationships, the day-to-day stuff, that’s the real struggle (one that, admittedly, can lead to the use of expletives or other unflattering names at times).

But that’s another story for another day.

What do you think?

Olympic Figure Skater Yan Han Performs to “Twilight” Song, and Reminds Us of Edward in “Twilight”

Yan Han TwilightRecently, Chinese Olympic figure skater Yan Han took to the ice to a version of Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years” — and audiences cheered his choice of such a romantic, moving song. (In 2011 and 2012, the song became synonymous with Bella, Edward and their legendary human-vampire romance when it played in the “Twilight: Breaking Dawn” movies).

Never mind that he had some stumbles. His song for the men’s figure skating short program was endearing to audiences, especially those of us who adore “Twilight”. (Team Yan Han, anyone?)

But if you’ve seen the Edward in the “Twilight” movies (played by Robert Pattinson) and witnessed figure skater Yan Han on the ice, you might just agree with something Chinese fans have been saying. That he looks like Edward in “Twilight”.

When asked about it by the Chinese media, Yan Han acknowledged the similarity. (Interestingly, CCTV mentioned in their Olympic commentary that his choreographer Lori Nichols noticed the resemblance between Yan Han and Edward, and used this to tailor his moves for the short program.)

In response to a question about who was more handsome, Yan Han said that in the movies, of course Edward was more handsome, but joked that on the ice, he is more confident.

It’s great to see him display a little humor after his uneven performance. Let’s hope that spirit and confidence, boosted by this gorgeous song, will help him land those jumps next time around. (Admittedly, he’s has had a tough Olympics, since he is still healing from a number of injuries, as he told Chinese press in an emotional interview.)

In the meantime, you can once again sigh over his routine set to “A Thousand Years” online. And you can learn more about the Olympic figure skater at his Wikipedia page.

Did you see Olympic figure skater Yan Han perform to the “Twilight” song? Do you think he looks like Edward in “Twilight”?