Photo Essay: How My Chinese Husband Shows Love in Everyday Moments

Later today after 8pm Beijing time, the new group blog WWAM Bam (Western Women & Asian Men – Breaking All Molds) will be publishing a group post on how our Chinese husbands show their love for us, including a short contribution from me. I wrote:

My husband is the kind of guy who shows his love in those thoughtful everyday moments. You know, the little things he does to tell me — through actions, not words — just how much he cares.

To honor Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d extend that with a photo essay highlighting some of those everyday moments – in no particular order — that remind me just how much he loves me.

#1: Bringing me a steaming hot cup of my favorite dragonwell tea every morning

Jun knows exactly how I love my green tea, and always has it ready just after I wake up. 😉

#2: Putting bandages on my cuts (like when I cut myself shaving)

I’m such a klutz…but Jun is such a sweetie to want to bandage my cuts.

#3: Blow-drying my hair after I shower

Once I step out of the bathroom, Jun is usually ready — blow-dryer in hand — to serve. Thanks Jun!

#4: Tucking the covers around me to help me stay warm

When Jun goes to bed after me or gets up before I do, he often tucks the covers snugly around my shoulders. (He also did it when I was in the hospital last year, which is where this picture was taken.)

#5: Taking the garbage out (and doing other “dirty jobs” around the house)

Ever since we married, Jun has this thing about “dirty jobs” (like taking out the garbage) — he prefers to take care of them. (Did I also mention he loves to help my dad mow the lawn, as he did last year when we went to the US?)

#6: Warming my hands in his when they’re too cold

I love it when Jun holds my hands, especially just to warm them up when it’s cold outside.

Happy Valentine’s Day, Jun. I love you.

How to Celebrate Valentine’s When Your Boyfriend/Girlfriend Is in China

When my husband Jun and I first met each other in China, the last thing I expected was to navigate a long-distance relationship with him.

Fast-forward a couple of years to when I was in Shanghai, and my company decided to post me to their Taipei office. Just as I jumped at the opportunity, a part of me struggled. At the time, it was nearly impossible for mainland Chinese to travel to Taiwan. This chance to work in Taipei meant we’d be separated across the great Taiwan Strait – and also forced to celebrate Valentine’s Day apart for the first time.

How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day – this ever-important holiday for lovers – when your boyfriend or girlfriend is in China? How do you manage the distance and still make the holiday something special?

Here are 3 of the ways Jun and I survived our first Valentine’s Day apart:

#1: Make a virtual date

If Jun and I had been together in Shanghai, we’d have gone out for a romantic dinner for two at one of our favorite vegetarian restaurants, such as the Jujube Tree.

Of course, it was impossible for us to dine together, with him in Shanghai and me in Taipei. But we could do the next best thing – make a virtual date to talk with each other.

Back then, our only choice was the phone. But nowadays, video chat means you can have your loved one beside you (well, virtually) while you’re enjoying your Valentine’s Day dinner or evening (or anything else…hint, hint!). If you have a tablet, you could even set it up across from you at your table, turning it into a virtual table for two!

Photo by Aaron Spraggins

#2: Write them a romantic message

During my stint in Taipei, e-mail became my best friend – because it was one of the best ways for Jun and me to stay in touch every single day. E-mail was also how I sent Jun a romantic (and kind of cheesy) poem I drafted just for him.

Nowadays, with messaging apps (such as WhatsApp and WeChat) it’s even easier to send your loved one a romantic poem or message. You can even add some cute stickers, photos or images to let them know just how much you miss them.

#3: Send your loved one a care package through online shopping

When I was living in Taipei, Taiwanese style mochi – soft rice cakes stuffed with sweet fillings – became one of my favorite snacks. Because I had never had them in Shanghai, I decided to send Jun some mochi to share a little local flavor while reminding him how much I loved him.

This was a great idea in theory, but a lot of trouble in practice. I had to find the nearest post office and give up one of my lunch breaks to get there. There was also the hassle of packaging everything, getting Jun’s address written correctly (in traditional Chinese characters, which I wasn’t used to), and spending more money than I anticipated. Ouch.

Fortunately, Jun received the package. But goodness knows, it could have been lost or snarled up in customs (both of which still happen when people send things to me in China, even today). Let’s just say I was crossing my fingers and praying to the postal deities that it would arrive. 😉

Nowadays, online shopping has made shipping your Valentine’s Day care packages to China a breeze.

If you already have a Taobao or Tmall account, you don’t even need to hassle with customs. Just browse your favorite shops and buy! This is by far the least expensive option. I’m impartial to Tmall’s online supermarket (天猫超市), which guarantees next-day shipping in most major cities and has loads of delicious gifts for your loved one, including imported chocolates and wine. Also, if you choose a reliable provider like Tmall’s online supermarket, you can be confident your package will arrive on time.

But of course, Taobao and Tmall are all in Chinese, and require users to have a Chinese bank account or credit card to use them. Can’t read Chinese? Can’t open an account? No worries.

One option is to find a Taobao agent, such as Taobao Focus, who will shop for you for a small fee. But if you’d prefer to do your shopping on your own, in English, you can still send a romantic care package to China through Gift Baskets Overseas.

Gift Baskets Overseas offers a variety of Valentine’s Day gift baskets – yes, including chocolates and wine – with listings in English, all backed by their 100 percent satisfaction guarantee. (If you’re not 100 percent satisfied with your order, they will either make it right or refund your money. How cool is that?) Gift Baskets Overseas takes care of everything and ships to 317 locations in China, covering just about anywhere your loved one would be.

(As a full disclosure, I am an affiliate for Gift Baskets Overseas. But I wouldn’t recommend them if I didn’t absolutely believe in their products and service.)

If you’d like to make a Valentine’s Day purchase through Gift Baskets Overseas, I’m offering my readers a special 13% discount off all Valentine’s Day gift baskets (including those with wine and chocolate). Just use the code VAL13 when you’re checking out.

Regardless of how you choose to celebrate, wishing all of you a wonderful Valentine’s Day!

How to celebrate Valentine’s Day/Chinese Lantern Festival + tangyuan recipes!

Enjoying the lanterns (such as the above) during the Chinese Lantern Festival will feel even more romantic this year, with Valentine's Day on the same day!
Enjoying the lanterns (such as the above) during the Chinese Lantern Festival will feel even more romantic this year, with Valentine’s Day on the same day!

February 14, 2014 is not your usual Valentine’s Day, because it also marks the rare occurrence of the Western holiday of Valentine’s Day and the Chinese holiday of the Lantern Festival (元宵节, yuánxiāojié) on the same day (which happens every 19 years).

Then again, in a sense, weren’t these holidays meant to be together? In China some have dubbed the Lantern Festival the real Chinese Valentine’s Day. In the past, unmarried women were not allowed to freely leave their homes. But during the Lantern Festival, they had the chance to come out with chaperones and enjoy the lanterns in public, a wonderful opportunity to meet potential romantic partners as well.

Still, I see this meeting of the two holidays as a perfect symbol of Chinese-Western cross-cultural relationships — and definitely worth celebrating in a special way! The question remains, how?

Besides the usual chocolates and roses, here in China people have decided to add a little Valentine’s Day flare to one of the Lantern Festival’s favorite treats: tangyuan. Instead of the traditional sesame or red-bean paste fillings, people are opting for rose-flavored tangyuan or chocolate tangyuan (yum!). If you’re in China, head to your local supermarket! If not, scroll down — I’ve translated a couple of recipes from online (warning: I’ve yet to try either, so attempt at your own risk!).

For me, there’s something so irresistibly romantic about light displays in the wintertime (I always loved going out with my family to enjoy the Christmas lights in Cleveland, Ohio). That’s why the perennial lantern displays all around China — and other parts of the world — could be that perfect after-dinner activity with your date or spouse. No lanterns? Consider creating your own simple version (like this) or try a Western take on the holiday by stringing up some Christmas lights (especially if you have strings of red) around the house.

How will you celebrate this unusual concurrence of the Lantern Festival and Valentine’s Day?

Wishing you all a Happy Valentine’s Day and Happy Lantern Festival! 祝你门情人节和元宵节快乐!

Rose-Flavored Tangyuan

Translated from this original recipe (which includes excellent photos as a guide). Like my mother-in-law’s cooking, this is an intuitive recipe. No exact amounts are provided, so use your judgment and palate to guide you!


Glutinous rice flour (sold in Chinese supermarkets)
Dried edible roses
White sugar

1. Wash and then dry out the edible roses, and then remove the stems. Place the petals in a bowl.

2. Add white sugar to the bowl according to taste and preference. Mix the sugar and petals together to create a powder.

3. Add honey according to taste and preference.

4. Mix together the honey and powder to create the rose paste for the tangyuan. Set this aside.

5. Wash the strawberries, then soak them in water with a dash of salt for 15 minutes.

6. Remove the strawberries from the salt water soak and place them in a blender. Whisk the strawberries to create a juice.

7. In a saucepan, heat the strawberry juice until warm.

8. Mix the warm strawberry juice with glutinous rice flour, carefully adding just enough flour until you can knead the dough — but not so much that the dough is too dry and falls apart. Knead the dough into a round shape.

9. To prepare the rose filling, mix a little glutinous rice flour into the rose paste.

10. Take a piece of dough, roll it into a round shape and then flatten it. In the middle of the flattened shape, spoon a small amount of rose paste.

11. Slowly close the dough over the paste, then roll it into a round tangyuan shape.

12. Boil the tangyuan until they float. Remove and serve in a bowl.

Chef’s notes:

1. To give the tangyuan a more romantic pink color, I used strawberry juice in the tangyuan. It not only gives the tangyuan a slight pink color but also adds that sweet, fragrant strawberry flavor.

2. By warming the strawberry juice before mixing it with the flour, the dough is more soft and also will be less likely to split open during the process of rolling the tangyuan. No need to boil the strawberry juice, just heat until warm.

3. When adding the honey to the rose paste I added a little more and the mixture was too watery, so I later added glutinous rice flour to the paste to make it easier to fill the tangyuan.

4. Don’t add too much filling, otherwise the tangyuan will easily leak.

5. If it is too difficult for you to create the tangyuan, just directly mix the rose paste and the dough together, roll into balls and then boil them. It’s also delicious!

Romantic Valentine’s Day Chocolate Tangyuan

Translated from this recipe, which includes photos to guide you.


400 grams glutinous rice flour
52 grams of Dove-brand chocolates
180 grams of non-gluten flour (such as rice flour)
Dragonfruit peels

1. Prepare the dragonfruit.

2. Remove the peel from the fruit, then slice the peel into thin strips.

3. Place the sliced dragonfruit peel into a blender and blend into a juice.

4. Using a filter to filter out the impurities, pour the juice into a bowl. Set aside.

5. Add the non-gluten flour to a new bowl, then pour in boiled water and quickly stir it together.

6. Add the glutinous rice flour.

7. Pour in the dragonfruit juice to the glutinous rice flour and mix together.

8. Even the mixture into a smooth round of dough.

9. Prepare the chocolate.

10. Pound the chocolate into small pieces.

11. Separate the dough into small pieces. Each piece should be moulded into a nest shape.

12. Add a chocolate piece/pieces in the center of the nest, and then fold the dough over and close it up into a round shape.

13. Repeat the process of nesting chocolate into the pieces of dough until all of the tangyuan are finished.

14. Place cold water in a pot and then boil the tangyuan. When the tangyuan float, they are ready to serve.

The Friday Valentine’s Day Roundup

A heart-shaped box filled with chocolate-shaped hearts
(photo by Tijs Gerritsen)

Valentine’s Day arrives this Tuesday, February 14. In honor of the day To give this deadline-weary writer a break from a long week, I’m pulling out some of my favorite Valentine-related content from the archives.

Ask the Yangxifu: Chinese Husband Forgot Valentine’s Day. “Basically, as Valentine’s Day passed without a hint of romance…I’ve been pouring over whether or not my western conditioning has been detrimental to my marriage.”

Mandarin Love: Chinese Phrases on Love and Destiny. I share some of my favorite Chinese idioms that invoke love and destiny. Might just come in handy on Tuesday. 😉

Ask the Yangxifu: Gifts for Chinese Valentine’s Day. For those of you who don’t know, China also has its own Valentine’s Day called Qixi, which lands on the seventh day of the seventh month of the lunar year. I discuss the holiday and possible gift ideas for your boyfriend or husband.

China and Its Oh So Romantic Christmas. Okay, you’re probably thinking, Jocelyn has really lost it because she’s pulling out a Christmas entry in the middle of February. But, Christmas in China feels a lot like Valentine’s Day — read for yourself and decide.

The Double Happiness Archives. Enjoy one of the real-life stories of Western women and Chinese men in love from the archives. (And for more stories, also see my lists of books and movies that feature couples of Chinese men and Western women.)

Happy Valentine’s Day — or as they say in China, qíngrénjié kuàilè (情人节快乐)!

Valentine’s Day Giveaway at My New Chinese Love

My New Chinese Love Valentine's Day Giveaway
Enter to win a Valentine's day bouquet at My New Chinese Love.

The people at My New Chinese Love asked me to pass this on — they’re running a Valentine’s day giveaway going on now until February 12, 2012. To enter, all you have to do is submit a photo about what you love most about China, and give it a creative caption. The winner receives a beautiful bouquet of flowers.

See their website for details.

P.S.: Thanks to everyone who voted for me for the Lotus Blossom Award at My New Chinese Love  — in case you haven’t seen my sidebar, your support helped me win.

Ask the Yangxifu: Chinese Husband Forgot Valentine’s Day

heart-shaped red candle burning
A Chinese husband lets Valentine's Day go without the kind of romantic surprise his Western wife hoped for. How can she get through it? (Photo by Muris Kuloglija Kula)

romantic asks:

I’ve been married now to my husband (Chinese) for almost 7 years, the past four here in China.

Basically, as Valentine’s Day passed without a hint of romance…..I’ve been pouring over whether or not my western conditioning has been detrimental to my marriage. I know I certainly can not expect my husband to prepare breakfast in bed (a habit he detests, as it leaves crumbs in the sheets), or carry me to the unromantic crowds of youngsters fulfilling the newest western trend of Valentine’s rituals (he’s pretty stubborn to trends, which I also appreciate), but couldn’t he have at least bought flowers or something? I can’t help feeling that my negative reactions are more my problem. I feel flat out silly in wishing he had “bought” me something. And I feel this is directly related to hallmark campaigns I grew up with in the U.S. BUT, despite the western consumerism marketing campaigns, I do feel I truly need a little spark or spirit of romance every once in awhile. How do we get through this???? Continue reading “Ask the Yangxifu: Chinese Husband Forgot Valentine’s Day”