Ask the Yangxifu: Chinese Wedding Gifts for the Parents

Two rectangular boxes wrapped in red-and-gold heart-patterned wrapping paper, set on a red velvet background
What gifts should you give to the parents for a Chinese wedding? (photo by Klaus Post)

Les asks:

My English son is getting married to a Chinese lady. What would be the right gift to offer her parents?

Okay, here’s a topic that’s long overdue  — what gifts should you give the parents for a Chinese wedding? Continue reading “Ask the Yangxifu: Chinese Wedding Gifts for the Parents”

The Four Big Items For My Chinese In-laws’ Marriage

Bicycle, sewing machine, radio and wristwatch, the four big items or si dajian
When my Chinese inlaws married in 1971, the marriage must-haves were a bicycle, sewing machine, radio and wristwatch. (image from

My Chinese in-laws married in 1971. Back then, marriage wasn’t house, car and money — it was bicycle, sewing machine, wristwatch and radio, the si dajian (四大件, four big items).

My Chinese father-in-law grinned as he recalled that time. “These were the kinds of things that gave you ‘face’ in your wedding. They were considered hard for people to afford then. Not everyone had them. If you couldn’t afford them, you would even borrow money to get them! Nowadays, it’s silly to imagine this. Everyone wants a home and a car and money for their wedding.”

So I asked if he borrowed money to buy his si dajian. “Eh! I had to borrow from another teacher at my school. It took me two to three years just to pay him back. The sewing machine cost 145 RMB or so. The bicycle 100 or so. The wristwatch 50 RMB, radio maybe 20, maybe 50. But back then I only earned 20 RMB a month! It look me more than half a year just to get one sewing machine!”

My Chinese mother-in-law, lounging on a cot in the corner of our dining room as she played with sister-in-law’s baby, bust out in laughter the entire time he told me all of this.

Which makes me wonder — 40 years later, will we be laughing in the corner over China’s modern marriage must-haves, the house, car and money?

What do you think?

2011 Blogs by Western Women who Love Chinese Men

John my Chinese husband and I after registering our marriage in China
My 2011 update of all the blogs by Western women who love Chinese men. 

March 8 — International Women’s Day — is just around the corner, so it’s time for my homage to other fabulous Western women out in the blogosphere who love Chinese men.

If this update is any measure, the state of the community — that is, the community of Western women who love Chinese men — is strong and growing. Last year, I featured only 16 blogs. This year, it’s over 30. Either there are more of you out there speaking up on the internet, or I’m just getting better at finding you. 😉

So, in alphabetical order according to title, here they are:

Aimee Barnes. She’s more known for thoughtful, probing interviews with China’s up-and-coming movers and shakers — but she once loved a man from Shandong (and, I hope, hasn’t given up writing about it). I’ve come to appreciate her voice even more after reading this post about how she went against expectations (she had a learning disability) to master Mandarin and succeed in college and graduate school. Aimee is now living in Singapore with her Asian husband. Continue reading “2011 Blogs by Western Women who Love Chinese Men”

The China Baby Race

A little asian boy looks surprised about the surroundings.
When my friend Peter already announced a baby boy, within a year of getting married, it made me wonder about the rush to have babies sooner in China (Photo by Erik Araujo)

This evening, I was so excited to find an e-mail from Peter, one of my closest Chinese friends. I expected to hear something about his work life, or perhaps his wife. But instead, I read this:

“We have some happy news to share with you. My wife just had a baby boy on February 15, 7 jin 3 liang. The mother is fine.”

Of course I was happy for him too, and I couldn’t wait to tell my Chinese husband about it. But then it hit me. Peter had only been married to his wife for about a year. And within that year, he and his wife had already turned double happiness into triple happiness. Fast. Continue reading “The China Baby Race”

A Love Affair With China: Article about me in Global Times

John and I pose with a girl on our wedding day in China
Check out "A Love Affair With China," the article about me featured in the February 21, 2011 edition of the Global Times (P.S.: The little girl is NOT my daughter. 😉 )

If you happen to be flipping through the Monday, February 21 Shanghai edition of the Global Times, you might just find a familiar face on page 16. Me, actually. 😉

The Global Times profiled me and Speaking of China for their newspaper, in an article titled A Love Affair With China. I have a PDF version of the article and a link to the online version. Here’s a snippet of it:

As a Western woman with a shorter Chinese husband, she has turned a lot of heads, but Jocelyn Eikenburg is determined to question and challenge stereotypes about Chinese men and Western women in love.

The 33-year-old American keeps a blog called “Speaking of China,” where she shares her understanding of Chinese culture and offers advice to those in family and dating dilemmas. She was named one of the “101 Inspiring Women Bloggers to Watch for 2010” by WE Magazine, a women’s online publication based in Florida. Continue reading “A Love Affair With China: Article about me in Global Times”

The Dengji Question: How Marriage in China Gets Confusing

Weeks after John and I became a legally recognized couple in China in late July, the pink pastel envelopes of misunderstanding — with return addresses from my parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts — started pouring in:

Congratulations On Your Marriage!

To the Bride and Groom…

On Your Wedding Day…

“It’s not really a wedding,” I had told my father. “They call it dengji, or registering. It’s more symbolic, like an engagement.” I didn’t wear a bridal gown that day. There were no friends present to witness, and no gifts to receive. We didn’t even tell John’s family about it, until afterwards.

But I’d sent photos home to my dad, and they told another story. China’s national seal, flag, and an official podium with the words “Shanghai Marriage Registry Office” adorned the stage where John and I stood side by side. Across from us, a bureaucrat read our wedding vows, asking us to pledge to care for one another, and our parents. The whole thing screamed “wedding at the courthouse or justice of peace.”

So years later, after John and I came to the US, my American friends and relatives just didn’t understand our need to have a wedding. “Didn’t you already get married?” they might ask, as if I was trying to erase how I’d chosen shotgun eloping over a ceremony. Every year, around late July, we’d find the same well-intentioned pastel envelopes in our mailbox, feeling like another round of votes against our wedding hopes. Sometimes even I wondered if I’d wasted all that time and money getting three wedding dresses, now languishing in the back of our dusty wooden closet.

“My family doesn’t consider us married until we have the wedding ceremony,” John would reassure me. So, by the time we did have our ceremony, it didn’t matter that it was nearly three years after we had “registered.” John’s family welcomed us back home to China, to do the ceremony that I wanted, and they wanted. There was no confusion about it — this was our true wedding.

But I can’t say the same for my family in the US. After all, they still ask me what’s the date of our anniversary. 😉

Have your family or friends ever gotten confused over the “dengji question” — or other wedding/marriage customs in China?