How Do You Say “I Love You”?

[self-made bookmark]

Chinese people may appear to be reluctant to say “love” as much as westerners do. It is true that we don’t use the sentence “I love you” that often. However, we let our feelings out through many other ways of expression. When we want to use words, we choose the plainest ones to show the deepest softness in the bottom of our hearts.

Modern Chinese are getting more open and straightforward, but I have to say I’m more into the ancient Chinese’s way of saying “I love you” for its simple beauty and rhythm. It was the time of poems and lyrics, when nothing couldn’t be written or sung. I particularly love one sentence, “执子之手,与子偕老”. It speaks of the promise made by a soldier before leaving his beloved one: “I held your hand, and I will grow old with you together.” No one knows the end of the story. He was just an ordinary man, his story was swallowed by the cruel war and lost in the river of time. Yet thousands of years passed, his promise lives vividly in the hearts of the people following his steps even till now.

Another piece that makes me smile comes from a letter written by a lord to his wife while she was away visiting her parents. He wasn’t much of a poet so he didn’t know many glamorous words. He just wrote, “陌上花开,可缓缓归矣”. He saw all the flowers and blossoms blaze with color, yet his wife was not here enjoying the beauty. He missed her but didn’t want to ask her to hurry back. So the man wrote “the flowers here are blooming now, would you come home, maybe slowly?”

“Love” is not used. Yet can you say these are not the most moving ways to say “I love you”?

[SHI JING themed Chinese painting by Feng Yuan, retrieved from ]

The quotes are from an ancient Chinese book of poetry and lyrics–SHI JING, also known as Classic of Poetry, Book of odes or Book of Hymns.


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