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Peter lived for nearly a half-decade in China, including two as a Peace Corps volunteer, and is the author of Socrates in Sichuan: Chinese Students Search for Truth, Justice and the (Chinese) Way. It is the intention of his blog to foster the sort of intercultural understanding necessary for long term relationships.
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Chinese Love Languages: A Challenge    

By Peter V
979 Views | 9 Comments | 1/2/2019 12:33:51 PM

Mike Royko, the classic curmudgeon and commentator of human foibles writing for the Chicago Sun Times, was one of my favorite columnists. In response to a famous survey that found women would rather snuggle than have sex with their partners, Royko commissioned one of his own studies, polling his readers about whether they would rather go bowling with their buddies or have sex with their wives. Sex won, but Royko was on to a larger point that would later be validated by John Gray in his classic, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus: Men and women communicate affection in different ways. In particular, men bond by doing and women by talking.


This notion of different communication styles was on my mind when Yong asked me to complete a questionnaire from a site called 5 Love Languages (, based on book by the same name.  Although the assignment was done for her writing class, I had a sense more was at stake than a grade, and I began to speculate: What was she trying to communicate by having me take this quiz about couple communication? 


The book’s thesis is that there are 5 main ways we use to communicate love to our partner, and that we need to understand both our partner’s and our own style for a happy relationship. These five ways are: (1) Acts of service, by which it is intended that we can show our love by doing something for our companion, performing the required tasks and sometimes going above and beyond; (2) Quality Time: Another way to show love is the mere fact of spending quality time. Not necessary things like eating meals, watching tv, but conscious time engaged in talking, sharing, or some activity performed together; (3) Some show love in the very direct way of physical touch. “Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face – they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love.” (4) Yet another way to show love is through the giving of gifts. The point is not the gift so much as the act of giving. Anyone who has read “The Gift of the Magi” will know it is the thought behind the gift and not the gift itself that truly matters; (5) We convey our emotions with words of affirmation, through the things we say, which can be hateful or inspiring, loving or neglectful. Words matter.


In order to determine your preferred communication styles, you take a quiz consisting of pairs of statements, choosing which one more describes you. Some examples are:

 1.   I like to receive notes of affirmation from you/I like it when you hug me.

2.   I like to spend one‐on‐one time with you/I feel loved when you give me practical help.    

3. I like it when you give me gifts/I like taking long walks with you.


At the end of the 50 or so items you will have a ranking of which methods of communication you prefer.


Let me begin by saying that I accept whole-heartedly the importance of syncing your communication patterns with your partner, and add the obvious remark that this is easier said than done. Despite knowing that communication with our partner is important, we muck it up anyway, just like we all know we should get enough exercise and eat less but usually fail on both counts.  The importance of this undertaking is magnified in an intercultural relationship. After all, the male-female dynamic is a tough enough one to navigate. Throw on top of that the fact that not only are you dealing with a the whole man/woman thing but with Chinese women and Western men thing, and it’s like jumping from checkers to chess, or from chess to whatever that three dimensional game was they played on Star Trek.


But I had a couple of problems with the test that Yong was proposing I take. First, the activities I was being asked to rank (performing acts of service, spending quality time, giving gifts, engaging in physical touch, offering words of affirmation) were those that were primarily relevant to a Western relationship. In “The Chinese–Western Intercultural Couple Standards Scale,” Hiew et al point out that the different values and activities characterize Western and Chinese relationships, with many that the former rank high being of little interest to the latter and vice versa. For example, the activity of cultivating relations with extended family was of prime importance to Chinese couples, while it hardly registered at all for Western couples.


Second, as a result of my time in China and the academic research I had done for my book I was fairly certain that I could pinpoint how a Chinese female would rank the list. And though I knew Yong had her own idiosyncracies, at the end of the day she was Chinese, and would more or less fall in line with her culture.


Not wanting to spend time dealing with a test whose culture-bound methodology I found flawed and whose results would not tell me anything I didn’t already know, I proposed to Yong that I forego taking the quiz myself if I could predict how her test had come out, that is, how according to her answers on the survey she ranked these activities.


And I throw this challenge open to you, dear reader.  If you think you know China, how according to your view would Chinese women rate these. Or if you are a Chinese woman, how would you rate rank these communication activities in relative importance. Of course, I am not implying all Chinese women are the same or are going to give the same replies. But this whole blog is premised on the notion that there is a Chinese culture that shapes these women and before we understand how they embody it in their own unique way we first have to understand what that culture is.


Again, your task is to rank how Chinese women would rank the five following communication activities in terms of their relative importance: (a) performing acts of service, (b) spending quality time, (c) giving gifts, (d) engaging in physical touch, (e) offering words of affirmation. So give it a shot, and in next blogpost, I will provide the ranking the research on Chinese culture suggests as well as how closely I was able to guess Yong’s preferences.



Hiew, D., et al. “The Chinese-Western Intercultural Couple Standards Scale,” Psychological Assessment, 2015, Vol 27, No 3, 816-826.

Copyright owned jointly by Author and CyberCupid Co., Ltd. Breach of copyright will be prosecuted.
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#2019-01-02 12:33:36 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

Peter, this is a great blog and I find it fascinating, but I am struggling with one aspect of your challenge to "rank how Chinese women would rank the five following communication activities in terms of their relative importance: (a) performing acts of service, (b) spending quality time, (c) giving gifts, (d) engaging in physical touch, (e) offering words of affirmation."

I am wondering if we are trying to rank her perceived importance of these categories from the POV of being on the giving end or on the receiving end of each of them. I believe that how they would rank the 5 options when being performed by us and received by them differently than if performed by them and received by us.

Do you think Yong would rank them the same in both directions or would she vary depending on who was doing the giving, you or her?

I am not going to provide my response now, because I want to give it some serious thought, but when I do I will likely provide two answers as to how my wife would rank these activities depending on whether she was receiving or giving. I will look for your thoughts on my query before answering, in case you think I am wrong.


#2019-01-02 23:21:26 by WarmLifeGz7 @WarmLifeGz7




每一个人都有一个情绪的爱箱,只有当这个爱箱填满了的时候,人际关系才能发展。然南,不同人的爱箱需要用不同的语言来填满。查普曼博士发现人们基本上有五种爱的语言:肯定的言词、精心的时刻、接受礼物、服务的行动、身体的接触。 两性间许多误解、隔阂、争吵都是由于不了解或者忽略了对方的主要爱语造成的。当夫妻双方主动选择使用对方的主要爱语时,就能够很好地发展彼此的亲密关系,并积极地处理婚姻中的冲突和失败。 本书将带领读者跨越两性沟通的迷思与阻隔,填满自己和伴侣的爱箱,进行一场婚姻的内在革命。 本书自1992年出版问世以来,三年间销量突破300000册,十年间突破了1000000册,并被译成20种文字在全球发行。

I thought this might help in alluring our Chinese ladies to chime in 8)(giggle)



#2019-01-03 00:00:47 by WarmLifeGz7 @WarmLifeGz7

"我若能说万人的方言,并天使的话语,却没有爱,我就成了鸣的锣,响的拨一般。 "这是至理名言。 谈到爱,就必须讲究"沟通";谈到沟通,就必须执著于"爱"。 (爱的五种语言一一创造完美的两性沟通》这本书的原名是"The Five Love Languages",专门教导读者如何去表达爱的语言,从婚姻的角度来看,这是一本好书,而且是一本重要的书。
 我从事婚姻辅导至今已有20年,发现在很多状况中,贤妻良母不一定得到先生的疼爱;奉公守法、刚正不阿的男人,不见得太太就喜欢;认真努力的人也不见得就一定成功……这些情形不免令人感触万分。 但是仔细探讨其过程,不难发现它的因由,最主要的原因是他们不会沟通,不会表达情爱。 导致明明是心地善良,却被以为冷漠奸诈;明明是要表达情爱,却被认为肉麻不堪;明明是兴奋莫名,却被误解为大发脾气……难怪会有"我俩因误会而结合,因了解而分开"这种嘲弄婚姻的说辞产生。

本书从理论上来分析,算是颇为完整的。 它提到了沟通的类别,除了言词的沟通,还包括了身体的接触(行为语言的了解),也探讨如何发现主要爱语(隐示沟通)。 它详细分析了爱情的技巧:肯定的言词、精心的时刻、接受礼物、服务的行动以及身体的接触等。 最难能可贵的是这本书也提到了爱情的理智层次与意志层次:"爱是一种选择"以及"爱那不可爱的"。 从这些内容里,可以揣测出作者在婚姻辅导上的经验与功力,读者若好好钻研这本书(最好是夫妻一起阅读),相信对婚姻一定会有很大的帮助。
 夫妻是永世情缘,理应好好相爱,共度一生。 这种百年好合的境界,不能光靠运气与缘分,而必须以"努力学习"、"不断成长"的方式来处理。 但愿这本书能造就更多的婚姻,使更多的人更幸福。

This is a introduction to this book .   I am thinking to make a blog which summarizes this book -- as well as another important idea ---

The corollary to this book is The Five languages of Apology --  8)8)


#2019-01-03 17:53:40 by melcyan @melcyan

 Great blog, Peter. You often create spaces for interesting relationship reflection.


"men bond by doing and women by talking."


It may well be true for the majority of couples but it is definitely not true for me and my partner. My partner is very focused on doing rather than talking. For her, any talk can only ever have its meaning shaped by the doing. For her talk alone is cheap. For her acts of loving service are number one. Quality time, gifts, touch and words of affirmation are all a distant second and all follow naturally from acts of loving service.


My first significant action towards my partner (at least in her eyes) was to offer to ring her early in the morning to make sure that she woke up in time to take her sister to the airport. That action was minor for me but major for my partner to be. That was the first time she thought we could end up together.


When I do something for her family she knows that I am really doing it out of love for her.

#2019-01-04 12:00:05 by Map1 @Map1

"The Five Love Languages" is an excellent book and I highly recommend that fellow CLM/ALM members buy it and read it. I bought the Chinese translation for my wife as a Christmas gift. We plan to read it together after we finish a couple of others, which I'll give me details in a future blog.

#2019-01-05 11:36:54 by woaizhongguo @woaizhongguo


I thought about this when I was writing, whether the ranking involves the way you communicate to others or the way you want others to communicate to you.. The quiz gave no direction on this point. I think there is an assumption of parity. That is, the way you communicate to someone is the way you will want someone to communicate with you. So if you are an affectionate person you will want your partner to be affectionate. The only possible disconnect I can see on the list is gift giving. It may be possible that You may enjoy giving presents, but getting them is not a big deal. However, I suspect those who like giving often like receiving. That said, if there seems a conflict, choose the way the person communicates to others.

#2019-01-05 12:46:16 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

Ok, Peter, your response is roughly what I anticipated, because if the quiz had given direction I'm sure you would have repeated it. Frankly, I think most people, if being honest and seriously thinking about it, would discover that they feel differently regarding the level of importance of these 5 means of expressing love depending on whether they are the person expressing their love or the one receiving someone else's love.

Maybe another way to look at it is that they fail to perform these different expressions of love in the same way they wish to receive them.

Regarding Chinese women generally, and my wife specifically, I think that their number 1 means of expressing their love by far is performing acts of service. I think this is almost universally true of Chinese women. They take care of their man (whether he wants it or not). 

Unlike you, I don't think that the only way these items would differ is the giving of gifts. In fact, I think that for most Chinese women, the primary means of exressing love is "taking care of their man", but that the primary means of feeling loved might be fairly evenly distributed among all 5 means of receiving expressions of love.

And if not evenly distributed then I strongly suspect that receiving gifts and words of affirmation are the two means of receiving love that they would rank the highest.

As for my wife, I know that her number one way of expressing her love is by "taking care of me", but I am not sure how she thinks she most frequently expresses her love. She might well also recognize that as her favored way.  

She is not big on receiving gifts, but I think she would value receiving quality time, physical touch and words of affirmation all at least as high as or higher than acts of service. 

I realize I am not fully completing the task you've assigned and am not sure that I can, but maybe if a few more people give it a try it will help me more clearly decide how to break these 5 languages of love into an exact ranking for both giving and receiving by Chinese women generallly and my wife personally.

#2019-01-07 05:49:25 by YinTingYu @YinTingYu


Hello Pete. Y.T.Y. chimin' in here. I may have not said before but, I really like to read what you have written over the past few years. Kudos Bro. I want to write to you as "Good Ole" Hombre to Hombre. I feel you can do it. All comfortable clothes with something good on the Barbque. Might even have a shot or two with good beer chaser as we talk. Cool?? OK.

Now, this thing you have presented about the 5 languages of Love are cretainly valid in my mind. Is good for all to remember and consider but,...I am Like John at first. I don't know which way to consider. Perhaps you can give a link to the questionaire ?? Still,...I am Very reticent to "Second Guess" how the partner would respond. I just Love her. Can't explainMaybe it's a Rooster/Snake thing. Something I already know,...The Chinese woman takes care of her chosen man in health and other concerns.I am speaking from the Age/Value group of 35-55 generally. I also speak generally from small experience (4) here. I really don't know how to investigate and answer. I know well of John Grey and Arjuna Ardnagh. Good reading for new or old.

"Consciouness Men" and many others. Still I am reticent to second guess the female partner. Seems futile but also worthwhile (haha). Strange I'm sure but I say, attention and allow each to unfold. No "Judgement" only "Assessment". This has worked well for me.

Bud, you have mentioned before about Yong and her feeling /desire to study and understand the Arte of Flamenco. This has been a "Niggle" in the back of my head since you have mentioned. The desire of Yong to investgate. I am not sure where you both live now but,...if you currently reside in the Tucson area, I could possibly connect you with a "Jergua".

I sense it would be great for both. Be ready for a 2night 3 day ordeal. Possibly would happen at Oracle, Arizona. If you want to experience the good old time, bare foot dance, old church, cave or camfire for 2 days and 3 nights,...I think I could connect you.

Pete, I gotta scoot. Hang tough but gentle with Yong. You know what I'm talkin' bout. Please stop all the " Prosseforial Diatribe" with me. You are a "cool" guy. No need for pretention Buddy. I know the shit very well.

Hang low man. Wait for the wave. Shoot the curl when it comesl. That's the way Bro,...that's the way.

Kowabunga,...Surf's up !!

Such a good Bro, Latcho Drom (safe Journey) Hopes to hear fromyou in next two weekx but, pressure.

Later, Gongji.



#2019-01-11 23:14:48 by woaizhongguo @woaizhongguo


I see your point about doing for others as being a non-reciprocal value, that is, one may value doing things for others but not set much store on having things done for them. To preview my next entry on this subject, the reason I may have missed this is that for Yong , while she certainly had the traditional Chinese woman thing for serving her husband,she also let me know she most appreciates when I do acts of service around the house。indeed as I will talk more about, this was the single message she hoped I’d derived from the survey 。so for her it was most definitely reciprocal, although I can see where for others it might not be. In the follow up, I will talk not only about Yong’s choices, but what the research on international relationships tells us about communicating with our Chinese partner. 

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