Modern Love, Confucian Values – The Case of Huang Yuting (婷婷)
A few weeks ago I stumbled upon an article about Huang Yuting, commonly known as Tingting (婷婷), the ex-wife of Taiwanese actor Shao Xin (邵昕). The article appeared on the popular Taiwanese tabloid Apple Daily, a newspaper that often talks about the private lives of celebrities.
Tingting and Shao Xin divorced two years ago. This year, a friend introduced Tingting to a man who is now her boyfriend. They have been together for about half a year. He has already proposed to her and they are planning to get married.
What interests me about this article is not the gossip. What I find fascinating is how Tingting and her boyfriend explain and articulate their relationship by using a mix of traditional Confucian values and of modern concepts of love. Let us examine the text a little closer. In an interview, Tingting stated:
There is almost no resistance [on the part of our families] to our being together. My mother likes him. His parents, too, have accepted me (我們在一起幾乎沒有阻力，我媽很喜歡他，他家人也接受我).
According to traditional Confucian thinking, a marriage is not a matter between two individuals, but between two families. In the past, young people didn’t choose their partners. Marriages were almost universally arranged. We can see that Tingting has chosen her boyfriend by herself. We also know that she has got divorced. Both things can be described as ‘modern’. In this respect, she clearly departs from the traditional pattern of Confucian family life. However, when talking with the journalist she emphasises the fact that their respective families have agreed to their relationship. The fact that she mentions this, and that she stresses that their relationship doesn’t face any ‘resistance’, shows that the idea of marriage as a family matter, rather than a simple individual decision, is still present in her way of thinking, more or less consciously. She therefore chooses this subject in order to explain to the public that her relationship is based on sound foundations.
Interviewed by the media, Tingting’s boyfriend praised her in the following way.
She is good in every respect. She is hardworking and thrifty in running the household (“勤儉持家”), she is a suitable wife. We have never quarrelled so far.
Asked whether he minds that she already has a child from her previous marriage, he said: “No, I don’t. That’s a thing of the past.“
Here, again, we can see a mix of old and new ways of thinking. On the one hand, he defines Tingting as a good wife because of criteria related to her social role as a wife and woman. Of all the qualities he could have mentioned, being thrifty and good at managing the household seemed to him the most relevant. On the other hand, he accepts her having a child and being divorced, which is obviously a recognition of female emancipation and self-determination.
In describing her boyfriend, Tingting said that he is very “considerate” (體貼), and that he “gives her sense of security” ([他] 給我很多安全感). As I will explain more in detail in another post, “sense of security” is a recurrent theme in Taiwanese women’s discourse about marriage and relationships. Being considerate and giving sense of security are, as well, related to the ideal social role of a man and husband.