»  Family Album — Marriage

Double Happiness


Rosie and I were married in the city of Jilin, in Jilin Province, northeast China, on August 6, 1986.

We had met four years before, when Rosie was one of my students at Siping College. After I went back to England in 1983, we kept in touch. In November 1985 we decided to get married. By that time I was working on contract to First Boston Corp. in New York City.*

It was not easy for a Chinese citizen to marry a foreigner in 1986. Nobody in China really knew what the rules were, so local authorities just made them up. (Well, that was my impression.) My being an expatriate British citizen in the U.S.A. added complications.

The authorities in Jilin, the northeastern province where Rosie's "work unit" was located, insisted on my bringing a whole sheaf of documents with me. They wanted, for example, a letter, signed by the British Consul in New York, affirming that I did not currently have a wife in England. (He, when I went to get that: "Do you have a wife in the U.K.?"  Me: "No, of course not."  He: "Right," and promptly signed the letter.) They also wanted a Certificate of Good Conduct from the New York City police. I was amazed to learn that such a thing is actually available. You go to police HQ, fill out a form, and wait while they look you up on their computer. If they can't find a criminal record for you, they give you a certificate. I don't know how good their computer system actually was in 1986: the people waiting in the room with me to get Certificates of Good Conduct looked like the crew of a pirate ship.

When I had all the requested papers I went to China. I related subsequent events in an article for the London Spectator the following year, reproduced here. (This article appeared under my pen-name "Giles Mathews.")

Duly married, I flew back to New York. At that time, a Chinese citizen was only issued a passport if he or she could show some good reason for going abroad. Being married to a foreigner was a sufficiently good reason, so Rosie began her application for a passport. That accomplished, she got a U.S. visa.

Getting passport and visa took a further three months. When Rosie was ready to leave China, I flew back to fetch her. By that time her father, who had been unhappy about the marriage, was reconciled. The family gave us a banquet. "我们是一家人," said Rosie's father — "We are one family." Thus our married life began.

*[Added February 2018:  When I originally set up this page in May 2011, that was all I wrote about our courtship. There is actually much more to be told. I didn't tell it because I thought it didn't reflect well on me.

I didn't think, in fact, that teacher-student love affairs ever reflect well on the teacher. Opportunities for favoritism — in, for example, the awarding of grades — cast a shadow of suspicion over the whole matter.

Across the years, however, when friendship with another couple has reached a certain point of closeness, we get to exchanging stories about How We Met. None of these friend-couples has ever taken as stern a view of teacher-student liaisons as I supposed was common. One Chinese friend has pointed out that the great 20th-century writer Lu Xun married (or at any rate lived with, and fathered a child by) one of his students, Xu Guangping. Emmanuel Macron's rise to the Presidency of France has also softened attitudes, to the degree they needed softening.

In this age of "sexual harassment" hysteria, my anxieties anyway seem somewhat antique. In conversation with friends who teach in U.S. colleges and universities today, what I mostly hear is that male lecturers tiptoe around in terror of female students, and practice utmost caution in dealing with them for fear of a career-destroying accusation.

In any case, when we tell friends about our courtship they are always especially taken by the Jeep Story. When they've heard it told and have stopped laughing they urge me to reproduce it in some public form.

This seems to be the right place, so I have written up the Jeep Story on a separate page, using notes I took soon after the event.]


Here are some photographs of these events. Clicking on a picture brings up a bigger version.

Rosie Rosie as I first knew her.
Rosie in Dalian Rosie in Dalian.
Rosie Rosie at Bangchuidao, a pleasant resort area near Dalian.
Rosie at Dalian After finally getting married in Jilin, we took a bus to Rosie's home town, Changchun. I checked into a hotel there, being still persona non grata with Rosie's father. Rosie's Mom, however, came to visit me at the hotel.

This picture was taken in the hotel forecourt on August 6, the day of our wedding. I believe it is the only photograph we had taken on that day.
Wedding banquet November 1986. Rosie had got her passport and U.S. visa, so I came back to China to fetch her. Rosie's father had come round by this point, and we had a very happy celebration. Here are Rosie, me, Dad, and Rosie's brother Hongwei.
Wedding banquet Hongwei, Mom, Dad, me, Rosie.
Wedding dress It irked Rosie not to have had a formal dressed-up wedding, so some months after we were married — sometime in 1987 — we went to a wedding parlor in New York's Chinatown and spent a happy hour or so dressing up and getting photographed. The results were mostly unmemorable, but the photographer did capture some essential quality of Rosie in this lovely picture of her in a wedding dress.