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Love letters are lost in digital era

By Cheng Lu and Liu Xin | China Daily | Updated: 2012-08-23 09:11

Love letters are lost in digital era

Students at Nanjing Forestry University in Jiangsu province read handwritten love poems that have three lines and 60 characters. Wang Xin / For China Daily

As surely as instant messaging is now the language of love, snail mail is not.

However, when Dong Xiyu, a 26-year-old financial advisor at China International Trust and Investment Corporation received a traditional love letter from a girl who had a crush on him at middle school, he was so overwhelmed he could not reject her.

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"Her delicate feelings and burning love poured out from the letter," Dong recalls.

They began dating soon after and were together for about six years before their relationship ended.

Dong now has another girlfriend and they prefer to express themselves in e-mails, SMSs and on micro blogs. Like most people.

"Very few people of my age are patient," Dong says. "Love or hate, you want your partner to know right away. And at the same time you want to know what her response will be right away as well. We just cannot wait that long."

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"I would probably be considered pretentious if I wrote love letters to my significant other."

Dong adds that many youngsters also like to speed up the dating game by sharing photos online.

"If the photos are acceptable they can start dating," he says. "If not, they can stop and search for someone else without losing any time."

Zhang Rulun, philosophy professor at Fudan University in Shanghai, understands this type of thinking and believes people may be subconsciously affected by "fast food culture," which values instant results and gratification.

Many young Chinese, though, have found ways to add romantic twists to their modern communication methods.

For instance, 28-year-old Zhu Shu says some of his friends create videos to express their love, uploading them to the Internet as a sort of public declaration.

Zhu says the disappearance of letter writing does not mean writing skills have declined: "It's just a form of progress in interpersonal communication. It has shifted from paper to the Internet."

However, other young Chinese have voiced their opposition to the trend, believing that love is a traditional and private matter that should not be publicized in such a way.

Li Yuan, a 26-year-old editor, says she started writing letters to her boyfriend when he studied abroad in the United States. Li says she now has a box full of letters from him, describing the box as her most valuable possession.

Sometimes, Li sits down and reads the letters again to cheer herself up. "When we argue, I dig out the letters he sent to me and read them to him. After that, we can reconcile," she says.

Li says she enjoys the way Xu Zhimo expressed his affection toward Lu Xiaoman in love letters. Xu was a lyrical poet and Lu Xiaoman, a popular social butterfly of Beijing in the 1920s.

Although Li does not deny the value of modern communication methods, she says the aesthetic quality of a handwritten letter makes it more emotional and romantic.

"Have you watched the movie Letters to Juliet? Life is moving too fast. I think people should slow down and review who they are and where they want to go," Li says.

The 25-year-old English teacher Fan Lin says she met her first boyfriend in Sichuan's provincial capital Chengdu when she was pursuing her bachelor's degree. Even so she was forbidden by her parents to pursue a relationship with the man because he had no Beijing permanent residency.

Although they were forced to break up, the man wrote Fan a single love letter that she cherishes to this day.

Fan says she believes people have forgotten how good it feels when one gives or receives a moving love letter. However, she admits that she has yet to write one herself since graduating from university.

"Sometimes I just feel too 'old' to write on paper. I feel like I don't have enough patience to express my true emotions," she says.

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