A Disabled Chinese Poet’s Wedding Plan Invites Cheers and Jeers

Yu Xiuhua’s views on sex and relationships have often been slammed as “vulgar.” Critics disparaged her writings centering around love and lust. Many said she would never find love again after a divorce.

But the acclaimed poet, who has cerebral palsy, proved her detractors wrong.

On April 29, the 46-year-old announced her wedding plans with Yang Zhuce on short video platform Douyin, inviting a chorus of jubilation from fans and jeers from critics. Dressed in a white wedding dress, Yu was seen leaning against Yang, donning a suit, as they posed for photos in a rose garden.

“Love is a mystery, so is life,” Yu wrote in the video caption.

Yu, a farmer and writer from central China’s Hubei province, rose to fame in 2014 with her literary works exploring her experiences with disability and desires. She candidly wrote and spoke about them in public events, garnering female fans who admired her views that challenged traditional views.

“I’m not in pursuit of women’s liberation, I’m just in pursuit of my personal liberation,” Yu said in a popular talk show in 2018. “A person’s ability to liberate oneself is equivalent to saving a group of people, because the example people see from you is an encouragement to them.”

This week, Yu embodied that very example, shaking off the shame often associated with broken marriages and the perceived despair of finding love for people with disabilities. The writer has been constantly criticized online for abandoning her husband and their son after acquiring fame.

Yu was married off by her parents aged 19 and was in a “loveless marriage” for over 20 years. She finally decided to file for divorce, with the separation saga becoming the subject of a filmmaker Fan Jian’s documentary titled “Still Tomorrow.”

Since her divorce in 2015, Yu has openly expressed her admiration for men in the literary and art world. She penned romantic poems, sometimes professing her love for famous folk singer Li Jian despite not getting any answers in return.

“Your silence makes me like it more,” she wrote last November. “I like the iron tree that doesn’t bloom, I like the stone that is cold.”

Four months later, Yu declared her love to another man, opening up about her relationship with Yang. She hasn’t revealed any personal details about him other than they met during a livestream event on Douyin last year.

She has, however, written in detail about her emotions of falling in love, as well as enjoying sex for the first time ever.

“I discovered that flesh could be so beautiful, breaking my inherent aversion and suspicion of the male body,” she wrote. “As a human, I haven’t got regrets now.”

Throughout the Labor Day holiday, Yu has been sharing more photos from the couple’s photo shoot where the couple was seen holding hands or hugging. However, the writer hasn’t disclosed if the couple had legally registered the marriage.

Nevertheless, a related hashtag about Yu and Yang’s wedding had been viewed over 22 million times on microblogging platform Weibo as of Thursday afternoon. While some criticized the writer and highlighted the couple’s perceived age gap, others mostly congratulated and supported them. 

Xu Yuexia, a 54-year-old from the city of Quzhou in eastern Zhejiang province, was one of the supporters. Like Yu, Xu said she also gathered the courage to divorce her husband last year and has written poems about her life after. She shares them on her WeChat account titled “Old Xu’s Secondary Life.”

“Sex and love are definitely what every woman wants, but they’re hard to get,” Xu told Sixth Tone. “Most women deceive themselves in motherhood.”

“Every woman in China shares the same psychological struggle as Yu,” she added. “I hope this new relationship can make up for her previous dissatisfaction.”

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: One of Yu Xiuhua’s wedding photos. From @余秀华 on Weibo)


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