Youths telling their parents "I love you" on the phone have left many parents in shock, clearly not ready for the kind of affection that is rarely expressed in words in Chinese families, according to two videos that recently went viral online.
One clip shown on an Anhui TV station showed a group of college students telling their parents "I love you" - many doing so for the first time in their life. Some parents were baffled, answering with questions like "What is going on?" "Are you drunk?" or "Are you pregnant?"
Sociologist Xia Xueluan from Peking University said that unlike their American counterparts, Chinese parents are not used to hearing the phrase "I love you" when talking with their children.
"The parents' responses show that many Chinese are not good at expressing positive emotions. They are used to educating children with negative language."
One father in a similar video from a Shanxi TV station, replied to his daughter's greeting by saying "I am going to a meeting, so cut the crap."
Some parents handled it well, replying with "I love you too." One elderly woman said "I am so happy you called to say that, it is the happiest thing that happened to me in 2014."
Su Yuteng, 23, graduated from the Anhui University of Technology one and a half years ago. He said his parents are open minded. "They said I love you to encourage me when I was not performing well at my academic studies," he said.
Su just went back to his hometown from Beijing, to spend Chinese new year with his parents. He said he often says I love you to his parents in person, by phone, or by text messages on their birthdays.
Others find it hard to say this in person. Shi Jing is a travel magazine editor. "I have a job that uses the written word, so I prefer to text message them. It feels more formal," she said.
"We have our own oriental culture which is not that direct. I think it is better to show my love via actions," said Shi.
Sun Yimeng, a Chinese sports reporter, says there are other options for expressing love. She posted photos on her Weibo account which were notes left by her mother to remind her to eat the food prepared by her parents. "My mom is of the kind who will reply with 'I love you too.'" Sun said.
Xia said he suggests that parents use this video to reflect upon their attitudes, and try to learn to express feelings with positive words.
"I am a father who prefers to show love rather than be stern," Xia said. In his study, there is a souvenir made of red leaves, carved with words which read "to my beloved dad and mom." It is a gift from his daughter.