Loaner Hearts, Translated by Spencer Woodman

Sign in to access Harper’s Magazine

Need to create a login? Want to change your email address or password? Forgot your password?

  1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
  2. Select Email/Password Information.
  3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.

Locked out of your account? Get help here.

Subscribers can find additional help here.

Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!

To change your password click here.

Get Access to Print and Digital for $23.99.
Subscribe for Full Access
Get Access to Print and Digital for $23.99.
Adjust

From personals posted in January to online classified sites in China. Chinese New Year was celebrated on February 14. Translated from the Chinese by Spencer Woodman.

I’m looking for a temporary boyfriend who is kind, honest, and can show the fullest understanding of the difficulties of being a woman. The leasing period will be through the Lunar New Year holidays. When we go our separate ways, you must never speak of this to others. Each day’s pay will be $15; the wage is not much, but please show some understanding. I guarantee my parents will cook meals containing meat.

My parents and relatives nag me to no end to bring home a girlfriend for the New Year. They have warned me that next time I come home, I absolutely must bring back a girlfriend or every member of my family will lose his dignity in front of the community.

Ah! New Year’s has come again, and I still have not bothered to find a boyfriend. Every year I come home single and suffer attacks from my siblings. I have been driven beyond the limits of my patience, and I have promised my family results this year. I want to go home again to celebrate the New Year and eat my parents’ delicious homemade chicken. Just thinking of all their succulent cooking, I feel my mouth watering. It seems I must rent a boyfriend. If you join me, it will be like a sightseeing trip to an interesting, bucolic family, with plenty of good food and drink. You will get to see the beautiful scenery of lakes and mountains and experience the social customs of a new place—all this and I will pay you! You must be about 135 pounds and under five and a half feet tall. You must wear exquisite glasses, have a high-bridged nose, profound eyes, and a slightly melancholy demeanor.

I am a young woman (but on the older side), who has been told by her parents that she must bring home a boyfriend for the New Year. If you are an expert in proper banter, if your appearance does not make people lose their appetites, if you do not have to go home this New Year to display filial piety, if you are clever, honest, and pure of mind, if your work and school experience is beyond commonplace, and if you’re single, then please act as my temporary boyfriend and come home with me for the New Year. You should not be too old or too young. Your pay will depend on your performance.

Allow me to introduce myself: I am no longer young. I have squandered my education and life skills and have amounted to nothing. I don’t have a car, a house, or even a boat ticket. I have not returned home in two years, since I broke up with my girlfriend. In order not to disappoint my parents, I’d like to rent a girlfriend to bring home for the New Year. Girl must be twenty-seven or older, between 5’ and 5’8” tall. Must have a normal form—outwardly fashionable but inwardly conservative. I like a woman who can cook and knows how to tidy up the house—who can clean the kitchen after each meal so well that it appears as if no cooking had taken place. The New Year visit will last about eight days, for which I will pay you $150 in total. I am willing to bargain.


More from