Love is patient; love is kind, but most of all, love is difficult — especially when it comes to Qixi Festival, sometimes called Chinese Valentine’s Day.

The annual festival, which falls on Aug. 7 this year, is based on the tale of a forbidden love between goddess Zhinü and mortal Niulang. As the story goes, after discovering the pair’s romantic exploits, Zhinü’s mother created the Milky Way to separate her from Niulang. But every year, thousands of pitying magpies form a bridge to unite the couple on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month — the date that is now celebrated as Qixi Festival.

Luckily for today’s young Chinese, parental interference doesn’t necessarily get in the way of romance, or so says the data Sixth Tone and sister publication The Paper gathered from Q&A site Zhihu. After sifting through the platform’s entries on relationships, we’ve gained insight into what its typically young users are curious about when it comes to love.

First, we collected 1,139 questions and categorized them into eight groups based on how users asked them.

Then, we extracted one keyword from each question, represented by the pink circles.


We categorized several questions into three stages of a relationship.


Many lose sleep over love before a relationship even begins. That’s where the internet comes in. - How can you tell if a man really loves you?

According to our data, most singles grapple with two questions: how to get into a relationship and how to move on from someone they like. - How did you and the one you like end up together? - What made you give up on confessing to the one you like?


Once young Chinese are in a relationship, the challenge becomes understanding their partners. And when the decoding gets tough, the tough get on Zhihu. Many questions are so specific, it might make you wonder if there was a lovers’ quarrel. - Why did my boyfriend give me a large carton of milk on our first date? - What was my girlfriend thinking when she shared a room with another man during a trip?

Others wonder if their significant other is as serious as they say they are. - How can I tell if my boyfriend truly loves me?


Breaking up is a big decision. Maybe that’s why many seek advice before making up their minds. - Should I break up with my boyfriend because he slapped me? - What should I do now that I want to break up after finding out how much my girlfriend’s family makes?

The platform is also home to plenty of newly minted singles looking to get over the post-relationship blues. - How long did you miss your ex after a breakup?


Although most love lives feature their fair share of uncertainties, the majority of questions tend to crop up during the beginning of a relationship.

But no matter when in a relationship, there are certain questions that have been on Zhihu for what seems an eternity, with answers still coming in.

Sometimes, men and women ask very similar questions, but the answers they get are quite different.

Even the difference in the number of responses reveals where China’s genders split. For instance, 9,018 people answered the question “Are there really men who don't smoke or drink?”, whereas only one answered “Are there really women who don't smoke or drink?” According to the World Bank, the smoking rate for Chinese men is much higher than it is for Chinese women, meaning in heterosexual relationships, fewer men might feel they need to be concerned about their partner having the habit than women.

Likewise, there are 3,775 answers to “What if I fall in love with a married man?”, but there are only 69 for “What if I fall in love with a married woman?” implying a gender bias, with more inclined to see women as potential homewreckers.

Zhihu users have the option to answer questions anonymously, and when there’s a high rate of anonymous answers, the question might revolve around sensitive issues.


Many of the top 10 “sensitive” questions tend to be about cheating lovers and secrecy. However, questions about LGBT relationships are also among the “sensitive questions,” and LGBT-related inquiries decreased in 2017 following tightened content regulation. Other examples are those involving a specific city, since people might worry about being easily identified.

When it comes to where users stand on the most-answered yes-or-no questions, responses can be pretty split.

Though it’s tough to say how helpful Zhihu’s collective wisdom is for its users, answers only come to those who ask. Who knows? If the Qixi lovers Zhinü and Niulang had the chance to post something on Zhihu, they might not have even needed a magpie bridge to be together.


The data used was collected on July 12, 2019, after searching the “relationships” section on Zhihu.