It is a love story spanning seven decades.
Ms. Xu Guizhen and Mr. Cao Zhenwei were both born in 1926 and have known each other since they were 16.
After nearly 70 years apart they finally reunited, and got married two years ago at the age of 94.
Their story – including accounts of their life in a nursing home – has gone viral, touching the hearts of many Chinese netizens.
Ms. Xu’s and Mr. Cao’s fathers were very close friends and operated a photo studio together in Weihai, Shandong province.
In 1937, during the war against the Japanese, they moved to Shanghai.
The young couple met at the photo studio in Shanghai. Mr. Cao worked at the photo studio with Ms. Xu’s younger brother.
Ms. Xu’s father liked Mr. Cao very much and hoped that the young man would marry his daughter.
But Mr. Cao was already engaged then. The two ended up living separate lives and having their own families.
Mr. Cao says Ms. Xu moved back to Shanghai after she got married, but not long afterward, they parted for the last time, as she ended up moving several times.
In 2019, Mr. Cao, then 93, met Ms. Xu’s younger brother at a reunion and asked him about his sister. Encouraged by the brother, Mr. Cao called Ms. Xu, and they were finally reunited.
“When I received the phone call, I knew it was him as soon as I heard his voice. I planned to meet him at the subway, but I was worried that I wouldn’t recognize him because I hadn’t seen him for years,” Ms. Xu recalls.
“But he was very smart. He went to the neighborhood committee first and asked them to call me. When I walked out, I saw him,” Ms. Xu says, adding that they reminisced about the past and had dinner together. After that, they kept in touch by phone.
Very soon after, the couple decided to spend the rest of their lives together, and registered for marriage in 2020.
“Although we hadn’t seen each other for nearly 70 years, we still felt very familiar with each other. We are all lonely and want to find a partner. This is fate, which is unexpected,” says Mr. Cao.
After getting married in September 2020, they moved into Fortune Care Shanghai Kangtai Nursing Home, where they share a room. According to Ms. Xu, the nursing home arranged wedding decorations to welcome them.
Ms. Xu notes that her daughter was worried about her living alone, which led to her decision to move into the nursing home. After Ms. Xu told Mr. Cao that she was moving, he decided to go with her.
“The nursing home also sent out wedding candies for us. It is our home now, and we also don’t want to bother our children. We can take care of each other here,” she adds.
The couple wake up at 6am in the nursing home, and have breakfast before watching TV or doing taiji at 8am.
After that, they exercise their joints and fingers, or sing songs for an hour before lunch, and then have a rest. After some activities in the afternoon, they have dinner at 4.30pm and get ready for bed.
“We get along very well. After living here for more than two years, we have got used to it and adapted to the environment…. In the nursing home, we are like one big family,” Ms. Xu says.
Mr. Cao has been a photographer all his life and retired at the age of 80. He has four children, two of whom have died, and the other two often come to visit them at the nursing home.
Ms. Xu worked in a textile factory for 30 years. She has four daughters and two sons. Her eldest granddaughter is now in college.
“Our children are very supportive of our marriage. This is our own business, but they all think it’s a good thing,” Mr. Cao says.
Nursing home staff member Zhan Yu, who takes care of the elderly couple, says: “I feel very moved when I see them walking hand in hand.”
Ms. Xu adds: “Ours is not like young people’s love. We never say ‘I love you’, but when we are together, we take care of each other.”