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A Ugandan woman in China becomes an unexpected celebrity, amassing 11 million followers online with her Chinese cooking videos. Photo: SCMP composite

‘Marvellous Rose!’ Ugandan woman teaching China how to cook Chinese food becomes online celebrity with 11 million fans

  • An African woman has become a famous influencer in China with her posts on how to cook Chinese food on mainland social media
  • Rose speaks fluent Mandarin and can cook dishes like tofu, hotpot, roasted duck, steamed fish and spicy chicken as well as many regional specialities

A Ugandan woman who fell in love with a farmer and moved to a village in China to be with him has become an online celebrity with her posts teaching people how to cook Chinese food.

The 29-year-old blogger, identified by her first name Rose, moved to a village in Suichang county in eastern China’s Zhejiang province with her then-boyfriend Wu Jianyun in 2014.

Rose, who can speak fluent Mandarin, started an account on video app Douyin last year and now has more than 11 million followers and 160 million likes on her posts.

Rose is already being called China’s ‘African Li Ziqi’, after the famous Chinese food influencer. Photo: Douyin
She is known to mainland audiences as the “African Li Ziqi”, a famous Chinese food vlogger, as most of her almost 300 videos are about how to cook Chinese food.

Rose can make standard Chinese dishes such as tofu, hotpot, roasted duck, steamed fish and spicy chicken as well as popular snacks from specific regions of China including small steamed buns, stinky tofu (a kind of fermented bean curd) and sugarcoated haws.

She also prepares traditional food to celebrate Chinese festivals. She makes sticky rice dumplings for the Dragon Boat Festival, mooncakes for the Mid-Autumn Festival and sweet dumplings during the Lantern Festival.

Her videos have become incredibly popular and drawn huge audiences - one on making steamed fish heads with hot peppers has been viewed more than 80 million times and received 1.5 million likes.

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Rose is regarded in China as, “the foreign wife who most understands Chinese worldly wisdom”, and is known not just for her cooking but also for her connection to Chinese culture and society.

She regularly helps neighbours with their crop harvests and shares her dishes with people in her village and posts about these interactions on social media to the delight of her fans.

“I feel quite accustomed to life here. The villagers are all very kind to me,” Rose said. “I like taking videos. I feel happy being able to do a job I am interested in.”

Her fans are also eager to watch her interactions with her husband Wu in their videos that are called “live-streaming of Sino-Africa rural love story”.

Rose was initially afraid about Wu, above with Rose and their son, seeing her picture, worried he would reject her for being African, but she was proved wrong and the couple later married. Photo: Douyin

Rose was born into a poor family in Uganda and ended up in China by pure chance. She was working at a Chinese-run furniture shop in Uganda when she got to know Wu online after meeting his cousin through her job.

Rose said when she first communicated with Wu online she dared not show him her photo, as she was concerned about the racism many African people experience from Chinese people who can hold prejudicial views on their skin colour and appearance.

She eventually sent him her picture and they soon fell in love, with Rose travelling to China to meet Wu in 2014 before they married in 2015.

At first, she didn’t enjoy life in China due to the new environment and difficulty learning the language.

Rose initially found life in China challenging as she did not speak the language, but within three months she was speaking basic Chinese and today is fluent in Mandarin. Photo: Douyin

However, with Wu’s help Rose could speak simple Chinese within three months of arriving.

Their son, Wu Zian, was born in 2016 and several months later her husband left home to work in China’s major cities in the hope of earning more money.

Rose has only been able to return to Uganda once so she began posting videos of her life on social media so her family could see how she lived in China.

She said she learned how to cook Chinese food from her husband, who had been a cook in the past.

Many of Rose’s fans say the fact she is African and teaching them about their Chinese cuisine is endearing. Photo: Douyin

Last year, a local culture promotion company spotted Rose and offered her a job as an influencer. Her fan base has been growing ever since.

“What a surprise that I, a Chinese person, am watching a foreigner teach me how to cook Chinese food,” wrote one online.

“What a marvellous Rose! It seems she can make all Chinese food,” another said.