In Chinese culture how common is it to regularly say "I love you"?
I can't remember a single time that my parents explicitly told me "I love you." However, I can clearly remember the day I talked to my dad about King Lear.I told him about how sorry I felt for Lear because he was betrayed by his daughters Goneril and Regan. Lear, knowing that he was getting old, decided to split his kingdom among his 3 girls. He proclaimed that he would give the greatest share to the one who loved him most.
So, Goneril and Regan proceed to deceive their father with lavish expressions of love. Meanwhile the third daughter, Cordelia, refuses to participate in such false displays. She loves her father too much, and she doesn't want to degrade herself to the level of her sisters. Instead, she says (in an aside): Then, poor Cordelia! And yet not so; since, I am sure, my love's more richer than my tongue.
Lear is deeply offended and, in a cruel twist of irony, disinherits the only child who truly loved him. Sadly, he later gets kicked out of his own kingdom by the two daughters who claimed to adore him more than anything in the world.
My father's response to my retelling of the story was approximately the following:That's why you don't need to say "I love you." Just saying "I love you"doesn't necessarily mean your love is real. But if you really love someone, you'll show it with your actions.
So although I never heard the words "I love you" from my parents, I always felt loved because they told me in ways that speak much louder than words. I think many other Chinese feel the same way.