The question on the lips of every marriageable young Chinese is, “Where is the love?” Though the divorce rate keeps increasing each year, marriage in the modern Chinese culture has been misinterpreted due to pressures from parents, financial requirements and ‘lack of mutual feelings’ or love.
Reports say the number of divorces on mainland China rose by 27 per cent between 2011 and 2014 – fuelled partly by those who find it impossible to stay in a marriage that lacks romance.
“I have a lot of friends who have been forced to get married,” Nut Brother said. “Marriage has taken on a lot of things it shouldn’t, it has become mixed up with things like sex, property, care for the elderly and social stability.”
The decision to get married in China has long been a family affair, with parents traditionally having the last word on their children’s spouses.
With a patchy social welfare system and Confucian expectations that the younger generation will take care of the old, questions of material wealth are often more important than compatibility when young people come under pressure to get married and produce the next generation of the family line.
Young people who decide they do not want to tread the traditional marriage path find themselves fighting against established values championed by those at the very top.
“No matter how much times change, no matter how much social structures change, we must all emphasize building a family,” President Xi Jinping declared in a Spring Festival address last year.
Traditional Chinese family values were key for social harmony, Xi said.
This is what happened to Shi Ci, who divorced his wife of eight years after it became clear to him he had been chosen because he could provide for her, not because she loved him.
“It was bad for both of us; you need mutual appreciation and love to feel like you have any quality of life,” he said.
Shi Ci said that for the time being he was not considering marriage again. But he would never say never.
“Now I think love is most important,” he said “Only if I have love will I consider marriage.”
100,000 yuan and counting! The price China’s rural bachelors must pay to get a wife.
Life has recently been much more expensive than normal for Zhang Hu, a farmer from a impoverished mountainous village in northwestern China’s Gansu province
Zhang, whose family earns about 60,000 yuan (HK$70,000) each year working in one of the nation’s poorest provinces, has just spent about 170,000 yuan on his son’s wedding, including 130,000 yuan paid to his daughter-in-law as a “bride price” – a traditional Chinese marriage ritual that is still widely practised.
Yet Zhang had to borrow 150,000 yuan to foot the bill, the China Youth Daily reported.
“[The village] is so poor that no woman wants to marry [men] here,” Zhang said.
“And the poorer you are, the higher the bride price.”
The Chinese marriage ritual says:
- A young man must have bought a brand new car before the wedding.
- A total of about 150,000 yuan must be paid to the girl’s parents as bride price.
- The boy or his family must have bought or is ready to buy and furnish a private apartment for the couple.
- The boy must be earning a salary of around $1,000.00 per month even though the official average says half of the amount.
- If the girl is the only child according to the government’s one-child policy, the boy may not need to spend much.
- In the case above, the girl’s family takes a bigger part of the expenses but any child from the marriage will bear the girl’s family name. In a way, the girl becomes a husband to the boy.