Marriage Update: China
“A famous Chinese saying goes, ‘All the land under heaven belongs to the emperor and everyone is his servant.” China has the longest continuous civilization on Earth, so in the Shanghai Museum, for instance, you can see pottery from the 5th century B.C.
However, until the 20 century, much of that civilization was based on a feudal system. The Chinese have lived for centuries having to follow what their leaders have said to do.
But now, the Chinese central government is placing a priority on “the rule of law.” It’s a challenging process in part because of Chinese customs and traditions. Some laws have already benefitted the general population in China.
In 1949, for instance, the Chinese Communists outlawed and stopped the 1,000 year old brutal practice of foot binding. According to the Wūzhèn Museum, “Starting when the child was five, the girl’s feet were broken at the arch, their toes fractured and folded over toes to heels. The broken feet were bound tightly so the feet would remain in a tight small shape. It usually took three years to remold the feet into a shape and size that many males of the time admired” – the “perfect” three-inch lotus foot. About two billion girls (estimates vary) suffered this fate – but no more.
Photo from: http://cdn2-b.examiner.com/sites/default/files/styles/image_full_width/hash/2a/33/2a33d7119ce520b6b031581493060da2.jpg
Another traditional practice that shows how much the Chinese are changing is reported in a Shanghai Daily “ News Feature, “An arduous journey toward the rule of law.” During the feudal society, common people “had no right to choose their spouse. This situation didn’t change until 1950, when the New Marriage Law was enacted as China’s first basic law after liberation. It banned marriage by proxy and stipulated both parties should agree to the marriage.
This couple on a street in Kunming, Yunnan Provence, China are very likely to have had an arranged marriage. Have they been happy together?
Did they just accept their fate?
About 90 percent of marriages were arranged in 1950 and this declined to 10 percent seven years after the law as passed” (15 Nov. 2014, p.10).
That may be true, but arranged marriages are still happening and not just among the poorest people in China. One of our favorite Zhejiang Agricultural and Forestry University students who has graduated and has been doing a LED light business in Dubei just came back to China in October to get married to a girl selected by his parents. He did not seem thrilled. But he feels he owes his parents much, and they wanted to see him settled. So even some successful, educated young Chinese are still entering into arranged marriages.
When the topic came up in one of my oral English classes in China, students had a range of opinions. Some said they would marry for love someone they met; others said they would consider their parents’ suggestion. One 19-year-old student said he would marry whomever his parents selected, “Because I am a good boy.” It’s not likely that anyone raised in the West would say such a thing. If Barry and I selected someone for our son, I’m sure that John would just laugh.
There’s much evidence that many young Chinese do not rely on their parents to find them a suitable spouse. According to Hu Min’s, “216 weddings from singles event,” “ More than 200 couples who met through the city’s largest matchmaking event have gone on to tie the knot, according to organizers.
Almost 200,000 singles have attended five massive gatherings since November, 2011, the Shanghai Matchmaking Association said this week” (Shanghai Daily, 15 Nov. 2014, Metro 4).
But another China Daily story notes, “A 30-year-old man in Cangnan county took drugs on Singles’ Day and called police to take him away because he believed that staying in a detention house was preferable to being bothered by his parents about not having a girlfriend. The man’s parents are always telling him to get married soon” (11/13/14 p. 4).
In contrast, I got an e-mail recently from another past English class student, Kris. He says, “ I had a great 4-year college education in ZAFU . . . and I also met my girlfriend in college. She is still enrolled postgraduate. We are going to get married after her graduation.”
Such reports show that times times are changing in China. The “Rule of Law” is likely to bring many benefits and changes to what was once a feudal society.
Zaì jiàn, Renée