December 17, 2005

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Hello, I love you! Won't you tell me your name?

Love is complicated in any society and China is no exception - in fact, it may be the rule. In most cases there are cultural and ethnic traditions, dowries and a long list of other protocols that must be followed (as I had to), but for China's migrant workers things can sometimes be even more complicated:

Marriage is nothing to be flirted with in a hasty way, but among young migrant workers from east China's Jiangxi Province, they are tying the knot in no time by binding each other with "marriage down payment". Lin Qing, a 24-year-old girl in the countryside of Jiangxi's Anyi County, married her husband Yang Geng on the seventh day after they got acquainted through a matchmaker in January this year. Yang, also a local farmer, had a job of selling aluminum alloy in Lanzhou, capital of northwest China's Gansu Province.

Before the marriage, Lin's mother Li Laiying received 23,000 yuan (about 2,875 U.S. dollars) from Yang's father -- 13,000 yuan for wedding feast, buying clothes and jewelry and 10,000 yuan for "marriage deposit" or "marriage down payment". The 10,000 yuan is meant for guaranteeing that once Yang is not faithful to Lin, the girl can at least get some compensation, and the money will be returned to them if the couple can remain in the wedlock and have child, said the mother.

Receiving down payment has become very popular in rural families with young people working in cities in Anyi. Generally, when a young man returns home from his migrant working life during a short vacation, he will be introduced to a girl by a matchmaker. If the two think it is all right to stay together, they will immediately sign an agreement to define their lover or spouse relations. After handing over some 10,000 yuan or more to the mother-in-law, they are allowed to go out working in cities and start a couple's life.

Fortunately for me, I'm a foreigner and I didn't have to jump through as many hoops to marry my wife as a Chinese man would have, but I don't think my in-laws have any doubts as to my devotion to my wife. I guess you could say that most foreigners are immune to the standard protocols of marriage when it comes to marrying a Chinese bride. Unfortunately for Chinese migrant workers, they are not and while the bride is assured compensation should the husband become unfaithful during his lonely quest for employment, what's to guarantee the wife won't engage in extramarital affairs?

posted by Gordon on 12.17.05 at 10:06 AM in the China category.


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well you're a lucky guy...

posted by: kitty on 12.17.05 at 09:09 PM [permalink]

I agree, but that's not to say I didn't have to jump through ANY hoops - just not as many as I would have if I were Chinese.

posted by: Gordon on 12.18.05 at 01:57 AM [permalink]


Hey your here, a little off topic, but are you or Conrad still posting in Peking Duck? Richard deleted 3 of my posts in defense of President Bush earlier and now I'm blocked totally. My guess is the liberal dumbocrap can't tolerate free speech mcuh. Let's move the party here. Simon is way cooler. ;-)

posted by: Mike on 12.18.05 at 02:15 PM [permalink]

What often happens is that the male goes to work in the city whereas the wife stays in the village. There are huge number of social controls making it difficult for the wife to cheat and almost impossible for her to cheat secretly, since in a village everyone knows everyone else. The same is not true in the city where no one knows anyone else, and its easy for a male to wander.

One thing that is interesting is that people in the West tend to think of the "nuclear family" as normal, whereas Chinese families are distinctly non-nuclear. Not only do you have extended families, but its also common for husbands, wives, and children not to live with each other. (For example, husband and wife lives in city and grandparents take care of kids.)

There is some very interesting anthropology here.

posted by: Joseph Wang on 12.19.05 at 02:41 AM [permalink]

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