Rural China braces for new betrothal tradition

By Liu Junguo from People’s Daily

Instead of asking for onerous cash gifts, Liu Kang’s in-laws, who in the northwestern province of Gansu, decided to abandon the long-held convention. Netizens in China lauded the generous gesture after it was reported by the media.

The example set by Liu’s in-laws embodies the changing mind-set in some rural regions, and is a victory for China’s efforts to simplify marriage affairs.

Before the wedding, Liu learned that the betrothal price in his hometown was around 130,000 yuan ($18,853), even though in 2016 the average annual per capita disposal income of rural residents in China was 12,363 yuan and 8,452 yuan in poverty-stricken areas. He managed to collect the money by borrowing from friends.

To his surprise, Liu’s future father-in-law did not give him a hard time about the money. “You two will soon start a new life. We don’t care about gifts,” he said. So Liu just offered 8,888 yuan. However, on the wedding night, his mother-in-law found a way to give the money back.

In traditional Chinese nuptial customs, the groom should give the bride betrothal presents, which is a form of engagement with a moral obligation. Meanwhile, this culture also embodies the wishes for respect, a bright future and a lasting marriage.

This traditional custom still prevails, especially in some rural areas, and the cost has become a heavy burden in some places.

The presents have become onerous for many ordinary families, with young people in rural areas unable to afford to wed.

Analysts pointed out that other than the traditional concepts of demanding money to support parents and compensation for losing a source of free labor for the bride’s family, anxiety over future nursing costs and keeping up with their neighbors have contributed to rising betrothal prices in some rural areas.

In recent years, the Chinese government has strengthened guidance, advocated simplifying marriage affairs, and opposed arranged marriage, illegal early marriage and extortion of property through marriage, yielding sound results.

China’s Shandong and Henan provinces, where families lay great emphasis on the wedding price, have founded non-governmental organizations on marriage and funeral affairs, to curb high-price gifts and undesirable customs.

It is this type of changes in ideas and conventions that make it easier for people like Liu to not worry too much about the money when proposing a marriage.

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