Of China’s Countryside Bachelors, and One Chinese Man’s Divorce

Er Ge in Yaolin Cave in Zhejiang Province, less than a year after his wife abandoned him.
Er Ge in Yaolin Cave in Zhejiang Province, less than a year after his wife abandoned him.

Er Ge, my second-oldest brother-in-law, wanted to marry for life.

His bride in 2005 was a lovely, lithe girl of 18 from Guizhou who worked in a local sewing factory, often evenings. I never forgot her almost ubiquitous smile in my presence. It was inscrutable, a smile that remained far too long to be just about happiness.

Mysterious smile or not, she must have made Er Ge happy, or at least relieved.
For years, his mother had fretted over finding him a wife — not easy, given the distorted sex ratio, especially in the countryside. Er Ge’s own personality added challenges. He was always the wallflower of the family, parsimonious with his own words, as if they were a precious currency. It took years before I even held a bona-fide conversation with him. But Er Ge’s mother didn’t want him to take years before he understood romance. So, following in a long tradition of mothers who arranged marital affairs for their sons, she made inquiries in town, and eventually found him a bride. He would be the last of the three brothers to be matched.

Er Ge is a peasant, and still resides in his family home, so they held the celebration at home too. He donned a black polyester suit and tie; she dressed in a white Western-style tulle wedding gown with roses in her flowing black hair.

She may have looked like a fairytale bride, but there is no fairytale ending here. Continue reading “Of China’s Countryside Bachelors, and One Chinese Man’s Divorce”

For China’s Youth, Money Often Trumps Love in Marriage

This is the third in a four-part series of articles providing a snapshot of modern life in China in observance of October 1, 2009, the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. It was published October 4, 2009 in the Insight section of the Idaho State Journal.

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Can money buy love and marriage? Anya Wang's fiancee broke off their engagement to pursue a woman with more money than her.
Can money buy love and marriage? Anya Wang's fiancee broke off their engagement to pursue a woman with more money than her.

Anya Wang, a 36-year-old human resources professional, used to believe in a loving marriage until earlier this summer. Just when she and her fiancee were going to get married within a month or so, he left her — for a woman with more money. “I once wanted to marry for love,” she admitted. “But I’m changing my ideas. Maybe I will simply marry for personal benefit.”

Wang is not alone. Caroline Jin, a 33-year-old translator, voiced a similar change of heart during a recent conversation about dating and marriage. “Before, I didn’t care about whether my future husband had money and a home,” she explained. “But now, I think I would expect those things.” She giggled with her hand covering her mouth, as if embarrassed to admit the truth.

Jin and Wang are changing the way they look at marriage. For them, and many others in China, money has increasingly edged out love in marriage decisions. Continue reading “For China’s Youth, Money Often Trumps Love in Marriage”