Ruzhui: When Chinese Men “Marry Into” Wife’s Family

A man falling upside down
Ruzhui -- where Chinese men "marry into" the wife's family and have the child take on her name -- turns Chinese marriage tradition upside down. (photo by Charlie Balch)

Before I even entered his apartment with John, my Chinese husband, I knew O’Neil – a close Chinese friend of John’s from middle school – had marital distress. But I never imagined that – among other things — it would have anything to do with a struggle over the next generation’s name. “At first, her parents demanded ruzhui,” he shared late Friday, May 27, as John and I sat side by side on a sofa in his apartment for one on Hangzhou’s West Side.

I raised an eyebrow at this strange Chinese word. “What’s ruzhui?

“You marry into her family, and your children have her name,” explained O’Neil. Unlike O’Neil, who came from the countryside, his wife was the only child of a proud Hangzhou family – a family that didn’t want their name extinguished in the next generation, just because they happened to have a daughter. It turned Chinese tradition — the woman marrying into her husband’s family and giving her child his name — upside down.

O’Neil documented far greater transgressions in their marriage (the parents bought them a car, but only gave their daughter a key; on an apartment deed, where they were required by law to write their son-in-law’s name and give him a share in the real estate, the parents gave him only one percent of the value). If anything, the suggestion to ruzhui was almost understandable in a Chinese sense – except that the parents hadn’t discussed it with him before the marriage. Continue reading “Ruzhui: When Chinese Men “Marry Into” Wife’s Family”