Editor’s note: this article was translated and edited from a piece that appeared on Ifeng.com. The article discusses a recent map of China that shows the results of a survey undertaken by a real estate company in Chongqing. The map shows the amounts in every province that potential husbands are expected to pay the families of their potential wives as “betrothal gifts”. There are some interesting regional disparities, though some have expressed concern that it simply highlights the fact that marriage in China is more about money than love in modern times. The article focuses on the results from Henan, and quizzes several people regarding their own betrothal gift stories.
Before getting married, many potential husbands in China must provide a “betrothal gift” to the family of the bride-to-be. This usually comes in the form of cash in a red envelope or specific gifts that relate to the customs of certain provinces. However, as quality of life in China improves and the amount of wealthy people increases, expectations are growing sky high. Some families now expect potential husbands to provide a house, a car, a huge amount of money, or even all three. The above picture displays a map of China that shows the results of a survey of over 300 people who explained what they had to provide as a betrothal gift prior to their marriage. The map is divided into five money categories: 1 million RMB, 500,000 RMB, 100,000 RMB, 10,000 RMB and 0 RMB.
The map was published on Weibo at around 10:00 on May 4 by a user named “@重庆新浪乐居”, the Weibo account of a real estate company in Chongqing. After the picture garnered huge popularity, a reporter got in touch with the creator of the map, the company’s Deputy Director of Planning, Hu Zhiwei. Hu explained that the survey took a month to complete and was done over the phone and by email, and that due to the fact that they surveyed people previously unknown to the company, the data is relatively objective.
|1,000,000 yuan zone|
|Shanghai||from 100,000 + 1 house/flat|
|Tianjin||from 60,000 + 1 house/flat|
|500,000 yuan zone|
|Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang||68,000 + 3 golds(earrings, necklace+ring)+9,999 cash in red envelopes + 1 house/flat|
|Jiangxi||from 38,000 + 1 house/flat|
|Qinghai||from 30,000 + 1 house/flat|
|100,000 yuan zone|
|Shangdong||1.5kg worth of 100 yuan notes(around 130,000)|
|Hunan||from 50,000 + 1 car|
|Zhejiang||(village) from 100,000. (city) from 150,000|
|10,000 yuan zone|
|Shanxi||from 58,888 yuan|
|Gansu||(village) from 30,000.(city )from 60,000|
|Inner Mongolia||8,888 + livestock (in multiples of nine) + furniture + 3 golds|
|Shaanxi||from 30,000 +3 golds +3 silvers + bedding set|
|Taiwan||160,000 taiwan dollars + 6 types of gold jewellery + wedding cookies|
|Hong Kong||gold jewellery set + cash|
|Fujian||from 33,000 + gold jewellery + gold crown|
|Guizhou||from 22,000 + electronics + 4 pieces jewellery set (earrings,necklace, bracelet and ankle bracelet)|
|Macau||2-5x monthly salary|
|Guangxi||from 18,888 (then 28,888、38,888...)|
|Jiangsu||20,000(10,000 from each parent)+ 4x additional gifts|
|Guangdong||from 10,000 + 3 golds|
|Beijing||from 10,001+2x sweet treats,2x bottles of mao tai+ 2x boxes of tea +2x crates of fruit|
|Sichuan||form 10,000 average is 30,000|
|Yunnan||from 10,000 usually 16666|
|Ningxia||from 10,000-20,000 cash|
|Xinjiang||6,666 or 8,8888 +2x additional gifts|
|0 yuan zone|
Focus: Henan province shows surprising results
Recalling the results in Henan, where people surveyed stated they had to provide around 600,000 RMB as a betrothal gift, Hu explained that the figure was very high despite the fact that all the people they surveyed had different income levels. During the survey, Hu spoke to many young people who previously had partners for many years but had to part ways due to the demands of some parents regarding betrothal gifts. By creating this map, Hu hopes to highlight the idea that love is precious, and isn’t something that should be determined by money.
Netizens from Henan have responded to the data shown on the as being somewhat accurate, and some added that even in rural areas, husbands-to-be often had to pay around 100,000 RMB. The reporter spoke to a man surnamed Zhu from Henan’s Xinyang city, who stated that he had to pay 80,000 RMB to his wife’s parents before he could marry her. “At that time (2009), I had been working for around four or five years, and had only saved 40,000 RMB. Due to the pressures created by the demands of the parents, I almost had a breakdown.” Zhu later explained that he had to borrow money from his relatives, and only finished paying back the money he borrowed last year. Not all the cases from Henan proved to be that extreme however, as a man surnamed Liu, from Xinxiang in the northern part of the province explained that he only had to give his mother-in-law 20,000 RMB. Liu went on to say that when he wanted to buy a house, his mother-in-law even gave back the 20,000 RMB so he could afford to purchase one.
Face and peer pressure come into the mix
However, after interviewing over ten people who had married in the past two or three years, the reporter found that cases in Henan such as Liu’s were pretty scarce, and that the average betrothal gift paid was around 40-50,000 RMB. Many of those questioned stated that they thought peer pressure was to blame for this phenomenon. Zhu recalled that when he was trying to negotiate with his mother-in-law regarding how much he should pay, she would always bring up the stories of other families’ children and the amounts they demanded. Zhu’s mother-in-law firmly stated that it was largely to do with saving face. Some women told the reporter that the reason why such high amounts money are demanded is because it allows them to see how much importance the man attaches to his potential wife.
Marriage seen as a business exchange
On May 4, the reporter spoke to several marriage agencies in Henan’s provincial capital, Zhengzhou. Regarding the figure of 600,000 RMB that the map depicts, many of these agencies believed that in Zhengzhou, this number is well above average. Zhang Mingsuo, a sociology expert from Zhengzhou University explained that for rural families, many parents expect a large sum of money prior to the daughter’s marriage as to ensure that they are guaranteed a comfortable life in their old age. Zhang said that as long as China’s society continues to develop, then amounts of money demanded as betrothal gifts will increase. For many people, it seems that love and marriage has become something of a business exchange more than anything. Zhang believes that betrothal gifts cannot provide the basis of a happy marriage, and that true love and mutual respect and understanding are key. “When considering marriage, it cannot be done for face or for in the name of peer pressure. The real basis for love and marriage is happiness and longevity.”
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I have to say it is very common that in China the potential husbands give a huge amount of money to the family of the bride-to-be,I married my ex without taking any money,and I was called a stupid woman for long time,but I don't feel regret.The tradition of giving “betrothal gift” has been existing hundreds of years ,in the old time a woman married to a man meant she will never belong to her own family anymore,the married woman barely went back to her own family,she took her parents-in-law as her own parents and live with them loyally.In order to compensate the wiives's family in the old time, the husbands would give a lot of money to their wives' family since their wivies' family lost labour force which was the most important thing in old China.I feel bad that the old custom lasts until nowadays,many peopel can't get married because they can't afford it,I still believe that marrige is based on love and trust but not the money.
Jun 15, 2013 20:39 Report Abuse
I hope the 'new generation' will cast off these traditions and there is evidence that it is happening. Some insight into my wedding in China. Firstly we decided to not go back to her home town so I have only met her sister. I was told that if i invited even one relative most of the rest would have to be included,icluding air fares! Because all her family had pressured her [ at family events] to have a child she wanted no more of it. So I think at least I got off lightly. Also seeing as her father said being married to a foreigner wouldn't work, I didn't miss out on much. My wife speaks fluent English , but pity those poor foreign souls who have to stand like 'stunned mullets"at their weddings.Grinning and knowing nothing of what is going on. Recently she phoned her father and talked about a car I had bought for her.On hearing it wasn't new the conversation rapidly switched to something else. I feel overall that my experience with traditional Chinese marriages leads me to look to them fading away not of course for the old but for the young.
Jun 11, 2013 14:24 Report Abuse
These are not "traditions"...20 years ago, owning a vehicle and private ownership of housing was unheard of. It's just yet another money-grab but short-sighted older generations. Figure this, "traditionally' a woman would "belong" to the man's family after marriage and have nothing to do with her own family. Today, the woman is still expected to provide for her parents. Hypocrisy all around.
Jun 11, 2013 18:26 Report Abuse