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The Cost of Love

Viewed 702 times 2019-11-18 14:42 |System category:News

  Time was when being a  poor erudite  was not a bad thing in ancient Chinese literature, since the indigent erudite could sweep a rich girl off her feet by writing pulpy poems for her and win her heart thereafter. in 西厢记, 崔莺莺, who was born in an affluent family, has a crush on the cash-strapped  student 张生 after being impressed by 张生's eagerness to be a well-bred intellectual; in 牡丹亭, the strong-willed 杜丽娘 sets out her stall to safeguard her marriage with her poor husband named  柳梦梅, and is willing to forgo her exalted social status ; in 吕蒙正风雪破窑记,  刘月娥, who's quids in,  braves the insults and never raises a stink after being kicked out of home by her grasping dad, who is opposed to her daughter's plan to marry an impecunious wit.

  That's not the case in most contemporary  Chinese  novels , which   feature orgulous lasses who  come across  hard-nosed business men and as you can imagine, square off against each like enemies until they fall in love.  And another striking theme of such novels is rich men are held up as role models and poor men often get short thrift, notwithstanding that rich men seem willing to resort to trickery  to get what they want and bag illicit financial gains.  Which reminds me of the conversation between a girl and a middle-aged man I once overheard years ago on campus. I recall her saying " I really admire you because you are capable of making out like a bandit even at the expense of  other men .  Guess what, I don't care how others say about you. You are a successful man in my view."

   In a way,   the thinking that  you have to be a rich man instead of a Dionysian artist or bohemian in order to find a bonny wife  has become the prevailing view in China. On the contrary, a  man simply draws scorn every time when he argues that he still believes in true love. Worst yet, they even take umbrage at the conception that it's okay to be a poor academic, insofar as you are knowledgeable.  For them,  you are simply lying or uttering gibberish when you talk about love. 

  So, how to win a girl's heart and turn her into your wife  in the eyes of them nowadays?  Answer: you have to  show her that you have the ability to meet her needs, such as buying a spacious abode and luxury items.  Other than that, you have to be a man doing housework with gusto as your wife sits on an overstuffed sofa watching a  drama, with tears rolling down her cheeks.  Is that enough? " Sure not. You guys would be better off doing more to prove that you are perfect husbands," a girl said on TV, adding that it's a little infra dig for  women to capitulate to their husbands' demands. 

  " We need to plump for womens' rights and forego the old thinking that men should be the ones calling the shots in household affairs. Am I right?" She craned her head to look at her queasy boyfriend sitting not far from her and asked, her eyes crinkled up.

  Hesitating, her boyfriend tilted up his head and said sheepishly," yes. We need to treat each other equally" 

 That sounds reasonable. But What if you were born in a poor village.  That's the quagmire facing a man working in Shanghai.  Having pocketed a well-paid job in Shanghai, he  got hitched with a local girl.  Elated, he told his new wife that his parents would like to settle down in Shanghai.  He had already apprised  his parents of his intention to let them live with him   His wife, poleaxed by what he told her, threw tantrums, demanding that her husband resile from this position.

    Should this guy go the extra mile to please his sardonic wife while turning his back on his parents?  Or Would it be okay to prescind from family traditions in a bid to please a snobbish wife? Some flinty-hearted guys would say yes as I once found on a  Chinese TV show called 金牌调解, which features vexed family problems and a female TV host's strenuous  efforts to solve such issues for the participants.  In one case an aggrieved guy tells the host that he has been tormented by the fact that his well-to-do wife is loth to live with his parents. 

  "He subsists on my family's money, so its'understandable for me to call the shots. I just don't need people telling me how to live," says his wife glumly , a frown furrowing her brow. Perplexed, the female host retorts by telling her that's no justification for spurning his parents' request to live with his son.  

  "So would you be willing to live with two fogies having all kinds of off-putting living habits? " the wife asks the host  irritably.

  "Don't digress from the main point. He is their son. Thus, he has the duty to look after his parents", the female host bellows and curls her upper lip in disgust. 

  Unbowed, the wife keeps belaboring  the point, telling the audience that she is cognizant of the fact that she and her husband have dissonant voices. 

" I'd hate to let this lay waste to my marriage; however, I will not deign to live with his parents because I'm  brassed off with their living habits, she says and deadpans. 

  "  That's hogwash. You just despise me and my parents because we are much poorer than you. You only care about money," her husband says in a metallic voice and clenches his fists, glowering at his wife.

  " So are you going to let your parents live with you and your wife" the host asks the husband.

  "Nope. I can't do it without her consent."

  I'd hazard a view that Confucius would have been  nonplussed by his wife's reasoning, insomuch as respecting old geezers is a  critical part of Confucianism, not to mention that one is talking about his or her own parents. More to the point, isn't a wife or husband has the obligation to find a solution instead of embroiling in a ding-dong?


  For all the talk of money is everything, there is no denying that showing your wife or husband that  you truly love him takes precedence over your preoccupation with money-making. And unlike most fictional characters in present-day novels, which feature dapper men and showboating high earners, most men are just paupers and plain-looking sorts in reality.  By which I mean it would be absurd for girls and women to indulge in the thinking that they could find perfect husbands  described by Chinese novels written by self-absorbed novelists , who are said to be smitten with materialistic values or even a bohemian lifestyle . In other words, such novelists just conjure up a fictional  Wonderland where girls run into well-off guys who are debonair just like James Bond in their novels, using it to stultify girls' minds. As a result, their female readers end up mistaking this fantasy for reality.

  In fairness, some hotties would tell you that this is not an apocryphal story because they have scores of rich men wooing them and doing their utmost to cuddle up to them.

  But would you call it love?  It's not a gnomic question, innit?

  Sadly speaking, some present-day Chinese novels, flicks and TV dramas have given an awful answer. In 蜗居, a young girl decides to leave her boyfriend for her lusty boss;   In 欢乐颂, the most lucky female character is an insolent  rich girl who makes a point of playing footsie with handsome men; in 小时代,  the mardy, irreverent  characters live like kings and queens because they are wealthy.

  It's worrisome that the thinking that money is everything seems to have become the one calling the shots.  That's a departure from the traditional value espoused by all  the respectable  Chinese literary types living in antiquity.

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)


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Reply Report tatata69 2019-11-18 18:21
A typo. I don't care what others say about you.
Reply Report tatata69 2019-11-19 18:16
Having pocketed a well-paid job in Shanghai, he  tied the knot with a local girl

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