This post was edited by StellaSong at 2016-2-28 11:15|
The Spring Festival, which just ended, isn't so much a holiday for many young Chinese as an ordeal. As soon as they get home, they face a gauntlet of babbling relatives that propel them to get married and have kids. While these young people struggle to balance love and family pressure, at least they're not being facing the same level of pressure as a couple aged just 16 in the countryside of Guangxi, South China, who recently held their wedding.
In the pictures, posted online, both the bride and groom looked so childish that one can hardly imagine how they shoulder the responsibility of maintaining a family. In fact, they are not yet a legal couple as China's marital law stipulates the marriage age is 22 for men and women 20. But some young rural men might even envy the teenage husband, given their own troubles finding a spouse.
A broad survey by Chinese media and academics last year revealed the pervasive shortage of young women of marriageable age in the countryside. Chinese people, particularly in the countryside, used to try every conceivable method to have a boy and get rid of girls, but the gender balance may now have shifted. The more sons a rural family has, the more disadvantages it faces in the marriage market.
"Only a matchmaker has a real sense of how scarce girls have become," said a person in the profession.
As a result, wealthy rural families begin to arrange blind dates for their sons at as early as 17, and once both families agree, the engagement lasts for barely a month before the ceremony is held.
In this new rural trend, women begin to have more options and hence take the upper hand in arranging a marriage.
According to reports, with men lining up outside, women are well-positioned to ask for stacks of cash, jewelry, apartments and cars as preconditions for marrying a man. While widows used to be looked down upon in rural areas, echoing a traditional cultural disdain for the idea of women remarrying, they have now become unexpectedly popular and don't need to worry about finding a new spouse at all.
In this context, financially disadvantaged families can hardly afford to get a marriage for their sons and sometimes even resort to criminal methods, such as buying abducted women. No one cares much about the basic requirement for a marriage such as mutual understanding and feelings. No wonder the young couple tied the knot at such a tender age.
Chinese tradition values males far more than females. The one-child policy has exacerbated the preference for sons in the rural areas and women there are often deprived of many rights.
In the last three decades, China's gender ratio at birth reached heights in some areas of 120 boys or more for every 100 girls, one of the highest in the world. But society is paying the price for this bias now.
As Leo Tolstoy says, happy families are all alike, each unhappy one is unhappy in its own way. While women in big cities have headaches finding a desirable husband, men in the countryside are desperate to look for a wife.
Amid these gloomy clouds, there's one silver lining: at least those who used to prefer boys now come to realize the importance of those that hold up half of the sky.
( The original article is published on the Global Times, the author is Sun Xiaobo, the GT's reporter)