Campaign launched to discourage 'sky-high' bride prices

2023-03-03 08:32:00China Daily Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

A couple takes picture at the marriage registration office of Haizhou district in Lianyungang, Jiangsu province, May 20, 2022. (Photo by Geng Yuhe/For

Hefty bride prices — which have burdened tens of millions of rural families — have come into the cross hairs of authorities who are encouraging villagers to kick the financially punishing cultural habit.

Giving money as a gift to a bride's family, together with expectations that the suitor owns an apartment and a car, has become a major stumbling block to many men's matrimonial aspirations.

In rural areas, where men outnumber women by a steep margin and professional matchmakers make good money, competition for wives has seen bride prices as high as 300,000 yuan ($43,600).

This month, grassroots officials launched a yearlong rectification campaign against what media have dubbed the "sky-high bride price".

The campaign will be conducted till the end of the year across all rural areas.

Jin Xiaoyi, a demographer based in Xi'an, Shaanxi province, said hefty marriage expenses place heavy economic pressure on rural families. Some rural men never marry and as a result suffer huge psychological pressure and social exclusion.

The heavy financial burden is usually carried by aging parents, and high bride prices have been linked to an increase in domestic violence after marriage. "Faced with a high bride price, nobody wins," she said.

Curtailing rural extravagances was outlined in this year's No 1 central document — the first policy statement released annually by the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council, China's Cabinet. The document has long served as an indicator of government priorities.

In a section focused on bolstering healthy and modest lifestyles in rural areas, a directive urged local governments to make rules aimed at "altering old customs and habits" and to strengthen the role of village rules and regulations in light of national laws.

Party members and village officials, it added, should take the lead and set examples for fellow villagers in rectifying practices such as demanding costly bride prices as well as discouraging expensive funerals and events involving lavish banquets and ceremonies.

In 2017, lavish spending on weddings and funerals in rural areas was noted in that year's No 1 central document as authorities worked to eradicate rural poverty in the run-up to the Party's centenary in 2021.

Authorities described the excessive spending as an "outmoded convention and bad custom" and urged guidance to help farmers ditch the practice.

A 2018 study conducted by researchers from Xi'an Jiaotong University in 11 provincial-level regions found that male villagers on average spend 16 times the annual per capita rural income on marriage.

Men spend about three times as much as women on getting married, the researchers also found. The costs mainly consist of buying an apartment, 50 to 60 percent of the total, and paying the bride price, 20 to 40 percent of the total.


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