In the ongoing campaign against the escalating bride prices prevailing in rural China, a policy adviser from Jiangxi province has advocated for a solution — introducing a certification system for rural matchmakers.
Lan Wen, a member of the Jiangxi Provincial Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, said that despite the popularity of online dating apps, many unmarried youths in rural China still rely on traditional matchmakers.
She attributed the reliance to factors such as economic conditions, education levels, marital perspectives and adherence to traditional customs.
"In a way, rural matchmakers have facilitated the fulfillment of marriage dreams for many unmarried individuals," said Lan.
Rural matchmakers commonly earn commissions based on a percentage or fixed amount of the dowry. Lan's proposal during the provincial two sessions last week indicated that charging matchmaking fees ranging from 3 to 5 percent of the dowry is common, with some going as high as 15 percent.
Additionally, the "fixed amount" mentioned can vary from 10,000 yuan ($1,400) to as much as 80,000 to 90,000 yuan.
Lan warned that professional matchmakers may intentionally inflate dowry expectations to maximize profits, potentially contributing to excessive dowry prices.
The practice of bride prices is widespread in China, where the groom provides money or other gifts, such as gold or jewelry, to the bride's family as a prerequisite for marriage.
Especially in recent years, few topics in China have generated as much debate and sensational headlines as the exorbitant bride prices found in some rural areas.
For instance, last year, an article with the headline "Jiangxi woman demands 18.88 million yuan bride price from her Shanghai boyfriend" soared atop trending lists on multiple social media platforms, only for the story to be revealed as fake.
To address this, Lan proposed the establishment of matchmaker associations at the county and township levels, where rural professional matchmakers can register and undergo training.
She also suggested that matchmaking services should be improved by organizing regular matchmaking events during occasions like traditional holidays, to provide more opportunities for unmarried individuals.
In addition, she emphasized that strict supervision and law enforcement are essential to combat improper profiteering in the matchmaking industry.
Efforts have been made across the country to advance new marriage customs.
In early 2023, the State Council, China's Cabinet, issued a document outlining the need to address key issues such as high dowry prices and over-the-top weddings.
The Ministry of Civil Affairs plans to promote the certification of the marriage-related industry this year, requiring practitioners to obtain a certificate from nationally recognized and legitimate institutions, ensuring they possess the necessary professional knowledge and skills.
Jin Xiaoyi, a professor from the Institute for Population and Development Studies at Xi'an Jiaotong University, emphasized the multifaceted nature of the issue of exorbitant dowries.
In governance efforts, tailored measures should address the various contributing factors through systematic policies, social development, protection of vulnerable groups and community interventions, she said.