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How much do weddings cost in China?
   2017-02-22 21:58:01    CRIENGLISH.com      Web Editor: Liu Yang

A map created by the People's Daily recently, shows regional differences in the average amount of betrothal gifts that groom's families are expected to provide to the bride's families. [Photo: People's Daily]

The rocketing cost of betrothal gifts in China is placing an increasing burden on men and their families.

Such gifts are traditionally given by the groom's family to the bride's.

A polarized map

The problem, according to a new map produced by the People's Daily, appears to be especially acute in rural areas.

The map shows the average amount of betrothal gifts in different regions of China and has prompted heated debate online.

Compared with a similar map produced by a Chongqing real estate company in 2013, the cost of betrothal gifts in many places, especially in rural areas, has soared in the last four years, with "flats" and "cars" becoming "must haves", according to People's Daily.

The survey shows that although there are some regional disparities, the cost of betrothal gifts in most regions has been increasing, with the cost in the west of China generally higher than that in the east, and rural areas higher than urban areas.

llustration shows a bride's family weighs the value of the betrothal gift given by the groom's family to decide whether the groom is worthy to have their daughterĄ¯s hand in marriage. [Photo: stock.591hx.com]

The average cost of betrothal gifts in southwest China's Guizhou Province, for example, has increased from 20,000 yuan (about 2,907 USD) in cash, plus some electrical appliances in 2013, to 88,000 yuan (about 12,792 USD) in cash plus a pair of gold bracelets, a diamond ring and diamond necklace in 2017, the study shows.

But official data show that disposable personal income for rural residents in Guizhou was around 7,400 yuan (about 1,076 USD) in 2016.

That means that, at present, the betrothal gifts are some 12 times higher than a villager's annual income.

In some villages in the northwestern Gansu Province, the amounts have skyrocketed to 180,000 yuan (about 26,166 USD), close to 24 times the average annual income of the villagers.

Per capita disposable income of residents in rural areas in the Province was around 7,600 yuan (about 1,105 USD) last year.

On a national scale, the disposable income per capita for rural residents in China was 12,363 yuan (about 1,798 USD) in 2016. However, in more developed areas along China's Yangtze River and some rich villages in the south, the cost has been going down.

Outnumbered, tragic, single young men

Zhai Zhenwu, dean of the School of Sociology and Population Studies of China's Renmin University, said the root cause of the situation is that China has a lot more men than women of marriageable age.

The rise of ultrasonic technology in the 1980s made it easier for rural families, who generally preferred boys, to find out the sex of a fetus, and so there have been more boy babies born than girls, Zhai said.

Latest survey estimates that China will see some 30 million more men than women of marriageable age in the next three decades.

Betrothal gifts. [File photo: liyatehunsha.com]

Wu Guobao, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, says 'face saving' and peer pressure were also to blame for the situation.

Part of the reason is because many village girls in these areas have started to seek jobs in cities, more and more of them have the freedom to choose their spouses, and their parents, who are generally well off, tend to respect their choices, according to He Xuefeng, a scholar from Huazhong University of Science and Technology.

Sometimes tragedy strikes when a family struggles to pay the huge cost.

One 67-year-old man bought a flat and stumped up 110,000 yuan in cash (about 15,993 USD) as betrothal gifts to help his son get married earlier this year, which left him with a debt of over 200,000 yuan (about 29,078 USD).

On his son's wedding night, the new couple had a violent argument about the cash and the man's son killed his wife in a fit of rage.

The government has been trying to tackle the issue in various ways.

Betrothal gifts. [File photo: xuexila.com]

A number of local governments have tried to cap the amount of betrothal gifts at weddings; however, its effectiveness remains questionable.

Zhu Xinkai, a professor from Renmin University of China, said that as rural economies develop, bridging the urban rural divide is the fundamental solution to the problem.



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