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"Naked marriage" challenges Chinese marriage traditions

(Xinhua)

15:27, August 07, 2011

Without expensive preparation and rituals, Wang Shaowei and Zhang Xin tied the knot at a cost of nine yuan (1.4 U.S. dollars), which was used to obtain the marriage certificate.

The couple, who just entered the work force and had learned to be self-reliant, did away with nearly all the traditional "must-haves" for a Chinese wedding: owning an apartment, a car, wedding rings as well as holding an expensive ceremony.

"We had a big dinner in our two-bedroom rented apartment to celebrate the start of our married life, and nothing else," said the 26-year-old Wang, who lives with his wife in Shijiazhuang, capital city of the northern Hebei Province.

However, their frugal wedding, conducted behind the back of their parents, upset their families' older generation.

The newlyweds were forced by their parents to hold a delayed, but grand wedding ceremony, and later moved into an apartment purchased by Wang's family and began using a car bought by Zhang's parents.

"My parents can't accept a wedding without a new apartment or rituals. My mother says, 'It's ridiculous to marry a woman with nine yuan!'" Zhang said.

In recent years, an increasing number of Chinese young people have chosen a "naked marriage." The term refers to a couple who get hitched without any major assets and who spend little on their wedding ceremony.

Some do so due to their eagerness for independence, while others simply have no option.

The "naked marriage" is in sharp contradiction with China's established marriage customs, which encourage parents to help lay the material foundation for their children's marriage.

Generally, getting married may cost years of savings of the bridegroom's family, which is supposed to pay for a house, or at least the down payment, and a red carpet ceremony, as well as decent betrothal gifts to the bride's family.

The bride's family may consider funding the home decorating, or purchasing a car if the couple live in a big city, depending on their financial position.

The "naked marriage" phenomenon, which was coined in 2008 by Internet users, has drawn much discussion after a popular TV series called "Naked Marriage Age" struck a chord with the Chinese youth, especially those born in the 1980s.

The drama depicts the bittersweet life of a young couple who had a "naked marriage" and fought for a better life. They get divorced due to misunderstandings and heavy life pressures, but finally made peace.

According to a poll conducted by the social investigation center of the China Youth Daily prior to this year's Chinese Valentine's Day, Qixi Festival that fell on Saturday, nearly 48 percent of 3,214 respondents said they supported the idea of "naked marriages," while about 23 percent opposed it.

The vote also showed that about 55 percent of the respondents viewed courage as essential when engaging in a "naked marriage" and 43 percent of them agreed that married life of the couple who had a "naked marriage" would be much tougher than their peers with better financial status.

"Compared with my peers who had everything when being married, my marriage seems a bit of 'shabby.' But we've been together for eight years, and I think the foundation of marriage is love, rather than money," said one of the approvers, Wang Haimin, a PhD candidate in Beijing.

Wang and her husband, an employee with a foreign company, are still living in a rented home two years after getting married.

"If a couple has had everything when they get married, what should they expect in the future? I think the most joyful part about marriage is that two people work hard to achieve every goal of life together," read a post on the BBS of the popular web portal of Sina.

Nevertheless, some objectors believe, as the Chinese proverb goes, "Everything goes wrong for the poor couple."

"Frictions will be generated if the newlyweds have to struggle to make ends meet every day," posted Sina user "Wolongcha."

"The ideal life for Chinese is to live and work in peace and contentment. The marriage without a solid material foundation is unstable," said Wang Shuqin, a 50-year-old resident of Shijiazhuang.

Although the traditional marital values are still deep-rooted in Chinese people's mind, experts said the increasing acceptance of "naked marriage" showed a more open-minded attitude of the youth.

"Nowadays, more and more young couples like Wang Shaowei and Zhang Xin realize they should share the burden of life and strive for happiness together, instead of reaping without sowing," said Zhu Pingyan, a sociologist with the Central China Normal University.

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