Marriage in the People's Republic of China

Marriage in the People's Republic of China
Attitudes about marriage have been influenced by Western countries
Before the reform and opening period, international marriages were extremely rare

Marriage in the People's Republic of China has undergone change during the country's reform and opening period. Divorce used to be rare in China, but the number of failed marriages has doubled in the last decade.[1]


Flash marriage

Flash marriage (Chinese: ; pinyin: shǎnhūn), or blitz marriage, is the English translation of a Chinese term that originated in the early 21st century to describe a marriage between partners who wed after knowing one another for less than 7 months.

The phenomenon first appeared among modern young couples in China's large cities, where the financial burdens of keeping up a long-term relationship before marriage have proven too expensive for many couples. The soaring prices of immovable property in these cities have made such speedy marriages more economical.

The term shanhun is associated today mainly with the post-80s and post-90s generations in China. Members of such generations are considered to be less conservative and possibly more impulsive when it comes to love. Whereas in the past (or in more traditional environments), marriage was a serious step, decided upon through parents' permission while considering some materialistic benefits, today some young Chinese, particularly middle class members, allow themselves to drift by the spell of romance and passion and get married at once. The term 'flash marriage' can, in fact, describe the speed in which a couple moves from dating to marriage, or the short lifespam of the marriage itself, which inevitably leads to a quick divorce.

Shanhun is affected not only by social-value changes that lead to a rebellious attitude towards tradition, but also by the idea of 'romantic love', that has penetrated to China in recent decades from the West. The idea of mythic love and soul mates has become much more widespread in recent decades, through the exposure to foreign films, magazines, etc, and later on through new elements in the Chinese culture itself. Such ideas, combining with some behavior shifts in the young generation (which most Chinese regards as 'recklessness'), often lead to 'flash marriage'.

Flash marriage is also a response to difficulties in establishing a proper marriage foundation in modern China. As many people find it impossible to purchase a house and are experiencing career difficulties, possessing a solid material foundation for a family can seem impossible for some couples. In such cases, some lovers choose to settle for a good emotional foundation. The term luohun ('naked marriage') refers to couples who get married before owning any significant assets, and along with shanhun is a symbol for the changing trends in marriage behaviors in China. While both phenomena are criticized by many Chinese, luohun is still considered more acceptable, as couples sometimes cannot wait forever before starting a family. Shanhun, on the other hand, is a result of an impulsive behavior, associated with high divorce rates, and thus is strongly condemned for demonstrating negative values.

There are three types of shanhun marriages often discussed by the Chinese media:[2]

  • an impulsive romantic relationship, in which youngsters cannot restrain their excitement and choose to get married at once;
  • "hollow heart" (xinli kongxu xing), wheare a recent breakup or emotional pain leads lovers to institutionalize their relationship impatiently (an exaggerated version of 'rebound')
  • marriages that aren't based on romantic emotions, but are rather a result of mutual interests (liyi supei xing), such as the desire to leave one's parents' house, or settling for a good financial arrangement.


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See also

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