Arranged Marriage v. Love Marriage

Marriage Then

Arranged marriages were very popular in the Republic of China. Most marriages were based on a family’s wealth and social status. A wealthy man’s family would not allow him to marry a woman from a poor family or background. Marriage was not typically based on love, but instead on what is best for the families of the groom and bride.

In the 1950s, the marriage laws changed. They outlawed arranged marriages along with polygamy and child marriages. These new marriage laws also improved women’s rights. It allowed women to divorce men which was not allowed before.


While arranged marriages are outlawed today, parents still hold a high sway over their children’s choice of a partner. Parents want their children to be part of the same socioeconomic class as their spouse. It is thought that if a bride and groom came from different social classes, their marriage is doomed to fail. Another criterion is that parents want their daughters to marry someone older than their daughter and with a job. Parents want their children to be able to have a successful future and want them to marry someone who has a bright future.

Even though arranged marriages are illegal, some parents still find a way around it. Parents will engage in matchmaking in order to find their child a suitor. There are Bai Fa Xiang Qin (Chinese Marriage Markets) where parents will advertise their children. They do this by handing out what is basically a resume. It includes their age, height, job, education, and a picture.

Marriage Now

One aspect of arranged marriage that is still popular today is the groom gifting the bride’s family with a betrothal gift. This gift is called a caili. These gifts used to be somewhat simple, but the worth of these gifts have tremendously increased in more recent years. Brides’ families can receive a vehicle, a house, or 100,000 yuan ($14,000). The families might provide the new married couple a car or a house. Some areas of China have put a limit to the amount of caili a bride’s family can receive. However, cailis are more popular in rural China as opposed to the more urban areas.

In urban areas in the 70s, marriage is 50% likely to happen through introductions by coworkers or relatives. Urban couples are waiting longer to get married. They are typically older than people who get married in rural areas. This is partly due to the fact that most Chinese people only get married once they have a job. In rural areas, men become farmers at a young age. In contrast, in urban areas men are getting jobs later in life because they are getting more education.

While arranged marriage is outlawed in China, parents are still finding a way around it. Parents are matchmaking their children in order to get around the current laws. However, most couples are getting married on their own, especially in more urban areas. Couples are also waiting longer to get married. These trends are similar to Westerners waiting longer to get married and making their own choices on who to marry.

Julie Reggie

Tulane University

Asia – Global Leadership Program