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China: Will you accept ‘Naked Marriage’?

A new term has become popular recently among Chinese netizens: ‘naked marriage’ (裸婚). Don’t be mistaken, but the term has a special meaning: it means getting married without a house, a car, a diamond ring and a proper wedding ceremony. Just taking a picture and getting a marriage certificate is all that is involved. Will you accept such kind of marriage?

Among these ‘naked’ aspects, having no house is the key point. A popular Chinese TV drama, Dwelling Narrowness, strikes chord with China’s ‘house slaves’ (房奴), especially those born after 1980, whose youth ambitions are wrecked because of the high property prices in China and inability to afford a mortgage.

Perhaps ‘naked marriage’ is common in Western countries, as couples in love will not care too much about having no flat, car or a big fat bank account. However, it is different in China, as housing is a very important symbolic guarantee. Few unmarried young women (or their parents) would agree to marry to unsuccessful men. And one important criteria of success is whether you have a flat.

This seems to be confirmed by an online survey last month conducted by Sohu. In a survey named ‘In this new era, will you accept naked marriage?’, 43% say they will and 47% say they will not. However, when the result is classified by sex, it reveals a more interesting pattern: 80% of male will accept while 70% of female will not.

How to choose between unconditional love and realistic concerns? What can we read from the result about the Chinese concept of marriage? Comments on the Sohu website offer some interesting perspectives:

搜狐贵州省遵义市网友  (2009-12-24 02:05:30): 说明一个社会问题,社会给男性很大的压力,在这个发展迅速的社会里面,物价与工资待遇的不等。具我对我周边的很多男性朋友的了解,一谈到结婚就害怕,说起结婚所要的东西花费的钱就一头烂泥,还有现在很多女性对于南方结婚的要求也很高,车、房都要有。试想一下男性的工资与现在社会的消费及放假的高矮,一个男性平均下来一个月的工资只能买到一块地板砖的位置,还要生活,除非有第二职业、非法盈利或收入,一般男性在结婚前是很难买的起房子的。这给男性带来了很大的压力。也许“裸婚”对与爱来说真的是一种考验,说爱那么幸福是大家一起创造的,不是男性一个人先创造好的。

It speaks of a social problem. The society exerts too much pressure on men. In this fast growing economy, salary is not fair given the rising price. The male friends around me are afraid of talking about marriage and discouraged by the spending it entails. Nowadays, women demand a lot: flats, cars, etc. Just think about the slim salary men get and today’s living costs. The typical monthly salary could only buy you a floor tile, not to talk about the living expenses. Unless you have a second job or illegal income, ordinary men can rarely afford a flat before marriage. This creates a lot of pressure for men. Perhaps the concept of ‘naked marriage’ is a test of love. Love is the happiness created together, not in advance by men only.

搜狐江苏省南通市网友 (2009-12-24 03:21:20): 裸婚是对现实的一种逃避。其实作为20几岁的女孩子,我遇到的很多同龄的女孩子还有他们的父母,还是非常理性的。我父母就说,现在房价这么高,要谁家男孩子的父母去买套房子来结婚,挺过分的,有房子的很好,没房子的两家一起尽力买,父母没有经济实力帮忙的,小两口结婚后自己慢慢解决。我父母一直说,男生和他家人的人好不好比钱重要,要是有钱可是对你不好也没有。所以,理性的女孩子还是很多的,非得有房有车有钻戒才结婚的,毕竟不是多数。当然,你要是非得去追求那种心高气傲的美眉,那就没辙了。可是,裸婚太讽刺了吧,我看走婚比这还靠谱儿的,各住各家不更好吗。想裸婚的男人们,本身就不负责任,因为你压根儿就没有想和人家好好生活!

‘Naked marriage’ is an escape from the reality. As a twenty something young woman, I have met many women of marriage age, together with their parents, and they are actually quite reasonable. My parents said, since housing is so expensive, it would be unreasonable to demand young men to buy a flat before marriage. Having a flat is good, but without a flat, both sides could solve it gradually. My parents also said, the character of the man is more important than whether he has money or not. Therefore, there are still many reasonable women around; those demanding houses, cars or diamond rings are rare. Of course, it’s another matter if you are after those material girls. Nonetheless, isn’t naked marriage a bit too much? I think it’s safer to live separately instead. Those men who want naked marriage are irresponsible, because you never think about contributing to a good life with your other half!

Public intellectual Wuyuesanren (五岳散人) explores on the cultural reasons of why more men prefer ‘naked marriage’ than women:

并非是女性更注重现实利益,而是我们这个社会毕竟还是男权社会,男性在主导社会的同时,也承担着更多的社会与家庭责任。这也证明,我们社会的女士还是具有深刻的自身角色意识,而整个社会本来应该勇于承担的男同胞们倒是有所退缩。

It’s not that women are more realistic, but because our society is still male-centered, which means that the bulk of the family’s responsibility still falls on men. This also proves that our ladies still realise this fact and behave accordingly, and that the gentlemen do not have the courage to take on this responsibility.

He then goes on to explore some practical reasons:

任何一个社会里,财产这件事都是与时间联系在一起的,年轻人都是有消费欲望而消费能力欠佳。可很多人到了有足够能力消费的年龄段之时,往往又属于那种“贼心、贼胆都有了,但贼没了”的境地。

In every society, wealth is linked to time. Young people have the desire but not the power to consume. When they get older, they have the power but not the desire to consume.

现代社会解决的方式就是金融产品的创新,使得中年之后过剩的消费能力预支到青年时期… 银行按揭就是这种理念的现实手段之一。不过,还是有很多人买不起房子,或者不敢利用这种调整一生收入的举措,除了首付之类的东西太高之外,更多的是对于未来的担心。而这种担心是双方面的,一方面是担心自己的未来,另一方面,银行也在担心你的未来。两边全担心的结果,就是这种金融手段看着已经成了主流,实际上不但享受此待遇的人不多

Modern society’s solution to the dilemma is through financial innovation, transferring elder people’s excess consuming capacity to young people on credit… Taking on a mortgage is an example. Still, many people could not afford a house, or dare not adjust lifelong income patterns through these innovations.  Apart from the fact that the down payment is too high, people worry about their financial future. On the other hand, the banks also worry about people’s future. The result of these worries is that only very few can enjoy these innovations.

您看,如果我们不讨论道德与文化,也是可以找出一些更现实的理由的。只是这种缘由想要改变,倒还真不如直接去PK道德呢,因为那样不但比较安全,而且不会伤害某些特殊的利益阶层。

Look, if we avoid discussions on morality and culture, we can still find realistic reasons. But if we want any change, it would be better to criticise on the culture. It is safer, and would not hurt special interest classes.

9 comments

  • For a moment I thought it was literally naked marriage. I smile.
    I attend to that of Colombia says, “Owning a home is not wealth but not have it is absolute poverty.” Have Married Housing sin must be a difficult economic situation in the sea of China or Latin America.
    Excellent writing. Congratulations.
    Best regards!

  • This sounds typical western to me. I married a lovely chinese lady and we rent a apartment. I did give her a diamond ring and promised to care for her as best I could on my pension. She and I live quite well and she is not looking for riches, but rather for a caring, sharing partner in life. We do set aside money in savings for our future.

  • Gmichael:
    congratulations for your partner in life with you chinese lady.
    ¡Best regards!

  • > And one important criteria of success is whether you have a flat.

    Does this mean it’s better if they already own a place or have the means to buy one? I’m wondering what happens when the girl loves the guy but hates the flat…

  • […] «Голые» свадьбы в Китае […]

  • Oi-lin

    However, it is different in China, as housing is a very important symbolic guarantee. Few unmarried young women (or their parents) would agree to marry to unsuccessful men. And one important criteria of success is whether you have a flat.

    Way to overfuckinggeneralize and make all Chinese people seem superficial and materialistic, Andy.

  • […] Marriage’ Weddings done on the cheap are known as ‘naked marriages’ in China. The definition: ‘No apartment, no car, nor diamond ring; no wedding ceremony, no […]

  • […] «Голые» свадьбы в Китае […]

  • […] The following excerpt is by Andy Yee for Global Voices Online. Read the full post here. […]

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