`999' sets off wedding fever in China
ulhasj at bom4.vsnl.net.in
Thu Nov 25 17:41:51 PST 1999
25 November 1999
`999' sets off wedding fever in China
BEIJING: Although it is already downright cold in Beijing, on the weekends
many dark, flower-bedecked limousines can be seen on the streets. Inside the
cars, ladies dressed in not-so-warm white silken dresses are smiling, while
in the car up ahead, a cameraman with a video is recording the moment.
Wedding fever has broken out in China. This is because the year 1999 is
taken as a good omen because it has three nines in it. Couples are rushing
to take advantage in the remaining weeks in the hope of a long and happy
The chances for happiness are supposed to be doubled by the fact that babies
will be born in the year 2000 under the sign of the dragon, a creature
regarded in China as heavenly and bringing luck.
Yuan Wu, 23, made her wedding vows to Tang Xi at a luxury hotel in Beijing.
The ceremonies were not conducted by a justice of the peace, but rather by
the couple's employers after the authorities had examined and approved the
marriage licence documents. The formalities were quickly taken care of, and
afterwards around 150 guests were invited to a sumptuous banquet.
But before the newly-weds can go around to the tables of guests and offer
them a cigarette each as a welcoming gesture, the bride and groom first bow
before their parents -- showing their respect and gratitude for the support
which their families had provided them.
``For us, the wedding is a big step,'' Yuan says. ``Amid all the joy, my
parents today are also very sad, because for a woman it means marrying away
from her family. The next time I come to visit (my family), it will be as a
In a country which is moving forward and opening up, social values in China
are now in for scrutiny. Given a population of 1.2 billion, China with its
300,000 divorces each year, is far behind western figures. But the number is
three-fold what it was 20 years ago and is still rising.
Society as a whole reacts in differing ways to this trend. But it tends to
make a new start so difficult for separated couples that women in particular
either try to keep their divorce secret or look for a new place to live and
Some of them radically throw out the old traditions, while others hold
firmly to them. Many combine old Asian ideas with things they have learned
from friends or western media in order to create a view of life tailor-made
to their own needs.
For example, although Yuan and her husband Tang lived for a long time abroad
and now work for western companies, they did not live together before their
wedding, in keeping with Chinese tradition. For them, more important than a
tryout period living under one roof together was the fact that the years of
their birth were compatible.
Among the wedding guests is 24-year-old Zhang Ling and her friend, who have
been living for three years together without being married. The break with
tradition has been easier for them because their families do not live in
Beijing, reflecting the fact that many couples, out of respect for their
parents, do not dare live ``in sin.''
``We do wish to get married,'' Zhang says, as the Yuan-Tang wedding is in
full swing. ``Marriage is the most important thing in the life of a person,
something sacred.'' The young woman adds: ``Both marriage partners, as a
sign of their affection, make a kind of sacrifice. The wife, for example,
must see to it that her husband has a pleasant life. At the moment I still
feel pretty much free, and I occasionally stay out all night with friends.''
Living outside of marriage is something inconceivable for Zhao Mei, who
married now for nine years calls Zhang ``courageous''. ``Just imagine, after
this living together there is no marriage after all -- this would be
terrible for the girl, and a traditional-thinking Chinese man would not
marry her,'' Zhao says.
The newly-wedded Yuan and Tang have no time right now for such serious
thoughts. After the banquet, the guests are waiting for a chance to carry
off some pranks to make the couple look silly. ``Our friends are trying to
get us to drink as much alcohol as possible,'' Yuan says. ``When we are
drunk, they hope we will then betray the secret story of our love. I have
asked them to show us some mercy.'' (DPA)
For reprint rights: Times Syndication Service
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Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. 1999.
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