…相亲, xiàng qīn.
There is no such concept in the English language (or in any Western culture, I think) but it’s basically two persons being match-made by their families or relatives and then they get married. What the deuce???
That’s a common practice for the Chinese as recent as my grandparents’ generation but since then, come on, who would be happy to have your life partner predetermined for you???? I learnt about this from my paternal grandmother just a few months ago and was pretty surprised but also, a lot of things start to make sense. My grandfather died almost 50 years ago and my grandmother brought up six sons on her own; she’s a real heroine, isn’t she. Anyway, what made sense was how she never seemed to talk about my grandfather. Whenever such topics arise, she didn’t speak like someone who was ever truly in love. Maybe it has been too long and she is numb about it, but I never detected a hint of grief from her whenever we would visit my grandpa’s grave, which is every year cos we the bloody sentimental Chinese have a festival for that.
China has been giving me waves after waves of cultureshocks; it’s almost like a tsunami, really. First, I could not get over the lack of common courtesy here among people. Then, I became mindful that I absolutely the cuisine here because they are so oily and always too heavily-seasoned. Next, there’s this going-cashless movement (it’s really amazing). Now, this. Back to it.
So I befriended a 23 year old girl, well, 22 actually since her birthday is in November. She is engaged to a man she met just 4 months ago and scheduled to marry at the end of the year. I was dumbfounded to hear that. Naturally, I asked some questions.
How’s the process like?
Through the introduction by a relative or family friend. Marriage is then discussed and the date of marriage picked right away.
[note: yes, there are “lucky” and “unlucky” dates to marry; it depends on pairs’ birthdate and birth time; where the logic lies, baffles me too]
(after she said she’s considered late to marry) What? When do people normally get married?
19 or 20. One of my peers has even given birth.
Do people get divorced often?
Normally it only happens to people who picked their own partners. If the marriage was arranged, then not really.
[note: it took me a few moments to comprehend this]
Are there homosexuals here?
I have met a few…but isn’t it unpractical*? What would they do when they’re old (and have no kids to take care of them)?
[* I am not 100% sure if that was the phrase she used but she definitely said the following sentence]
And you’re sure you want to marry?
I wouldn’t marry if not for my mom. In my village, the folks would gossip a lot if people weren’t married by my age. It would be no problem to marry later if I went to university, but I didn’t.
Things I should have questioned but didn’t think of at that time and it would be weird to bring it up now through text messages so let me imagine myself to be in the shoes of conservative Chinese people:
Are people happy (in their marriages)? [note: this is the closest English translation out there; in Mandarin, it’s something more intricate: 会幸福吗？]
Happiness is having the stability of life; not having to worry about not having enough to survive. With a partner and a kid, I can achieve that.
What if you realised after marriage that your other half is an asshole/bitch?
I could only admit that it’s my fate. 【认命】
Is having a kid/kids that important?
Yeah, when you’re old and unable to work anymore, you need them to support you so you are finally able to enjoy life yknow. Besides, there would be someone to spread your DNA around. It’s great.
Do you realise that you may never encounter true love?
What’s that? Does it help me have enough clothes to keep warm at night, enough to eat, a shelter, AND all other life necessities?
What if after marriage you met someone else you’re romantically attracted to?
HAHAHAHA [with a “you serious bro” look]. I’d be married, I’d be loyal. That would never happen.
Please feel free to tell me if you have any other questions and I will try my best in pretending that I know the answer.