Sino-US Marriage Culture

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No culture on this globe was ever exclusive or singled out, or had a purely internal development prompted by factors wholly within itself. The growth and diffusion of culture are due to historical agencies, and must be comprehended in connection with the universal history of mankind. no historical problem can be understood and solved with any hope of success by limiting the attention to one particular culture-sphere to the exclusion of all others, and even in the minutest specialization of our work we must never be forgetful of the universalistic standpoint[1]

Ever since the human exist, marriage is one of the most important and crucial point of the society. Due to countries have different cultures, first couple in China and America are different as well. In China, the goddess Nv Wa and first ancestor Fu Xi is seen as the first couple who created the Chinese, while in most western countries, Adam and Eve are viewed as the first couple. Though, it differs greatly in different countries, the meaning of marriage is similar over the world, which represent the sacred and beautiful combination of two people who love each other. Different people perceive marriage in different way, for some, responsibility and companion with each other is important, others might treat the love and romantic as crucial elements. Since culture may shape and influence people’s thoughts, various views on marriage is distinct with one another.[2]

Changing of Marriage

Traditionally, marriage in China was simply not regarded as a means of enhancing the personal pleasure or happiness of the married couple. Instead, it was a means of promoting the goals of familism. Its purposes were to perpetuate the family by producing male heirs for ancestor worship, to acquire a young woman who would ease the burden of work in the kitchen and assist in caring for her parents-in-law, and to create posterity for social security, inheritance, and happiness.[3]

There have been great changes with Chinese marriage since the last 65 years, from the arranged marriage to freeborn marriage, from organization arrangement to internet speed dates. In April 1950, Marriage Law of PRC was enacted, along with the elimination of the traditional marriage which is supposed to be introduced by matchmakers and arranged by parents. People’s sense of personal rights improves gradually in the relationship of marriage. However this freeborn marriage didn’t last long because of the Culture Revolution which shape marriage for the revolution, couples get married because they are both for the revolution, not for love. While in the 1980s, Chinese economic reform has awakened the Chinese view of marriage which lead to active pursuing the love ones. When it comes to the 21st century, privacy and individual freedom becomes more important and respected, with the new Marriage Registration Regulation put into effect, no more certification issued by the community or company for wedding and divorce.[4]

Marriage in America also underwent great changes. Basically three types of marriage is the main kind of marriage in America, which are traditional marriage, romantic marriage and HIP marriage. Traditional marriage style is pretty similar with Chinese one, the husband work outside to raise and feed the family also to provide the capital. With gender equality is raising and the prevalent of higher education, more and more marriage transformed. Second type of marriage is romantic marriage, different from the traditional one, romantic marriage is the way of self-actualization by love and affiliation with each other, embraced by ceremonies.As for HIP marriage, it is all about kids, idea of this marriage is focus on the children, attitude is more conservative towards the children, liberal ideas are about the adults. Parents in this kind of marriage desire to raise children together, in a peace and stable environment. [5]

Different Marriage Concepts

In Chinese women’s perspective, marriage is based on the family economic condition of the men, the activeness of men and the relatives impressions of this men. While western women treat marriage as a private matter and they followed their own sense and intuition, they don’t care much about the other’s thoughts. Marriage for western women is choose the one they love to live a happy life, they may choose again when something wrong happen or it is not working for them, they are brave to love and also brave to leave the one they don’t love. Chinese women is different with the western women in this way, they treat marriage as the most crucial thing in their life, they made their vows to their husbands and will try to maintain the marriage even when something happened. Chinese woman ar probably the most loyal and obedient in the world, no matter to husbands parents or their husbands. Obedient is showing the good quality of female in Chinese way. Western women wish to search and obtain the kind of love they want by themselves, they are initiative enough to chase the one they love, Chinese women tend to feel shy and passive when meeting the one they love, they will wait for being chasing. In addition, Chinese women inclined to take a complex thought to the marriage, they eager for an unforgettable love for their whole life, while fearing that they will suffer from which love brings. This kind of behavior and attitude of Chinese women is originated from the traditional ideas and social pressures, they gradually formed a discreet and passive role in the relationship.

Collectivism of Chinese people are emphasized in the marriage. Once a man and a woman get together that means they should keep each other no matter what happened and cannot split apart. Therefore, under these factors influence, Chinese women have the habitual thinking when talking about choosing the partner, they will show cautious and prudent. Though she loves him so much, she would take his personality, education, family background into account, because it is a lifelong decision which is completely different with that of western women.[6]

First Marriage

Both country’s first marriage is related with some same factors, like education, employment and demographic. In China, cohabitation often begins well after the formal marriage, while in America, consensual or cohabiting unions are socially recognized and substantial proportion of couples. Marriage during the teenage years is common in developing countries like China, especially in rural area. Typically, one-fifth to one-third of 20-24-year-olds in China had entered their first marriage by age 18, and one-third to one-half had married by age 20. Even in France and United States, 11% of all 20-24-year-olds had begun their first marriage or cohabiting union by age 18, and 32% had done so by age 20. Despite high expectations that they will eventually marry, many young adults in the United States are postponing first marriage. While deferring marriage, many young adults may choose to cohabit with a partner. Cohabitation has increasingly become the first coresidential union formed among young adults in the United States. In developing countries like China, a woman's age at first marriage continues to be a useful indicator of her status and of the start of childbearing. The formation of the first marriage or union brings important changes in woman's family situation and in her future expectations and opportunities. Still, the rising prevalence of sexual relationships and child bearing outside of marriage means that the implications of age at first marriage or union are changing. [7] [8]

Marriage Customs

Template:Details There are some complicated process for both countries weddings, like in China, following procedures are needed. Proposal & Betrothal Two families pick an auspicious date as the Betrothal Day. This is a formal meeting between the parents of the perspective bride and groom. The groom's family presents various proposal gifts that represents fertility and prosperity in Chinese Culture, which is also known as "Grand Gift". Thus, the two are considered officially engaged.

Pre-Wedding Ritual: After the betrothal meeting, both families will make announcement to their relatives and friends by sending out "Double Happiness Cakes" along with invitations. The bride's family then prepares dowry and give a list of the dowries to the groom's family. The groom's family performs "setting bridal bed" ritual... The groom's family decorates the bridal house for the wedding, while the bride's family prepares household accessories, mostly bedding and dining necessities, for the new home.

Wedding Day Ceremony: On the day of the wedding, two families performs "hair dressing" ritual and "capping" ritual for the bride and groom respectively. Then the groom sets out to the bride's home, and he will inevitably be blocked at her door by her friends, and the bridesmaids will play door game with the groom and his attendants. The bride and groom will then leave her home and proceed to meet the groom's parents for Tea Ceremony. The wedding date ceremony ends with a feast which features elaborate Chinese wedding food.

Wedding Night Ritual: The night of the wedding, the bridal room will lit dragon and phoenix candle to drive away the evil spirit, the newlyweds will drink wine from two cups tied together with a red string, arms crossed from each other. This is the formal wedding vow in Chinese culture. Then the bride will be offered dumplings that's boiled half-raw. The pronunciation of "raw" is the same as giving birth to children, a indication of family prosperity.

Post-wedding Customs: The next morning of the wedding, the bride should get up early and make a meal for the groom's family to demonstrate that she is well-nurtured. Three days after the wedding, the groom and bride will go back to visit the bride's parents.[9]

In America, similar procedures appeared as well. Everything starts with the engagement, following the traditions, the young man should first ask permission of the young lady's father for allowing the marriage. If her father said yes, then the young man can ask the young lady to marry him. Usually, the proposal is romantic and surprising, the question will appear out of no where. For sometimes, both man and woman decides together that it is time to marry along with an engagement ring sent to the woman by the man as a symbol of engagement.

Then it will be the wedding ceremony. Though most of the weddings follow the tradition in the past, still there are some part that the couples can use their imagination to make it unique from others. For instance, normally the place where the ceremony is held will be in the church, but in recent years, some couples will celebrate their wedding in a beautiful outdoor place like the beach or woods, few people even have the ceremony when sky-diving or riding on a horseback. The number of guests and relatives is not fixed, they can invite hundreds of friends or just invite some close friends. The theme or color of the wedding is totally decided by couple themselves. On the other hand, some of the customs are stable compared to the former ones. Like the ordinary wedding dress is white, and the bride should wear something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue to wish for good luck in the future marriage life. The groom will wear a formal tuxedo or suits.

When the marriage begin, the groom will stand with the best men right beside the priest, facing the guests. When the music starts, the bridesmaid will come out first, following the bride. They exchange their vows and to promise each other no matter rich or poor, in disease or health they will always be together, exchange their golden rings for the promise of their love. Lastly, the priest will announce this important moment that they are husband and wife, they may kiss each other.

During the wedding, the bride and the groom will welcome the other guests and cut the wedding cake together, before distributing the cake the newly weds should feed each other the cake. After the cake time, the bride will throw the bridal bouquet in the girl's crowd, she who get it means that the luck to be a bride will fall on her.[10]

Marital Quality

The concept of marital quality is viewed as a multidimensional measurement of marital outcome. Not only does it refer to the presence of objective characteristics of the relationship between husbands and wives, such as companionship, disagreements, and/or conflicts, but also combines the individual’s subjective impressions of the relationship, namely, the degree of marital satisfaction or happiness.

Different from the west, China used to have no romantic marriage due to many reasons like traditional ideas for marriage was to reproduce male heirs for the perpetuation of the ancestor’s lineage, acquire a daughter-in-law for the service and comfort of the parents, and beget sons for the security of the parents’ old age. However, after the turn of the century, under a strong influence from the West, China embarked on a revolutionary change in traditional marriages. Traditionally arranged marriage system had been gradually replaced by a more democratic and Westernized free choice system. Consequently, marriages in today’s urban Chinese society increasingly resemble their counterparts in America.

Urban America and urban China differ not only in cultural traditions and marriage practices, but in political and economic systems as well. By acknowledging theses differences, a brief but careful analyses of comparable survey data from two cities in America and China lend credence to the claim that the quality of urban marriages can be conceptualized as a dual-factorial and multi-dimensional phenomenon across societies that are both culturally and structurally distinct. Results from the research shows that how marital “togetherness” is perceived and valued by wives in Detroit America treasuring “conjugal ties” more than their Chinese counterparts. In fact, as learned in the study, “spending free time and doing things together” is not much of the concern for the wives in Chengdu China, but essential for the Detroit wives.

The analysis shows that at each end of the continuum underlying freedom of mate choice, arranged marriages in urban China and marriages characterized by a great deal of premarital freedom in urban America yielded low-quality marriages. By examining marriage pattern factors, the analysis indicates that while the domestic labor gap is shrinking and the traditional gender role is relinquishing, marriages tend to be high-quality unions.[11]

Unmarried Cohabitation

In both countries, inadequate recognition of unmarried cohabitation frustrates cohabitants who live together, raise children, and commingle their lives without being married, but confront rising problems when they end their relationships. The result usually is either an effective impoverishment of one party and any children who remain in that party’s custody, or a judicially imposed solution to which the parties may not have consented and which may otherwise be an anomaly under the established laws. Particularly, in China, many rural couples believe they are married, but in reality live in relationships that the law does not recognize.

While a New York case recognized the doctrine of common law marriage, which dealt with unmarried cohabitants, as early as 1809, the first Marriage Law of the People’s Republic of China was not enacted until 1950. Before clear law was enacted, both countries recognized unmarried cohabitation based on either common law marriage or de facto marriage. Later when marriage systems became fully fledged, both countries abolished these doctrines in favor of formality. Common law marriage traditionally refers to legal recognition of marriage on the basis of an agreement to be married without the requirement of a ceremony. On the other hand, China historically recognized de facto marriage. Deeply influenced by traditional custom in imperial China, people in rural areas of China commonly emphasize the customary wedding ceremony and ignore formal marriage registration. Consequently, there are more unmarried cohabitants who hold themselves out as husband and wife in rural areas than in the cities. While urban youths in recent years increasingly choose cohabitation over marriage partly due to the change in social attitudes regarding unmarried cohabitation.

Today, U.S. courts have applied different theories in cases involving unmarried cohabitation. Courts have developed theories that allow a limited recognition of cohabitation in the United States. Similarly, China has greatly limited its recognition for unmarried cohabitation since mid-1990’s. Under the Marriage Regulations, marriage relationships are invalid for couples who have not reached the legal age for marriage but cohabit in the name of husband and wife, or those who conform to the legal requirements for marriage but cohabit in the name of husband and wife without marriage registration. Thus, the Marriage Regulations arguably abolished de facto marriage in China. [12]


Due to strong cultural norms and associated social and family pressure marital dissolution has been a rare occurrence in China. The Chinese family is a close-knit social unit from which its members derive support and security. Divorce is regarded as abnormal and even polluting. Even when wives have been mistreated by their husband or his family, they have tried to keep the marriage intact for the sake of personal and family reputations.

But social and economic development has altered the context of marriage in the past 40 years. There is evidence of diminishing compulsory, arbitrary and mercenary marriages and declining family control over children’s marriages. With more women obtaining formal education and increased female labor force participation, gender roles have changed. The effective state promotion of late marriage and lower fertility have also altered family structure. Attitudes towards divorce have also been changing. An increasing number of women in China view seriously the quality of their marital relationship and feel that a union without love needs to be ended. In traditional Chinese society, only husband have the right to divorce his wife for any reason as: failure to produce a son, adultery or jealousy. Women, on the other hand, can only be obedient to their husbands. Both women and men will face strong social pressure if divorce happened, so they rather keep this family together than think of divorce.

Another factor is the rural/urban residence affects the rate of marital dissolution. Urban women tend to have higher education and more liberal ideas towards marriage and family. They are more likely than rural women to have an independent source of income. The social acceptance of divorce in cities also makes it easier for urban women to end an unhappy marriage. On the other hand, the divorce provision in the marriage law is a very unpopular section in the rural areas, and local level cadres are sometimes unwilling to enforce it. Social pressure to remain married may also be stronger in rural areas.

Owing to strong cultural values, social pressure and peoples commitment to marriage and family, low divorce rates are observed in China. But selected sociodemographic factors have statistically significant effects on the chances of Chinese women dissolving their marriages.[13]

Under the desirable goal of pursing of personal happiness, divorce fit well with American democracy and individualism. However, when divorces involving children it will raise uncomfortable questions, not only to think about the individual happiness anymore.The conservative attack on divorce not only conflicts with the American belief in the inherent right to happiness but also goes against the grain of American attitudes and conditions, especially the American attitude toward personal freedom and the American condition of geographical mobility. One of the major definitional props of traditional marriage, the concept of coverture, also means a woman covered over by her husband.American mobility, distances, and self-refashionings made not only marital traditions but even criminal laws difficult to enforce. Basch points out that a male mode of effectively ending a marriage was simply to cut and run.

Marriages do break up more frequently in our time but many of the divorced remarry and not infrequently remarriage is a success. Moreover, a surprising result of a study is that though most of the divorced have a very tough time in the first year of separation most have reestablished their lives by the end of two years. Even 80% of the children, accurately enough considered the greatest victims of divorce, “are eventually able to adapt to their new life and become reasonably well-adjusted”.

For the first time in history, marriage has become, for masses of people, a voluntary association rather than a social and economic necessity; as both a cause and a consequence of this development, divorce has become an increasingly ordinary fact of life. This is to say that marriage is a social construction rather than a sacrament. It seems certain that the definition of marriage and the family will change but rather less certain that the nuclear family, made up of whatever type of couple, will wither away. The American pursuit of happiness still takes a predominantly binary form. This happiness may not always be found the first time around in marriage.[14]

Study shows a number of differences between the Chinese and U.S.. For example, compared with people in China, U.S. people had more years of education, were more likely to be remarried, revealed more age heterogamy, were more similar to their spouses with respect to religion, had a shorter duration of marriage, had more children, reported more decision making equality, and were more likely to live in urban settings.

Additional differences and similarities between China and the U.S. are shown in research as well. With respect to marital happiness, the frequency of mutual activities, quarrels, physical violence, having few alternatives, and recollections of the quality and stability of the parents’ marriage were associated in similar ways in both countries. In contrast, wives in Shanghai reported lower marital happiness than did husbands, but a gender difference was not observed in the U.S. Age heterogamy was not related to marital happiness in the U.S., while in China, normally couples would have higher marital happiness if husbands are older than wives.[15]


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