Naked Marriage: What’s Real?

Posted on July 10, 2011


Traditionally, marriage is an important mark of maturity and accomplishment for Chinese. Marriage, to many Chinese, doesn’t only requires “love,” a more or less abstract concept, but other conditions such as material means and the responsibility to produce offspring for the family. However, before China’s economy took off in the 1990s, Chinese didn’t have much, and for young people, as long as they had a stable job, a dorm room, and basic livelihood, it wasn’t difficult to get married.

But time has changed. Creators and/or beneficiaries of one of the fastest growing economies in the world, Chinese are no longer equally poor. The desire and, consequently, the pressure of obtaining wealth are on the shoulders of everyone living in China, especially younger generations who started their adult lives in the new market economic system. Nowadays, many Chinese expect to have houses, private cars, and fat bank accounts as prerequisites of marriage. However, with the soaring housing prices in many urban centers, rising living expenses, and a competitive job market, not all who are at the age for marriage can afford to get married. Because men are expected to provide for the family, those who don’t have a house, a car and a decent bank account became “left-over” singles. On the other hand, more women choose to be single before they can find someone who can provide for them. Because of the difficulty to find the Mr. Right, more women in China today who are over 25 remain single, and become “shengnu” or “left-over girls.”

Recently, however, a new and simpler way to enter marriage has emerged in China among young Chinese born in the 1980s, or the 80-hou generation. These young people choose to get married without owning a house, a car, or having a lavish wedding and even a ring, and this type of marriage is called “naked marriage,” or “luohun” in Chinese.

A television show based this life style The Era of Naked Marriages (Luohun Shidai) just finished showing on satellite television stations across China. From the first episode, the show topped the viewer rating list in China. About its success, the original story writer, Tang Xintian says:

The 80-hou generation is a most talked about generation. As the 80-hou generation grew up, we’re all going through relationships and marriage, so a work about relationships and marriage attracts us, the parents of us single children, and even our parents’ parents. No matter if they support [luohun] or just want to observe and understand [this life style], or if they are critical about it, it still attracts a lot of attention… Compared to other works about relationships and marriage, the theme of Luohun Shidai is in stark contrast with the materialist society. There are many people who respect luohun, with confidence, and also many who turn their noses up at it, waiting for the drama. All these people need more detailed material to support their views, and Luohun Shidai is no doubt the most blood-and-flesh-like, vivid material.

Indeed, the show has been a huge success and started much discussion. One tag line from the show “details beat love” became a popular expression among young people to express the difficulty for love to survive in a materialist mundane reality. Many netizens on weibo do not have much faith in the success of luohun:

Luohun Shidai tells us, it’d work better to run out in public naked than having a naked marriage.

Luohun takes courage; when the bread is too small, love will go bad; when the bread is too big, it’s till hard to keep love fresh.

After watching a few episodes of Luohun Shidai, I can’t help thinking of what Lu Xun has said, “First there’s life, and then love can have something to attach to.” This world is too realistic, so realistic that when we are down and out, we can’t eat spiritual food as pancakes that will feed us. The dated pledge of undying love will eventually be beaten by life. We will understand things we don’t understand now, because life teaches us how to live.

Although luohun applies to a couple, most people believe that it is more unacceptable on the part of the bride, for traditionally men are expected to provide the material basis for a marriage. A blogger  灬硪卜會 writes:

I haven’t watched that many episodes of Luohun Shidai, but I already have this view: if a man has not money to sustain a relationship, isn’t this equals giving the girl a miserable life?

All of us want to live a better life than we have now; men also want to buy LV and Gucci.

The couple in the show are very much in love, and that is for sure.

But when they get married, there are a pile of real problems that make them unhappy.

Many people have the same hope like the couple in the show, that although they don’t have money now, if the two of them work hard together, they will get by, and will be able to buy a house and a car.

Of course, it’s not wrong to have these dreams, but how many people can actually realize these dreams?

I know there are people who have, but I also know they are very rare.

Unsurprisingly, some are still holding on to true love. A weibo user comments on the simple luohun wedding style:

I like this way; I don’t like rules and complicated conventions; complicated process wear you out to please others. Why? A simple certificate is good enough~

A blogger 明月几时 describes how her ideas about love and marriage changed through time:

When I just graduated from college, my young heart was full of passion and hope, and wanted to find a person who loved me back, who were able, and who shared the same goals and could have a conversation with me. At that time, I though owning a house, a car or money, or even the fact that my partner was rich had no appeal to me. At that time, I thought as long as the two people were together and worked hard, and then they would have everything in the future. After I had worked for a while, influenced by people around me, I thought love wasn’t reliable, and having a solid material foundation was the most important, so slowly, I had this idea in my head, started to accept this view unconsciously, and even pushed myself again and again to access it, making myself believe that marriage was like this. However, after several blind dates, I realized that I can’t force myself to accept these ideas; I still want to find what’s real in my heart, and ask myself, what do I really want.

What’s real in our hearts? Is love real? Or is a house or a ring more real? Who can answer this for us?

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