Beyond Tears and Laughter by Yang Shen

Beyond Tears and Laughter by Yang Shen

Author:Yang Shen
Language: eng
Format: epub
ISBN: 9789811358173
Publisher: Springer Singapore

Bao sunzi implies a clear expectation for the gender of descendants. It connotes son preferences and the expectations for a son to have offspring to pass on the patrilineal line. Although the expectation is to embrace grandsons, marriage is an inevitable process to go through because children born outside wedlock in China have great difficulty in obtaining hukou in either urban or rural China. Marriage is the only legal institution in which a couple can create and raise children.

Migration enabled Yong to postpone attending arranged matches. Although his parents had nagged him for years, he paid no attention. This process resulted in constant negotiation with his natal family. In 2012, when the Spring Festival was approaching, Yong’s parents attempted to make him return home. When they were unable to reach him, they called his brothers instead. At that time, two of Yong’s older brothers were also in Shanghai. They came to him every day, saying that their parents were ‘worried to death’ and urged him to return for marriage matches. Yong recalled, ‘I was bothered to death and had no mood for work.’ So he asked for leave from the restaurant to pay a visit back home. Despite migrating, Yong was still enmeshed in the power of parental control. He felt coerced by the family’s expectation for him to marry. His relatives served as monitors and helped to enforce his parents’ will when the parents themselves were far away. Finally, he yielded to his parents and went back to meet women.

All three of these male informants succumbed to parental authority with respect to their marriage decision, adhering to the principle of filial piety that functions to regulate people’s thoughts and behaviour. These male workers’ interactions with their natal families reflect the filial virtues of showing respect, being obedient and ignoring parents’ faults (Cheung & Kwan, 2009). Filial piety or filial obedience encompasses not only the idea that one should give mental and financial support to parents, but also that one should marry and have a baby by a certain age. Yong told me that he was really anxious about being single at the age of 27, as it was very rare in his home village for a man still to be single by this age. Most of my informants were married and had a baby soon after they turned 20. It seems that being single is conspicuous for both female and male migrant workers after the age of 25.

The timing of marriage varies by gender, class and hukou status. Although age may not be a constraint for a man of wealth and power seeking a partner, it may be an obstacle for men from rural areas. An online survey co-conducted by the dating website Jiayuan and the National Health and Family Planning Commission (2013, p. 32) and consisting of 77,045 valid responses, found that 70 per cent of the 36,981 female respondents aged 18–25 preferred a man who was 10 years older than them as a partner—a phenomenon described as dashu kong in China, which literally means uncle-mania.


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