Until the 1940s, marriage by abduction, known as qiangqin (Chinese: 搶親; pinyin: qiǎngqīn), occurred in regions of China. According to one scholar, marriage by abduction was sometimes a groom's answer to avoid paying a bride price. In other cases, the scholar argues, it was a collusive act between the bride's parents and the groom to circumvent the bride's consent. Ethnographer Anne McLaren found that qiangqin, though illegal in imperial China, was common in rural areas, and often became a local "institution" that could be carefully planned and undertaken in a public context.
According to McLaren, in one form of a typical qiangqin, the abductor would arrive at a woman's house flanked by around twenty men. While the friends carried the woman away, the "groom" would use scissors to try to cut off the woman's pants. The woman, struggling with ensuring her dignity, would be unable to adequately fight off her abductors. The victim would then be taken to the groom's house, where the marriage would be consummated.
Chinese scholars theorize that this practice of marriage by abduction became the inspiration for a form of institutionalized public expression for women: the bridal lament. In imperial China, a new bride performed a two to three day public song, including chanting and sobbing, that listed her woes and complaints. The bridal lament would be witnessed by members of her family and the local community.
In recent years bride kidnapping has resurfaced in areas of China. In many cases, the women are kidnapped and sold to men in poorer regions of China, or as far abroad as Mongolia. Reports say that buying a kidnapped bride is nearly one tenth of the price of hosting a traditional wedding. The United States Department of State tie this trend of abducting brides to China's one-child policy, and the consequent gender imbalance as more male children are born than female children.
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Famous quotes containing the word china:
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