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Home History and Culture Chinese Marriage since 1950s (Part 2: Between 1961 and 1976)
Chinese Marriage since 1950s (Part 2: Between 1961 and 1976)
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In the 1960s, what exerted the greatest impact on Chinese marriage standard was the extreme leftism (zuǒ qīng 左倾) arising in the political movement. From 1961, family background became a very important factor to decide whether one could be employed by enterprises or government offices, recruited to serve in the army, admitted into a high school or college, or promoted to a higher position. It went to such an extreme that family background and political identity ridiculously became what had to be taken into account before young people loved someone. 

By the beginning of the ten-year Cultural Revolution in 1966, the leftism had gone so far that altyoung people with an antirevolutionary background or even with relatives abroad found it very difficult to encounter their mates even though they had advantages in other ways. Girls were subjected to severe political examination before they could marry officers in the armed forces or the public security bureaus. This practice was followed by organizations concerning national defense and security, and even by post offices. No one could pass the examination if he or she had any relative accused of crime or rightism or having foreign relationships. If one went against the policy and did on his own will to marry any one of those sorts, he could hardly escape punishment. He or she would be transferred or deactivated (fù yuán 复员). In those years, hundreds of thousands of people had to feel sorry for whole life for failure to pass the examination.

By early 1960s, people began to pay more attention to education. Considering the importance knowledge in communication of ideas and children education, men began to take their future wives' cultural level as one of the conditions. In towns and cities, junior high school certificates were required for girls while in the countryside elementary school certificates were required. Girls who had experienced the three-year famine from 1959 to 1962 more envied those senior officials' families for their desirable advantages. There was once an upsurge to chase young men from these families.

altAdvantages of working in state-run enterprises had not been apparent. As more and more small street-commission-run factories arose, the big state-run enterprises became advantageous for their unmatched scales. Street-commission-run factories were collectively owned and generally the workers got a lower pay and worse welfare than those in the state-run. So young men who worked in the state-run were more popular among girls.

Political and social environment exerts a great impact on people's marriage standards. From the beginning of 1960s, teachers' social and economic status began to decline. In the countryside, primary school teachers got less pay than an ordinary shop assistant or a factory laborer. The slogans "Proletariats lead all" could been seen everywhere. Many teaching girls, especially those in the primary schools, chose to marry laborers much lower than themselves in terms of education. In the metaphase of the Cultural Revolution, many propaganda teams consisting of laborers were stationed in high schools, colleges and universities. Under the leadership of the laborers, many young female teachers chose to be their wives.

In this period young people of the suppressed generally had a miserable experience of marriage. Knowing the extreme importance of the political status, girls had to marry and live with men with whom they could hardly communicate ideas. Some chose to be singles all life to avoid the imaginable bad result. Very few went against the tide to marry politically unwelcome men.

During Cultural Revolution starting from 1966, more than ten million educated youth from alttowns and cities were sent to the countryside (shàng shān xià xiāng 上山下乡) to aid the farmers. The marriages of this large "tribe" formed a unique scene. The marriages of the youth can be divided into three types.
The first type accounts for a large proportion that fell in love among the youth themselves. Among them about half ended in marriage. But the other half failed to get married mainly because of the interposition of the third party. As many were eager to leave the poor country and return to the city, they were inclined to turn to city folks whenever they got a chance. A ballad was then widely known: 

                                      Let's take a last walk round the pond.
                                     Tomorrow I am going back to my town,
                                      Not that I am a girl of no love,
                                      But that you can do bit for my life.

The second type is those who directly sought their mates among those in town. In order to altleave the poor life in the country, they would not care for a lot so long as their mates had a job in town. It was not uncommon that the youth pretended to be ill so that they could go to town to meet their "princes" or "princesses." A great many young people who had been unable to find a suitable mate for the sake of the bad family background realized their dream of marriage. Many young men who could not find way going back to town had to complain about their fate and jokingly called the marriages of those people "curvilinear escape."        

The third type includes those who got married with the local farmers. The town youth chose farmers to be their husbands or wives because of their qualities of diligence and capability of enduring hardships and their help offered in hard time. Some decided to settle down simply because they wrongly believed that they would take root in the country while others made the choice under local political pressure. A large proportion of marriages of this type, with or without altchildren, broke up when later the policy came allowing the youth return to town. Very few families survived.

By early 1970s, youth in towns and cities began to give attention to life enjoyment. Good furniture could be seen being made in the residential quarters, dormitories, company offices and school gardens. At the same time, as the Cultural Revolution fundamentally destroyed the traditional moralities, some youth started to seek a family life with restrictions and burdens from their parents. The following is a ragged verse roughly disclosing youth's mind in that period: 

                                Your furniture must be new and shining;
                                Your parents must be soon leaving;
                                You must have everything
                                 Including watch, bike, radio and sewing machine.
                                You must buy me all clothing
                                 For summer, autumn, winter and spring.
                                You must be outstanding,
                                Though sometimes merciless even to your kin.
                                You must have enough earning.
                                 And good at dealing with anything.
                                 No smoking and no drinking. 
                                 But above all,
                                 You must treat me as you are treating a king.

During the late period of the Revolution, senior high school education was popularized in towns and cities. Overall life had been improved. But at the same time prices had risen to a high level. Men as traditional breadwinners encountered a challenge. So young men tended to choose working girls to be their wives. Whether a girl had a job was put on the top by their seekers. Other qualities considered by young men include education, blandness, consideration, capability, and motherliness.

Before 1980, the virginal membrane was something had always considered deadly important by men. If a girl was not a virgin, she could hardly get a satisfactory result. Wives experiencing pre-marriage sexual action tended to live in a sense of guilt. Even the whole society took pre-marriage sexual action as immoral or wrong. Almost anyone accused of this deed was to be punished. Students were likely kicked out of the campus. Government workers were likely transferred to the grass root units. Even factory workers and farmers would be punished in some way. Communist Party members or Communist Youth League members who committed such misdeeds would receive extra punishment within the organizations.

Also in this period, families of elderly husbands and young wives were severely criticized by altnew media and artists. Consequently husbands and wives in town were mostly of similar ages, usually with the husband two or three years older than the wife. It was also the case in the country although the age gap might be a little wider.

From the second half of 1960s, as a result of high birth rate in the previous decade, people in cities generally sensed the inadequacy of residence. So, in big cities such as Shanghai (shàng hǎi 上海), Beijing (běi jīng 北京), Guangzhou (guǎng zhōu 广州), Chongqing (chóng qìng 重庆), Chengdu (chéng dū 成都) and Wuhan (wǔ hàn 武汉), girls started to take housing conditions into consideration in picking their mates.


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