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Born in the UK but now living in Australia, Paul Fox has travelled to many places throughout China. He has seen the lighter side, the darker side, both the gentle and the seedy sides. He documents his experiences and is willing to share them with anyone who wants to listen. He is not afraid to say things exactly how he sees them, and is quite happy to "name and shame" when necessary.
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Beyond Insanity!    

By Paul Fox
4112 Views | 10 Comments | 2/20/2019 11:31:03 AM

Back in September 2018 John published my blog entitled 'Traditional Misery' Now, in February 2019, I am even more at a loss when it comes to understanding so-called 'tradition'.



Sure, we westerners have our fair share too. If turkey is so delicious why do we only eat it at Christmas or Thanksgiving? Gotta eat Easter eggs at Easter, right? Gotta eat 'bangers 'n' mash' on Bonfire night... why? Cos it's TRADITION, right?



All cultures have their traditions, (which kind-of makes sense when you look at the word 'culture' = 'ure cult'), but what I have an issue with is how certain people view these traditions. For example, in my previous blog I was talking about mooncakes and the fact that while many people dislike the taste, they still eat them simply because it's 'tradition'.



So I suggested to my students that I was going to start a new 'tradition' on the 1st of November, and it was going to be called 'kill a classmate day'. When asked who would take part, they all said "No". Sure, it's not a particularly good analogy, but I was trying to emphasise the point that people who do something against their will, just because it's 'tradition', are essentially stupid.



That said, the most stupid 'tradition' I have come across so far was highlighted during a discussion in the Chinese teacher's office. The subject was 'marriage', and the fact that it's traditional for the guy to hand over a large sum of money, (traditionally RMB88,800), to the girl's father/family. Then there's another RMB100,000 or so that needs to be forked-out for the wedding.



Sure, we all know what a 'dowry' is, but I said I would never 'buy' a wife. Suddenly all these teachers are looking at me like I had said some kind of 'bad word'.



'It's not buying', said one guy. 'Well what is it then?' I asked. If I hand over some money to a girl's father, and the father then hands me the girl, I have bought her, right?



The amazing thing was that no-one seemed to 'get it'. I was getting remarks such as, 'No, no', and 'No, it's not like that !'



Well what IS it like then?



I hand over cash, he hands over his daughter. He has SOLD his daughter, and I have BOUGHT her. Am I stupid? Am I missing something here? You give money to the SELLER, and in return the seller hands over the 'goods' to the BUYER. How can it possibly be any different in this instance?



Yet it didn't matter how many times I pointed this out; no matter how many times I explained or questioned it, none of them saw it as a transaction. To them, it's 'tradition'



I don't want to come across as being disrespectful to Chinese traditions, but sometimes I give up... I really do!


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(Showing 1 to 10 of 10) 1
#2019-02-20 11:30:26 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

I think it is important to clarify that while the Chinese Tradition of paying a dowry to the Bride's father is practised in the case of some first marriages between a young, never married bride and a groom who comes from a fairly well to do family. It is not something that happens in every marriage in China.

It will not apply to the potential marriage of a Western Male who is marrying a Chinese female who is entering her second marriage, and almost never to a Chinese male marrying such a woman.  

My impression is as well that the specific dollar sum Paul mentions, while it may have been part of the tradition in days gone by, is subject to negotiation these days. 

While there are many marriages in China where this tradition is still followed, it seems to have become more the case that the Groom is expected to already own a home for the newlyweds to live in, and that home will, far more often than not, be paid for by the Groom's wealthy parents. 

There maybe other conditions that must be met before the marriage will be agreed to and allowed to be consumated. But, because in China there is already intense traditional pressure for newlyweds to belong to the same financial class, the amount of money to be taxed to the Groom or his family will largely depend on the financial class the Bride and Groom belong to.

Unless you are marrying a never before married, young and very eligible Chinese woman, if the claim for a dowry is pushed by the Bride or her family, you are probably being had and should seriously consider whether you want to spend the rest of your life in a family that sees you as a source of income.

The poorer the family is, the less eligible the Bride is and the less the family should be looking for. If she has been married before you are likely doing the family a huge financial favor just by marrying her and taking her off their hands.

Having said that, nothing about this comment should be taken as disagreement with Paul that the tradition, when followed, is silly and should have fallen out of practise generations ago.

I suspect that the refusal to understand Paul's point was more a part of the Chinese refusal to lose face. If those teachers had agreed with Paul then China and Chinese people would look silly and that would result in a loss of face. Better to pretend you don't understand what the other person is saying. 

#2019-02-20 13:06:14 by paulfox1 @paulfox1


@JohnAbbot

You explained it well, however I don't buy the 'face' argument you put forward. They were quite obviously confused - it wasn't an 'act'.

Members may be interested to learn, however, that the origin of 'dowry' actually comes from the ancient Greeks.

They were a particularly misogynistic bunch who held women in little regard.

So much so, that when a girl reached the age of 5, her father would open her up for 'bids'. She would marry a 'suitor' when she reached the age of 15, her 'suitor' being, ideally, 30 years old.

The groom's family would offer money, property, etc, in return for the bride. In short, the girl had no say in the matter.

Furthermore, once married, the husband could legally indulge in homosexuality and prostitution, whereas the wife must remain faithful at all times.

Should she 'stray', then by law the man must divorce her, and she would walk away with nothing.

There was, however, a certain 'rider' to this rule. If her extra-marital relationship was deemed 'beneficial' to her family, or Greek society as a whole, then the divorce law did not apply.

If the wife was raped, then the husband could decide whether or not to divorce her, but still had the right to hurt, maim, or even kill her attacker.

Should her husband die or be killed, then the wife was simply part of his property that would be passed on to his (male) next-of-kin.

 

Strangely, there were a couple of medical 'oddities' too. Doctors stated that once a woman had 'tasted' the 'fruits' of her husband, she would struggle to become satiated. So much so that her womb was considered, by doctors, to be nothing short of an 'abyss' in which men's 'strength' (semen) would never satisfy.

Even the famous philosopher, Plato, considered a woman's uterus to be 'an animal within an animal'. He also believed in what he called a 'wandering womb'. Essentially, if the woman was 'hungry', and was not 'getting any', then her womb would become irritable and move around her body. In some cases, while the woman slept, Plato believed that the womb could actually leave her body in search of 'satisfaction' - not particularly caring where that 'satisfaction' came from. This probably gave rise to the Greek 'succubus' stories.

 

Incidentally, the word 'marry' comes from the name 'Mary' which, in etymology means 'Woman (or Lady) of fire'

Totally useless information, but interesting all the same.

Funny how we westerners credit Greece for much of our culture, yet the idea of a dowry (originally known in Greek as a 'bride-price'), is more prevalent in Asia.

 

#2019-02-20 13:15:10 by oldghost @oldghost

This so-called tradition does not in the least resemble my experience which is that the wedding and marriage is largely funded by the parents.  Unlike the western tradition where parents part with their savings only on DEATH! Chinese parents seem to part with a substantial portion of their savings on marriage of their children, assisting with purchase of apartment house cars, and then the outer familiar friends and guest assist the lavish weddings, the hunli, with generous hong bao.

I have attended four such, two of them with 50 tables or 500 guests - such a ceremony would cost 50 wan for sure. The apartment and the convertible white Mercedes sports car round out the parent donations. No true dowry was involved, and the families concerned were prosperous but not exceptionally so, just part of the burgeoning middle class.


One of them was my own and very humble, many years ago, last century, last millenium, and I admit to being alarmed at the obvious cost, (my credit card was flashing bright red warning signs) but the hong bao came to the rescue!

#2019-02-21 10:58:10 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

@paulfox1 - re loss of face, in my experience the way you can almost be sure that Chinese are trying to avoid loss of face when they are responding to difficult and direct questions is by the look of confusion on their face. And I am not going to go look for them, I believe Gareth mentioned this same belief more than once. Basically the thinking is this: "Yikes, if I answer this question honestly I (or Chinese/China) will lose face, so I had best look confused and deny, deny, deny." Much like in the West when a guilty husband is being grilled by his suspicious wife, but in that case the body part he is afraid of losing is not his face. (rofl)(rofl)(rofl)

Re Dowry -  "Funny how we westerners credit Greece for much of our culture, yet the idea of a dowry (originally known in Greek as a 'bride-price'), is more prevalent in Asia."

Dowry may remain in effect in Asia, but that doesn't mean it wasn't inherited from the Greeks and practised throughout Europe and in many of the colonies. It was practised across most of Europe until well into the 19th century and in some parts of Europe into the 20th century. We can thank the Greeks for that.

@oldghost - I agree with you that the new process seems to differ from that described by Paul, but I suspect it is relatively new (like since the 1980's when Deng flipped on the free enterprise switch) and probably the change is more common in the larger more advanced cities. That's not to say that this particular change of custom is necessarily "advanced".

But the new approach seems to be that the Son's parent's provide the new home, the Bride's parents toss in a new car and they cover the cost of the wedding over and above what the Red Envelopes cover. 

#2019-02-21 20:27:55 by oldghost @oldghost

I hope my children don't expect apartment or luxury car when they finally (if ever) decide to marry!  Let them stay single and humbly poor or modestly comfortable as I am,  In my culture (or at least in my mind) face and status take second place to pleasure, joy in life and self esteem. 

 

#2019-02-22 15:15:22 by paulfox1 @paulfox1


@oldghost

Ah, that old equestrian event known as mare age (sorry, marriage) whereby we old 'jock eys' get 'hitched' to a 'mare' for the 'ages'

Hopefully our 'fee male' companion won't cost us too much over the years.

Where the bridle, sorry bridal, or 'bride', meets her 'groom' before being 'saddled'.

Hopefully she's not an old 'nag' or she might drive the 'neigh bours' mad in the 'neigh bourhood'. There again, putting a 'lucky horseshoe' on the door should 'hoof' any potential problems away.

 

And remember, if the 'mare age' is in a church, then the first thing she'll see is the 'aisle'; the second is the 'altar'; and then you. For the rest of your life it's 'I'll alter you'

have fun !

#2019-03-27 14:23:12 by melcyan @melcyan

Congratulations Paul. You have created a blog that seems to be escalating its views long after the last comment was made. More than 40 views in the last 24 hours. Well done!

#2019-03-30 18:51:48 by paulfox1 @paulfox1


@melcyan

Mate, I cannot discern if your comment here is serious or somewhat condescending.

No offence.

#2019-03-31 13:06:41 by melcyan @melcyan

@paulfox1

 

It was a serious comment of genuine surprise. I self-censored my original joking comment about the number of views, and the number 616 view and the number 666 view. After a gap of more than a month without a new comment on a CLM blog, it is unusual (it is quite likely that it has never happened before) for a CLM blog to have a 40 plus increase in views in 24 hours.

 

I censored my original comment because I don't want to say anything that takes the focus on CLM away from Chinese culture and the achievement of successful long term relationships between Western men and Chinese women. 

 

 

#2019-04-01 12:41:32 by paulfox1 @paulfox1


@melcyan

Ah, the silliness of 666. That scary number that most people haven't got a clue about its meaning. OK, thanks for your comment.

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