Posts Tagged ‘one child policy’

Until death do us part

February 23, 2009

I read with interest an article in The Age newspaper discussing the ancient Chinese tradition of marriage for the afterlife.  Marriage is such an important social ritual for the Chinese, securing the future of the family.  Even today, the hope is still to produce a son to carry on the family name.  And in a society where the elderly are a respected and nurtured part of the family, marriage means you will be taken care of into your old age, even if it means raising your grandchildren.

Throughout China, anxious parents spend their weekends at park fairs where they can submit their child’s details and search for prospective son or daughter in laws.  More and more young Chinese are putting off marriage in lieu of study, careers and world travel.  Marriage, whilst still a necessary part of life, is slowly being seen as something that can wait and more importantly, should now have an emphasis on finding your true love.

Parents matchmaking in a Beijing park

Parents matchmaking in a Beijing park

So it really came as no surprise to me to read about marriage for the afterlife.  It’s a practice that has been around for centuries, known as minghun, marrying those who died young as a way of securing a happy afterlife.  This played a particularly important role for women, for whom “an afterlife marriage is the only way to access a male bloodline, esuring descendants to care for her spirit beyond the grave.”

Sadly I see no reference to families going about this macabre practice for their deceased daughters.  It would appear only the sons are worthy of such a marriage.  Historically, women who were already engaged to a man who died prematurely were encouraged to join their husband-to-be in the grave, with many poisoning or hanging themselves.  The alternative was to live with the man’s family as their domestic slave.

This practice has recently resurfaced into modern day times, with the reporting of abductions throughout China of young women to satisfy the families of men who have died single.  These women become the corpse bride of the deceased, with families paying up to four times their annual income to secure a body.  Whilst I’m sure the actuality of this happening is very rare, it certainly highlights the complexities of Chinese society and the length that some families will go to, to not only ensure the happiness of their “little emperor” but to guarantee the future prosperity of their family and ancestors even beyond the grave.

Born bad.

February 1, 2009

It has been reported that in China, birth defects are on the rise due to ever increasing pollution. Supposedly every 30 seconds, a child is born with defects of some nature. This is an unbelievably bad problem. Why? Well not just because the babies themselves are born with something wrong with them – in China, with the one child policy, if something is wrong with the child it can make it incredibly difficult to find employment when they are older. There are tales all over the country how families already deep in poverty have the parents forced back into work as their only son has lost a limb or somesuch in a workplace accident. The children are the link forward. They become the income earners, carrying the family forward until their children in turn take over that responsbility.

So with an environment that’s showing no signs of improvement, what happens next when crops sewn in chemical soil start to be insufficient to eat? And beside that – if a baby is being born every 30 seconds with a birth defect  – how many babies are being born normal?! For a country with such a ridiculously large population it just boggles the mind to think that they are growing at such an enormous rate. It will be truly interesting to see where it is in 50 years from now.

My baby! My baby!

January 15, 2009

In the news today, Chinese police have busted open a child kidnapping gang:

Police crack China baby sale gang:

They were sold for between 860 yuan ($125, £86) and 26,000 yuan ($3,800), the Beijing News said.

The children, mostly toddlers aged two or three years old, were snatched in Hunan province’s Yueyang city while they were playing or sleeping.

Police in southern China have broken up a gang that abducted migrant workers’ children to sell in distant provinces, state media reports.


If it’s not children being kidnapped, it’s cat’s and dogs being stolen, or something else. There are so many deep-rooted issues in China. Sure, it’s a developing country, but the road to being first world is a long one. Particularly when you’re managing a population the size of China – over 1.3 billion.

So why do the kids get kidnapped and sold? It’s easy really – a side-effect of the one child policy. Families in most cases are limited to one child. Some of the richer folk can fork out money and pay for a second – or some of the poorer just have a second anyway and are fined by the government. Kids in China are a crucial part of the cultural make-up. You work your fingers to the bone making peanuts, all the while supporting your parents who in return supported you when you were young. When you grow older and start making money, your kids then support you – and life repeats itself; over and over and over.

The massive earthquake in Sichuan province killed thousands, many of them children.

The massive earthquake in Sichuan province killed thousands, many of them children.

Imagine the grief of the parents who lost their children in the Sichuan earthquakes. I am willing to bet a large portion of that grief directly related to the family effectively coming to a hold. It’s a serious deal in China. And worse – hundreds of kids had limbs amputated to free them from the rubble. I believe families affected in these ways were granted special privileges to have an extra child. It’s just that important.

So families live off their children. It’s the common consensus that males are far more valuable(from an employment point of view) so families were known to ‘get rid of’ or take steps again, having female children. In the kidnapping story, it was reported one child was outright abandoned when it was revealed she was in fact female. Already there are massive female shortages in China. Thousands of females are immigrating overseas where they can get a far better lifestyle by marrying foreigners. Luckily there seems to be no shortage of, heh, foreign men looking precisely for some easy asian bride action.

No female, no family, no children – serious trouble for a Chinese male. That combination can immediately lead to a life of lonely poverty. The sad part is this is common in China, the division between rich and very poor is easy to see wherever you go.

Troubling times – that are only going to get worse as these deep-seeded problems grow into even bigger issues. One thing that did surprise me while in China was the sheer number of children. There were todders and babies absolutely everywhere. With the one child policy in effect, this surprised me. Here’s hoping China is the first to colonise the moon. They are sure as hell going to need extra landspace at some point in time. Already I can’t understand how they can feed all those mouths. Particularly if you are familiar with Chinese meals – there is an absolute over-abundance of food. Time will tell.

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