Marriage is nothing to be flirted with in a hasty way, but among young migrant workers from east China's Jiangxi Province, they are tying the knot in no time by binding each other with "marriage down payment."
Lin Qing, a 24-year-old girl in the countryside of Jiangxi's Anyi County, married her husband Yang Geng on the seventh day after they got acquainted through a matchmaker in January this year. Yang, also a local farmer, had a job of selling aluminum alloy in Lanzhou, capital of northwest China's Gansu Province.
Before the marriage, Lin's mother Li Laiying received 23,000 yuan (about US$2,875) from Yang's father -- 13,000 yuan for wedding feast, buying clothes and jewelry and 10,000 yuan for "marriage deposit" or "marriage down payment".
The 10,000 yuan is meant for guaranteeing that once Yang is not faithful to Lin, the girl can at least get some compensation, and the money will be returned to them if the couple can remain in the wedlock and have child, said the mother.
Receiving down payment has become very popular in rural families with young people working in cities in Anyi. Generally, when a young man returns home from his migrant working life during a short vacation, he will be introduced to a girl by a matchmaker.
If the two think it is all right to stay together, they will immediately sign an agreement to define their lover or spouse relations. After handing over some 10,000 yuan or more to the mother-in-law, they are allowed to go out working in cities and start a couple's life.
"My three sons all paid the down payment when got married," said Li Laiying.
With the insurance of money, she did not expect her daughter's marriage would end up in divorce and have the family involved in a lawsuit.
In March, Yang lodged a lawsuit against Lin, asking for a divorce and return of the 23,000 yuan to him on the ground that "the wife was found to be slow in reaction after marriage. They don't have common language and affection."
It is only two months after their wedding.
Located in northwest part of the province, Anyi has a population of 250,000. Nearly 70,000 or more than one third of them work regularly outside the county, mainly in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Nanjing.
"But we are strangers to the cities, and we have to work from dawn till night. Our social circle is small, and it is very hard for us to know the right girls," said Wang Jiahe, who had been to Nanjing, capital of east Jiangsu Province to sell aluminum alloy in 2000.
He married a girl after meeting only once when he returned home during the Spring Festival in 2000 at the price of 30,000 yuan (US$3,750).
"I have to give the money to her since others do so," said Wang.
The haste marriage, however, cannot necessarily evolves into a happy marital life. Disputes over the ownership of the down payment rise when the couples, without much affection in such a short time, find they do not match.
According to Liang Hong, president of Anyi People's Court, the court received 26 lawsuits involving marriage down payment disputes last year and more than three such cases each month from January to May this year.
Most of the lawsuits are lodged by men, while women tend to return the money when they regret the marriage.
Hong Ermei is one example. Receiving 5,000 yuan as "pension", the down payment to the middle-aged or elderly woman, she married Hua Yi one month after they knew each other through a matchmaker.
The two, both in a second marriage, quarreled and even fought after the wedding, and started living separately one year later. Hong asked for divorce at a local court, claiming that "we hastily step into the marriage introduced by others. We do not love each other."
Hong was required to return Hua the 5,000 yuan upon divorce, according to the court's sentence.
Like many others, with the presence of a matchmaker, they did not have any written pledge or receipt when the money was paid.
Liang estimated that only 5 percent of such disputes would be solved in court. Most of the cases are settled privately.
According to legal interpretation of China's Marriage Law, marriage down payment, if defined as betrothal gifts, should be returned to the male part.
Wu Changzhen, professor with the China University of Political Science and Law, said that "betrothal gifts" now has new names such as deposit or down payment in rural regions, but it is for the same purpose, a financial guarantee of marriage.
"Maybe haste marriage is a phenomenon in social change. It will have impacts on our tradition," said Liang.
(Xinhua News Agency December 16, 2005)