Marriage Culture in China





Marriage (婚姻 hūnyīn) is an important cultural phenomenon around the world and certainly in China. It is the symbol of two people who are committed to building a life together and these commitments tend to create more stable families, communities and societies. As such, marriage is often promoted by both families and governments.

China has modernized both economically and culturally at an incredible pace and these changes have made the generation gap (代沟 dàigōu) much wider than in other countries. This gap is completely evident in Chinese views towards marriage. While marriage expectations come from the cultural perspective, economic circumstances affect the ability of people to meet these expectations. For this reason and others, many young people are postponing married life, despite traditional influences.

Traditionally, people are expected to marry upon reaching adulthood, maybe a couple years after entering the workforce. This view still exists in both cultural perspectives and official policies on the matter. Official Chinese policies from 1980 and 2003 classify ‘late marriage’ as 23 years old for women and 25 years old for men. For a while, the government encouraged late marriage in order to delay births and slow the population growth. Nowadays that position is less of a necessity, but culturally, it is difficult to reverse. For urban Chinese women, the average age for first marriages was 20 in 1950, 25 in 1980, and 27 currently.

Additionally, economic growth and soaring real estate prices have raised the bar for men. Roughly half of Chinese women believe that owning an apartment or house is a pre-condition to getting married. Traditionally this house would be paid for by the man’s parents, but in the current situation, the family’s resources might only be enough for a down payment. So in many cases, the man will delay getting married until he has a better job and can afford a house and car.

Women don’t have it easy, either. Women who are over 27 and still single are viewed by Chinese society as “leftover women” (剩女 shèng nǚ) and they will have more difficulty finding a husband than women in their early twenties. Younger generations have more modern views, especially in major cities like Beijing and Shanghai. They still feel pressure from relatives to get married, but personally, they may be willing to put it off until they find love, or at least until they are satisfied with their professional success.

The modern twist is that with the recent internationalization and economic growth of China, more men believe in the possibility of self-made wealth and are willing to work for it. Previously (though it still exists), marriage based on wealth was exclusive to fù èr dài富二代, i.e. the second generation, whose wealth mainly comes from their parents. Moderate wealth is now available to well-educated and hard-working Chinese, though they may have to put off marriage in order to attain it. Conversely, they may also need to attain this wealth in order to get married.


Related article: Inter-Cultural Marriage in China 


Want to learn more about Chinese language and culture? Thinking of coming to China to experience it for yourself? Check out our intensive programs, part-time classes in the evenings and weekends or 1-on-1 private tutoring. We even offer online Chinese classes via Skype. Contact us now for more information!  

Quick Form

Please complete the quick form below, we will get back to you within 12 hours (working day).