From daily necessities in late 1970s to nowaday's house and stock ownership, the list in property settlement verdicts in divorce proceedings have vividly echoed changing concept of the Chinese on marriage and property.
"Property settlement in divorce cases is becoming more complicated," Hu Jianyong, a judge with the Beijing Second Intermediate People's Court, told the Beijing Daily.
A recent case handled by Hu involved several real estate properties, debts, stock, and some sporadic investment, and the litigation object exceeded 50 million yuan (US$7.31 million).
A verdict meted out by the local court in 1983 showed a contrasting picture:
A cupboard, a cocktail cabinet, a table, a clothes-rack, a suitcase, a mosquito net, a basin, eight plates, five quilts, two pillows, two pillow covers, a blanket, a bedspread, two shirts, one cotton-padded clothes, two trousers, and three pairs of shoes belong to the plaintiff; while the rest property in the room, including a electric fan, two chairs, a bed, and two dictionaries belong to the defendant.
The defendant was also responsible for 500 yuan of the family's 730-yuan debt, the verdict reads.
The list, representing all the family belongings, was too simple for youngsters nowadays to believe, Hu said.
"30 years on, it's no longer a luxury for ordinary Chinese people to own property such as an apartment and a car," Hu said.
"In the 1980s, the court focused mainly on ruling whether the couple should be divorced," said Li Junye, another judge of the court. "We can often see a pan or a bowl on the list of property settlement verdicts."
"But now, with the increasing private property value, the disputes gradually shifted to partition of houses or other more valuable items," Li said.
"People seem to care less about who owns the television or washing machine."
Divorce is traditionally discouraged in China.
In late 1970s, some divorce cases might drag on for one or two years, according to Li. "The court got to be cautious for fear some divorcees might commit suicide because of social pressure."
But as the women become more independent financially, with divorce procedures now much simplified, and attitudes to divorce and divorcees becoming more tolerant, the number of divorces has been rising since 1980 when the figure was 341,000.
"Now we can mete out verdict even in a day if the couple reach a consensus on child raising and property settlement," Li said.
About 1.4 million couples divorced through civil affairs bureaus across the country in 2007, a year-on-year increase of 18.2 percent, latest figures from the Ministry of Civil Affairs showed.
There were 694,000 court-sanctioned divorces in the same period, according to the ministry.
Chinese people can now marry or divorce much more easily as employers do not have to be notified or asked to provide recommendations on the suitability of an employee's marriage plans.