Golden couple share secret of 80-year marriage

By Wu Yiyao (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-09-12 10:27
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Golden couple share secret of 80-year marriage

Living in an old house in suburban Shanghai, Zhang Mucheng (left), 101, and Xu Dongying, 102, celebrate their 80th wedding anniversary this year. Provided to China Daily


While many of today's couples seem to be afflicted with the seven-year itch, Zhang Mucheng and Xu Dongying are celebrating their 80th wedding anniversary.

Living in a century-old house in suburban Shanghai, the couple have seen it all - war, famine and hardship.

They are often asked about the secret of their long marriage, but they say they really don't know.

"We are from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), so we do things the old way," says Xu, 102.

"Life is good, especially when you have a diligent wife," says Zhang, 101.

Zhang and Xu got married in January 1930. It was their parents, both small business owners, who arranged their marriage. They came to the marriage as complete strangers, as was common then.

"We knew that we would have many years to get to know one another," Zhang laughs.

As the only son, Zhang learned to shoulder responsibilities early when his mother died when he and his two sisters were still young.

"I went to school at the age of 10 and started helping my father in his drugstore that sold traditional medicine when I was 14," Zhang says.

Getting married was seen as an important responsibility for a man, so the family line could continue.

"At that time we didn't have many choices. All you could do was hope to find a good girl who could help you with the housekeeping."

Xu spent her childhood years living away from her parents after "a fortuneteller said my horoscope showed I was not compatible with my father".

Like many girls at that time, Xu did not have access to schooling and devoted herself to household chores.

The couple have five sons and three daughters.

While it was not easy to maintain such a large family, Zhang never compromised his generosity.

"He often gave free medicine to the poor, although he was not rich," says Huang Ayi, their youngest daughter-in-law. "Sometimes, when someone died and the family could not afford a coffin, he gave them money so the dead could rest in peace."

Xu never complained about any of this and worked hard to make ends meet. At their poorest, Xu would walk an hour every day so she could grow vegetables on wasteland.

In the early 1950s, Zhang's drugstore and other private businesses were merged into the public sector. Zhang continued to work at the drugstore as a clerk until his retirement. Looking back on his life, he says being honest with his customers was most important to him.

The couple lived a very simple, even frugal life, and helped raise their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

When asked what they understand "love" to mean, the couple say they don't know.

"We are not used to kissing and hugging," Xu says.

"We just feel good when we are together."

With their children living with their own families, Xu and Zhang enjoy their time together.

Zhang has lost some of his hearing, but Xu always repeats what's on TV for him. Xu has lost some of her eyesight, and Zhang is always happy to read her the newspaper.

"We have so many things to do together," Xu says.

"We don't have time for fights."

China Daily