Opinion / Blog

Something I didn't know about China

By teamkrejados ( Updated: 2015-08-14 16:31

I've never claimed to be the know-all and end-all of China and Chinese culture, and I never will. To wit: even five years on, little tidbits of facts previously unknown to me still have the power to rock me, shock me and give me pause. Here are a few nuggets.

Single mothers:

Until recently I thought it was only a social taboo to have a baby out of wedlock in China, as it was in the West until about 30 years ago. An enlightening article in ChinaDaily clued me in to the fact that it is not just frowned upon but illegal. According to that text, a woman must furnish a marriage certificate as well as a 'valid reproduction permit' and, of course, an ID.

Here is that revealing article:

Color me perplexed! With my still-predominantly western mindset I can't believe that, in this day and age, when women can ensure financial stability for themselves, they are still required to be married to have a child. Never mind the incredible 'old maid' standard rained on a woman who has not married by age 30 by family and friends, this information makes that proclamation quaint.

Now I understand why Stephanie had to get married, even though her family was opposed to the union and she didn't seem too happy about it herself (See How I spent my May Day holiday, posted May of this year).

Making the bed:

I've attended several weddings in China, and they all followed a certain pattern, but for a few variances. Two things I had no idea about, that make me shake my head in disbelief: who should make the nuptial bed up for the wedding night, and how.

Apparently, a mothers of both the man and the woman should make the bed, in the belief that the good fortune she enjoys at having a matched set of children will rub off on the sheets, and the new couple will be just as lucky. Sam's mother, who has been thus blessed, is often called on in her village to make up the wedding night bed.

Never mind the fact that science has proven that it is fathers who offer up the chromosome that determines their offspring's gender. I'm not sure if the Chinese still hold to the long since dispelled belief that it is the woman's onus to assign fetal gender, or if it is 'double joy' maternal hands that are thought to bless the sheets. It could be in part that making beds is 'women's work'. Either way: this is a rather charming superstition that caused me to chuckle in disbelief.

Another strange custom is to litter the marital bed with peanuts. Whether shelled or not, I have no clue. Presumably, these peanuts will encourage a “Little Peanut” to soon issue forth. All I could think about after hearing that is the exhaustion a just-married couple must feel after the day-long celebration, only to enter the marital suite and have to sweep peanuts off the bed. Should the couple eat the peanuts? Who is to retrieve the peanuts: the bride, the groom or both? These answers remain a mystery.

Such traditions, thoughts, superstitions and beliefs are what made me fall in love with China to begin with. I scoff at these most recent additions to my list of seemingly nonsensical wisdom, but it is a loving scoff, like one you would give your somewhat addled relative when s/he doesn't realize s/he's doing something utterly goofy.

However, this next one terrified me.

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