Out of China: A marriage of East and West

PEKING - Springtime in China, and a busy month for weddings. On 8 May, traditionally a lucky day, because in Chinese the date sounds a bit like 'I am getting wealthy', some 4,000 couples tied the knot in Changchun, the capital of Jilin province. The China Youth Daily said the wedding-garment factory had been working overtime for the previous fortnight.

On 18 May ('I will get wealthy') there was a similar run on the services of The Purple House wedding centre, situated in a small lane off the busy Wangfujing shopping street in Peking. 'Eleven couples wanted that day. From 9am to 6pm, it was just one after another. We had to have a strict time limit on each ceremony,' said Zhang Fuyi, the general manager.

The Purple House is where romantic myth is turned into reality for hundreds of Peking's better-off young couples. The original wedding-service company of the same name was opened in 1934 - and closed 19 years later, when extravagant weddings were deemed un-socialist. Now that changing socialist mores have made it acceptable again, the lavish marriages are a booming industry. Since the Purple House was reborn four years ago, more than 1,500 couples have taken their vows in its first-floor ceremony room.

Before a couple can get married in China, they must first obtain permission from their work units. The legal registration of the marriage is then carried out at a government office, leaving complete freedom to decide how to celebrate the union. Some young couples who are living away from their home towns opt for a holiday and exchange their chosen marriage vows and rings alone in some scenic spot. Others arrange an informal gathering or picnic with their friends. For many families, however, the wedding celebrations concentrate on a banquet for large numbers of people. So far, pleas by the central government for families to limit the amount spent on lavish weddings have fallen on deaf ears.

The Purple House, owned by the Peking Textile Bureau, whose other business ventures these days include coal transportation and car spare parts, has evolved into a one-stop wedding shop for those who want a quasi-Western ceremony with Chinese characteristics. The ground-floor shop sells the outfits, rings, flowers, 'double happiness' decorations, and an array of wedding presents.

Upstairs, the modern Chinese wedding these days features a bride got up in a fairytale fantasy of white satin, organza and netting. 'I think wearing the Western-style dress has become very fashionable in Peking. The old-style traditional costume is not comfortable; it does not comply with current society now,' said Mr Zhang. The dress is usually rented; the Purple House has more than 100 to choose from, including imported models from Taiwan, Japan and Hong Kong.

Instead of a vicar or government cadre, the ceremony is conducted by a master of ceremonies.

All up, the affair costs on average around 6,000 yuan (pounds 500), about twice the average annual urban income, if you believe the official statistics.

For those young couples who cannot afford such a spread, or who are not from Peking, the Purple House provides a 'photos-only' wedding ceremony.

Collective weddings also remain popular. In February 1991, Mr Zhang arranged a wedding for 100 couples in the Great Hall of the People. Other mass ceremonies have taken place at Tiananmen, the Summer Palace, and at the Great Wall.

While weddings become more theatrical again, the past two years in China has also seen the number of divorces soar: last year more than 900,000 couples went their separate ways.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - 3-4 Month Fixed Contract - £30-£35k pro rata

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a 3-4 month pro rata fi...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £26,000+

£16000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Telesales Executive is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager

£25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

Something wicked?

Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
10 best sun creams for body

10 best sun creams for body

Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map