Chinese marriage (Chinese: 婚姻; pinyin: hūn yīn) is a ceremonial ritual within Chinese societies that involve a marriage established by pre-arrangement between families. Within Chinese culture, romantic love was allowed, and monogamy was the norm for most ordinary citizens.
Confucian view of marriage
In Confucian thought, marriage is of grave significance both to families and to society as well as being important for the cultivation of virtue. Traditionally incest has been defined as marriage between people with the same surname. From the perspective of a Confucian family, marriage brings together families of different surnames and so continues the family line of the paternal clan. This is generally why having a boy is more preferred than a girl when giving birth. Therefore, the benefits and demerits of any marriage are important to the entire family, not just the individual couples. Socially, the married couple is thought to be the basic unit of society. In Chinese history there have been many times when marriages have affected the country’s political stability and
international relations. From the Han Dynasty onward, the rulers of certain powerful foreign tribes such as the Mongolians, the Manchus, the Xiongnu, and the Turks demanded women from the Imperial family. Many periods of Chinese history were dominated by the families of the wife or mother of the ruling Emperor. Thus marriage can be related to politics
Chinese marriage became a custom between 402 and 221 B.C. Despite China's long history and many different geographical areas, there are basically six rituals, generally known as the three letters and six etiquette (三書六禮).
In Mandarin Chinese, a mangnian, or 'blind year', when there are no first days of spring, such as in year 2010, a year of the Tiger, is considered an ominous time to marry or start a business. In the preceding year, there were two first days of spring.
In the late 20th century, it became popular to create an elaborate book of pictures for a wedding album.
The album usually consists of many pictures of the bride and groom taken at various locations with many different costumes. In Singapore, these costumes often include wedding costumes belonging to different cultures, including Arab and Japanese wedding costumes.
In contrast to Western wedding pictures, the Chinese wedding album usually does not contain pictures of the actual ceremony and wedding itself. In Hong Kong, however, pictures of the ceremony and wedding are taken as well.
Multiple wives with equal statusEmperors of some relatively minor dynasties are known to have multiple empresses.
Created by special circumstances. For example, during wartime a man may be separated from his wife and mistakenly believe that she had died. He remarries, and later the first wife is found to be alive. After they are reunited, both wives may be recognized.
Qianlong Emperor of Qing dynasty began to allow polygamy for the specific purpose of siring heirs for another branch of the family. Called "multiple inheritance" (兼祧), if a man is the only
son of his father 單傳), and his uncle has no son, then with mutual agreement he may marry an additional wife. A male child from this union becomes the uncle's grandson and heir. The process can be repeated for additional uncles.
Beside the traditional desire for male children to carry on the family name, this allowance partially
resolves a dilemma created by the emperor himself. He had recently banned all non-patrilineal forms of inheritance, while wanting to preserve the proper order in the Chinese kinship. Therefore, a couple without son cannot adopt one from within the extended family. They either have to adopt from outside (which was regarded by many as passing the family wealth to unrelated "outsiders"), or become heirless. The multiple inheritance marriages provided a way out when the husband's brother has a son.
 ConcubinageWomen in concubinage (妾) are treated as inferior, and expected to be
subservient to the wife (if there is one). The women were not wedded in a whole formal ceremony, had less right in the relationship, and may be divorced arbitrarily. They generally come from lower social status or were bought as slaves. Women who had eloped may also become concubines since a formal wedding requires her parents' participation.
The number of concubines is sometime regulated, which differs according to the men's rank. Emperors almost always have multiple royal concubines.
A somewhat different form of it is the so-called "two primary wives" (兩頭大). Traditionally, a
married woman is expected to live with her husband's family. When the husband has to live away from his family, however, she has to stay with her in-laws and take care of them. A man who thus suffers chronic separation from his wife, such as a traveling merchant, may "marry" another woman where he lives and set up a separate household with her. Due to the geographical separation, the second woman often regards herself as a full wife for all practical matters, yet legally this marriage is not recognized, and she is treated as a concubine. In China specifically, in cases where the primary wife fails to have sons to prolong the family name, a secondary wife is allowed by law via the sing-song girls concept.
This practice has influenced the recent surge of polygamy in mainland China. Since the opening of China's border in the 1970s, businessmen from Hong Kong and Taiwan started setting up "secondary wives" (二奶) in the mainland. Since then the practice has spread to local affluent men.
According to Chinese criminal law, married people who leave home to live with their lovers are considered to have committed bigamy.
 PolyandryPolyandry, the practice of one woman having multiple husbands, is traditionally considered immoral, prohibited by law, and uncommon in practice. However, historically there have been instances in which a man in poverty rents or pawns his wife temporarily. In modern China, since the One Child Policy in combination with ultrasound technology and the traditional preference for male children has created a dearth of females and surplus of males, in some cases polyandry has been adopted as a solution.
Polyandry in certain Tibetan autonomous areas in China is legal. This however only applies to the ethnic minority Tibetans of the region and not other ethnic groups.