Courtship and Marriage

Traditionally, parents enjoyed a monopoly on marriage decisions. A family seeking a bride for a son engaged the services of a go-between or matchmaker to make inquiries on their behalf. Once a suitable young woman was found, the prospective bride's and groom's horoscopes were compared and, if they matched, their betrothal was secured by the transfer of gifts. The wedding was set and the bride moved to the home of her husband (B. Gallin, 1966). This tradition was modified in the late 1950s so that a young woman and man could see each and assess a tentatively chosen mate. However, because young people were unlikely to defy their parents, women married men—and men married women—with whom they had had no contact after the "initial meeting."

Marriage, then, was an arrangement between families not individuals. Its purpose was to join two people in order to produce children and to establish an alliance between affines. Accordingly, in seeking a daughter-in-law, the ideal was men dang, hu duei (to match gates), that is, to join families of similar socioeconomic and ethnic background. Marriages within the same class and ethnic group were typical, but occasionally brides would marry into higher-status families. Brides marrying downward were unlikely because a bride from a high-status family was unlikely to be able to adapt to humble surroundings.

With industrialization, this pattern changed. Young people are heavily involved in selection of a mate, pursuing romantic love and self-selecting their mate. Arranged marriages occur. However, after an initial meeting, dating, in the Western sense, follows to ensure the compatibility of the couple. Nevertheless, because the maintenance of family continuity requires that parents still be involved in negotiations (Thornton, Chang, & Lin, 1994), a prospective groom's family commonly ask a go-between to negotiate the process. She visits the prospective bride's family to propose the marriage, a practice known as ti-qin. Her goal is to negotiate between the two families so that the needs and interests of both are accommodated. Over a series of meetings, she mediates the terms of the "bride-price" (pin jin) and dowry (jia zhuang) (C. M. Chen, 1985; R. S. Gallin, 1991) and, if her efforts are successful, an engagement ceremony is held at the home of the young woman. The young couple exchange rings and the prospective groom and members of his family pay homage to his fiancee's ancestors and present gifts. While the custom of bride price had virtually been abandoned among middle-class urbanites by the 1990s, it continues to be practiced in the rural area and among many rural-to-urban migrants.

On the day of the wedding, the groom goes to the bride's house where he and she kowtow and bid farewell to her parents and the ancestors of her natal home. They then leave for a venue at which the wedding banquet, hosted by the groom's family, is held; in the rural area, this is usually the courtyard of the groom's home. A second banquet is often held the day after the wedding, hosted by the bride's family. But, many families, rural as well as urban, combine the two, inviting guests from the bride's as well as the groom's family.

Despite Taiwan's patrilineal system, women rarely change their surname after marriage. Although they are listed in official household records under their husband's surname, their maiden name remains affixed to their given name. Upon marriage, a woman's integration into her husband's family is far less traumatic than it was in traditional times. In contrast to her mother-in-law, a young bride has considerable resources available to deal with the older woman (R. S. Gallin, 1984b, 1991). In addition to the mutual affection that a couple develop during the betrothal process, a woman brings material and nonmaterial assets to her marriage that represent a serious challenge to the mother-son bond. A young woman's maturity may also play a role in her treatment upon marriage; in 1995, the mean age at marriage was 28.2 for women and about 30 for men (Brinton, 2001).

Fewer than five percent of people never marry (Brinton, 2001). As urban women's education and employment opportunities increase, some choose not to marry. Their male counterparts also refuse to marry highly educated career women who represent a challenge to their prerogatives. As a result, the number of foreign brides increased in the 1990s. Those who opt for this route find mates through transnational agencies operating in China, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Indonesia. Many men seeking wives overseas are the least privileged in society (e.g., the disabled, poor, and mentally retarded). Most foreign brides have few prospects in their countries of origin, and they hope to find a better life on the island. However, the intersection of class, gender, and ethnicity give rise to a complex of power dynamics, and the "dreams" of foreign brides are not always realized. Media reports of problematic marital relations and domestic violence are common.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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