Today in Chinese class we came across a news article which showed a young man with 11 older sisters. Quite the big family, but not especially newsworthy. Why then did we read the article?
In turns out that the eleven sisters recently bought their younger brother a house in Shanxi, China.
Of course, we all had a good laugh after reading the headline “11个姐姐给弟弟买房：是家庭互助，还是“扶弟魔”” (loosely translated as “11 Sisters Buy Younger Brother House: Is It Family Cooperation or a Leeching Brother”).
My Chinese isn’t good enough to read and understand the article completely, but time spent living in China and a discussion with my teacher definitely helped to fill in the gaps. Actually, as comical as the situation might seem, the story is quite symbolic.
Why did they do it?
Traditionally in China sons are considered more important than daughters. Perhaps the main reason for this is that sons are considered responsible for taking care of the parents in old age, while the daughters enter into the families of their husbands.
In a traditional marriage, the woman’s family will expect a dowry from the man’s. While the dowry can take many forms, the ideal one is a house for the woman’s family.
All of this is to say that it’s very expensive for a man to get married in China. And moreover there is a lot of pressure on both the bride and groom to make sure each part of the equation is weighted correctly.
There is a well-known saying in China that I’m sure many of my readers will know, “有车有房” (you che you fang). This literally translates into “have a car have a house” and is said in reference to the belief that a man needs resources to attract a bride.
So, why did the eleven sisters pool their money together to buy their younger brother a house? To help him find a wife, of course.
As an American, it’s always been a challenge to understand marriages in China. I guess thats because, generally speaking, we prefer to separate from our families early on and try to make our own way in the world. I didn’t even know what a dowry was until I had lived in Beijing for a few years.
Of course, it was very sweet of the sisters to do this not only for their brother but their parents as well. Even if the boy does look extremely spoiled, I’m sure that there was a certain amount of satisfaction which came from the giving.
link to the article: http://www.infzm.com/content/137552
link to video of the story: https://www.thepaper.cn/newsDetail_forward_2256156