Finding a wife made easier as poverty reduction takes effect

Luo Yong is ecstatic to be celebrating Qixi, China’s version of Valentine’s Day, with his wife.

Luo Yong is ecstatic to be celebrating Qixi, China’s version of Valentine’s Day, with his wife.

Qixi, which fell yesterday, is a traditional festival based on a 2,000-year-old legend of lovers Niu Lang and Zhi Nu, who are separated the Milkway and can only meet once a year when a flock of magpies forms a bridge for them.

For 30 years, Luo had no luck in finding his Zhi Nu.

He was born into a family of the Yao ethnic minority in remote Nonghua village in south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Locked in poverty for decades, Luo struggled to find a woman willing to date him.

“No women would ever consider tying the knot with me, because they feared that they would have to spend their lives in poverty,” Luo said.

Luo was raised by his aunt, Luo Rongshan. When Luo Yong’s parents died, the 61-year-old took in the boy and his two brothers. But as they grew up, their marriage status became an unspoken anxiety.

“A few years ago, they had already reached their 30s, but none of them was married,” Luo Rongshan said. “I was quite worried.”

In 2012, close to 80 men in Luo’s village of more than 700 people were unable to find wives and the village became known as “the Singles’ Village.”

“Typically, in a Yao village, a man marries at the age of 22, and if you have not found a wife by the age of 30, you are almost doomed to remain single for the rest of your life,” said Lan Ying, Nonghua’s Party chief.

“Nonghua village was the epitome of the situation of China’s vast rural western areas, particularly in poverty-stricken areas,” said He Xuefeng, of Huazhong University of Science and Technology. 

“Traditionally, people married into families nearby, but in recent years, more people have moved to big cities to find jobs, which has broken the circle,” He said. “As more women chose to marry men in more developed areas to shake off poverty, men in the poor areas were left single.”

Luo Rongshan said: “Only one woman married a man in our village a few years ago, and others simply married men in areas with better fortune. Who would ever want to continue to stay in dark, dank hovels and live on corn grown in rock cracks?”

But as a national anti-poverty drive gains steam, the situation is changing.

Now, new buildings have replaced the tile-roofed houses in Nonghua.

“There is a paved road connecting us with the county seat, and a single journey only takes about half an hour,” Lan Ying said.

The change in the village is part of China’s anti-poverty drive over the past five years. 

With new houses and increased incomes, many single men have begun to have luck in relationships.

Last year, when Luo Yong turned 30, he started dating a woman from a nearby town.

“Her parents were not happy about it because my nephew is much older,” said Luo Rongshan. “But they were in love, and she was happy about our conditions in the village.”

The two married later last year.

“During the past two years, at least 10 bachelors have gotten married,” Lan said.  

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