ICS Analysis

Increasing Bride Price in China: An Unresolved Agenda

Bride Price (彩礼; Cǎilǐ) is a form of wealth paid by a prospective groom’s family to the bride’s family. While the connotations and implications of “bride price” vary from place to place in China, these days newspapers are flooded with reports concerning “sky-rocketing bride price” and associated tragedies. In spite of the measures adopted by the government to curb the high rates of bride price, the practice continues to flourish. The media sees curbs on bride prices as measures taken to increase marriage rates and boost birth-rates. Bride price had been long been perceived as a “domestic issue” until it started adversely affecting the interests of the patriarchal state. While legal measures are being taken to put limits on bride price, the crackdown on bride price does not stem from concern over commodification of women but as a step to address the declining marriage rate in China. Caili is not a privileged position for women as depicted by the media and the State, since the practice of caili views women as “transferable familial properties.” The paper looks at debates surrounding caili in China and concludes that high bride prices are the symptoms of insecurities felt by women in Chinese society as a result of growing inequalities in the system, and the inability of the state to address their grievances.


Snigdha Konar

Research Associate & Assistant Director, Institute of Chinese Studies

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