Naked pole

China's changing marriage landscape

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China is facing a demographic dilemma: the emphasis placed on male family lineage and the one-child policy has led to unequal gender numbers. Award-winning Swiss photographer Simon Tanner took a look at marriage and its status in China today.

Between 2015 and 2045, China is expected to amass one million more men than women per year. Already among citizens aged 20 to 49, the overall surplus of men stands at 20 million, leading to stiff competition in China’s marriage market.

Marriage is very significant, not only for social status but also for economic security. Men with lower incomes are at the biggest disadvantage when looking for a wife, since a man’s earning potential often influences a woman’s choice of husband. The wishes of those who want to marry have also changed; an industry has grown around the Western wedding concept, and it’s not uncommon for members of China’s new middle class to hold ceremonies that include both traditional and Western elements.

The inequality on the marriage front doesn't just create problems on an individual level; it also has societal implications. While finding a spouse has become a battle in the cities, the number of unmarried men is quickly growing, especially in rural provinces.

"Guan Gun“ is the Chinese term for an unmarried man; translated word-for-word, it means "naked pole“.

Photos and text: Simon Tanner

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