Zhang Ning, an orthodontist in Beijing, recalls the night she met Wang Hai after just breaking up with her boyfriend of three years. Her colleague played matchmaker and set them up on a date.
Despite only knowing each other for a short time, they hit it off and started seeing each other frequently. One night, while discussing marriage, Wang proposed to Zhang, and four days later, they obtained a marriage license. Their quick marriage is known as “lightning marriage” or “shanhun/闪婚” in China.
The phenomenon of lightning marriages is gaining popularity in China, with research showing that 45.2 percent of married people born between 1980 and 1992 tied the knot after dating for a year or less.
（Thinking about marrying your Chinese partner soon? These benefits you should know.)
Why Chinese Married Quickly?
1. Work-Life Balance and Practical Considerations
Relationship counselor Chen Zhilin attributes this trend to job-related stress and practical considerations about marriage. Pressures at work often make people hyper-focused on their careers until a certain age when the desire to get married arises.
Additionally, more Chinese people are viewing marriage as a pooling of resources, where each partner brings their own advantages to the relationship, rather than solely relying on emotional attachment.
As a result, once a suitable match is found, some couples are choosing to get married quickly, even if they have only known each other for a short time.
For example, Amy and John, both successful professionals in their late 30s, meet at a business conference and feel an instant connection. They both have demanding jobs that leave them with limited time for dating and relationships.
However, they realize that they share similar values, life goals, and are compatible with each other. Despite only knowing each other for a few weeks, they decide to get married as they see it as a practical step towards building a life together and supporting each other’s careers.
They obtain a marriage license within a month and have a small, intimate wedding ceremony. For Amy and John, their lightning marriage is a way to navigate their busy lives and prioritize their relationship, knowing that they have found a suitable partner to share their future with.
The survey conducted by the National Health and Family Planning Commission in China had a sample size of 77,045 respondents, while the BrideBox report in the US had a sample size of 2,072 women aged 18 to 45.
|Average Length of Relationship Before Marriage
|National Health and Family Planning Commission (China)
|About 1 year (11 months for males, 13 months for females)
|BrideBox report (US)
|44 months or about 3.5 years
The disparity in average relationship length before marriage between China and the US may reflect differences in cultural norms, societal expectations, and personal preferences when it comes to marriage.
Chinese culture may place more emphasis on getting married sooner, while in the US, couples may choose to have longer courtships before tying the knot.
There is societal pressure for women to get married before the age of 25. If a woman does not get married before this age, she may be labeled as a “leftover girl” or “剩女” in Chinese, which can lead to concerns from her parents and relatives.
Many parents see getting married and settling down as their last responsibility towards their children. They may also help their children buy an apartment and support them in starting a family.
Younger women are believed to be able to bear healthier children, and having children early is seen as crucial for women. As a result, women are encouraged to get married no later than the age of 27 to ensure they have enough time to have children.
3. Historical Reason
For many generations, Chinese parents traditionally arranged their children’s marriages based on the concept of “matching doors and windows”, which assessed the social and economic compatibility of the couple.
As a result, “marrying first, then falling in love” was a common reality for many couples, who would gradually learn about each other after getting married. This concept of practicality in marriage, rather than solely for romantic love, has persisted for decades and is still held by many Chinese parents today.
4. Traditional Beliefs
Traditional beliefs about virginity and purity also contribute to the rush to get married. Some men in China still place a high value on marrying a virgin and may prefer younger women whom they perceive as more innocent and pure.
These beliefs are often based on outdated theories like telegony, which claims that characteristics of a previous sexual partner can be passed on to a child, despite lack of scientific evidence.
Women may feel that marriage is a necessary accomplishment in life and a way to improve their social status. Despite societal progress, there is still prevalent sexism in Chinese society, with discriminatory practices in education and employment.
Women may feel the need to secure a good marriage as a means to have a better life and overcome these challenges. Some women may even feel that their value diminishes after the age of 25, likening themselves to a “Christmas tree” that is no longer in demand.
It is important to note that these societal and cultural factors contribute to the trend of fast marriages in China, and it would be unfair to solely blame women for this phenomenon.
Chinese society is still grappling with issues of gender equality, and discriminatory practices in education and employment further perpetuate the pressure on women to get married at a young age.
Rural, low-income individuals: Living in the boonies and facing financial constraints can make it harder for individuals to find suitable partners and bear the financial burden of a traditional Chinese wedding and married life.
LGBTQ+ individuals: Despite increasing awareness and acceptance, China’s traditional cultural values and societal norms still pose challenges for LGBTQ+ individuals in finding acceptance and marriage opportunities.
Older individuals: In Chinese culture, there is a ticking biological clock and pressure to get married and have children early in life. Those who are older and have not yet tied the knot may face societal pressure and may be seen as less desirable candidates for marriage.
Individuals with disabilities: While efforts have been made to promote inclusivity and acceptance, individuals with disabilities may still face challenges in finding suitable partners and navigating societal attitudes towards disability and marriage.
Highly career-oriented individuals: In China’s competitive job market, individuals who prioritize their careers and are focused on professional success may have less time and energy for dating and marriage, making them less likely to settle down.