Shifts in Marriage Finance from the Sixth to the Thirteenth Century

Patricia Buckley Ebrey

in Marriage and Inequality in Chinese Society

Published by University of California Press

Published in print April 1991 | ISBN: 9780520069305
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520910454 | DOI:
Shifts in Marriage Finance from the Sixth to the Thirteenth Century

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A marriage in China, as in most places, normally involved some financial outlay by both the husband's and the wife's families and therefore some redistribution of wealth. This chapter is concerned with marriage outlays that made a substantial economic difference to the two families. Demands for lavish betrothal gifts began to be heard among aristocratic families from the late fifth century on; a few centuries later, demands for substantial dowries were made by the families of the Sung (960–1279) upper class. The motivations for these marriages were by no means simply economic—the marriages sealed with these transfers of property brought prestige and connections to affines. The chapter shows how the tangible financial benefits and less tangible benefits of honor and connections worked together in these two periods, and also explains how the shift in the balance of marriage finance related to the changed political and economic environment of the ruling elite.

Keywords: China; marriage outlays; betrothal gifts; aristocratic families; dowries; Sung dynasty

Chapter.  16869 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology

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