from “Rethinking cousin marriage in rural China”:

“This article considers cousin marriage rules among affines in rural Chinese culture, based on research in Hubei Province….

“Studies during the last several decades have proposed different explanations of cousin marriage among Chinese, but none provides an accurate and comprehensive principle to explain the rules that guide the selection of marriage partners among relatives in rural Chinese society….

“For the Chinese, qinqi (affines) are relationships created through marriage, and are sharply distinguished from members of one’s own lineage. In the kinship terminology, patrilateral parallel cousins are tang (FBS and FBD), but all patrilateral cross-cousins, matrilateral cross-cousins, and matrilateral parallel cousins are biao (remote) relatives for Ego, male or female.

“Marriage within the lineage, especially FBD marriage [father’s brother’s daughter marriage], is treated like marriage between kin and tantamount to sibling marriage. Because this type of marriage is strictly forbidden, both in custom and in law, it does not need attention here. (2) But marriages between other types of first cousins are regarded quite differently. FZD [father’s sister’s daughter marriage], MBD [mother’s brother’s daughter marriage], and MZD marriages [mother’s sister’s daughter marriage] for a male ego have usually been referred to as biao or zhong-biao (outside) marriages. Although the marriage rules that prevailed during the dynastic era of China’s history generally tolerated such marriages (Li 1950:99-100), they have been prohibited for genetic reasons in both mainland China and Taiwan since the 1980s (Tao, Wang, and Ge 1988:313; Liang 1995:14). In practice, however, this type of marriage continues in a great many villages (Wu, Yang, and Wang 1990:330).

Previous research indicates considerable regional variation in attitudes and preferences related to biao marriages. For example, in both Kaixiangong Village in Jiangsu Province, where Fei (1939) did fieldwork, and Phoenix Village in Guangdong Province, which Kulp (1925) studied, MBD marriage was preferred and FZD marriage frowned upon (Fei 1939:50-51; Kulp 1925:168). According to Hsu (1945:91), the people of West Town in Yunnan Province favored MBD marriage, tolerated MZD marriage, but disapproved of FZD marriage. On the basis of his fieldwork and that of Fei and Kulp, Hsu (1945:100) makes the generalization that MBD marriage is preferred all over China, whereas in most regions FZD marriage is not….

Controversy remains, however, as to whether among cousin marriages MBD marriage is preferred in every region of China. Freedman (1958:98-99), for example, contends that MBD marriage is not prevalent everywhere in China and certainly not in southeast China. Gallin (1963), based on his research in a Taiwanese village, considers that in China MZD marriage is not considered particularly problematic, and that MBD marriage is preferred over FZD marriage. Furthermore, MBD marriages are not favored so much as simply permitted, and FZD marriages tend to meet with disapproval more often than with tolerance. Gallin (1963:108) suggests that in some regions MBD marriages may be actively preferred, but in general they are merely considered acceptable.”

so historically — which is a loooong time in china — cousin marriage was very much a part of chinese marriage practices. but it sounds like the types and frequencies varied between regions — and prolly over time, too. china’s a big place, after all.

that’s why i questioned kirin, et. al.’s statement:

“This is not surprising because both of these groups [europeans and east asians] are mainly represented here by fairly large populations with no documented preference for consanguineous marriage.”

if they mean now — well, yessort-of. if they mean at all historically — and by that i mean anytime before the mid-twentieth century — then, no. that’s just not right.

i don’t have acess to the above article, but i’m gonna order it, so i’ll post more about chinese cousin marriage sometime soon(-ish). (^_^)

previously: china today… and what else happened during the middle ages? and china and landlordism and chinese kinship terms…

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