The Problem of Rising Bride Prices in China’s Bare Branch Villages

Within a timeframe of 17 years, bride prices in China’s rural areas have increased more than sixty-fold. For many unmarried men in relatively poor provinces such as Gansu, marriage has now become an unattainable goal.

You found the ideal future spouse, but you can’t afford to marry her – this is an increasingly common problem in China’s so-called ‘bare branch villages’ (光棍村), where thousands of unmarried men are in desperate search of a wife, but cannot come up with the staggering bride prices needed in order to marry the few eligible single village women.

The topic of the bride prices in ‘bare branch villages’ (光棍村) became trending on Weibo on February 15, as Chinese news outlet Kanka News reported the extreme marriage market situation in a village near Qingyang, Gansu.

According to the report, some village men had been unsuccessfully trying to find a wife for 18 years. But the shortage of women in their area and the year-on-year increase of bride prices have made their pursuit extremely difficult.

A 24-year-old man from the Jiao village in Gansu told Kanka News that in the 7 years he has been searching to find a wife, he only once reached the stage of actually negotiating the bride price. But when the bride’s family asked for 180.000 RMB (±26.000$) and he could only afford 120.000 (±17.400$), the marriage plans were canceled.

“Isn’t it time to rethink things when marriages are becoming similar to auctions?”, some commenters said on Weibo.

“It’s scary to think how many gender-based abortions took place in these villages years ago, and now there’s this problem,” other netizens responded.

Many Weibo users think that the difficulties facing young male villagers today is a direct result of what happened after the implementation of the One Child Policy and sex-selective abortions.

“This is what it means when they say what goes around, comes around,” some say.

See more about this topic in our latest weivlog .

– By Manya Koetse
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Sources and Further Reading

Kanka News (in Chinese)
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About the author: Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, Sino-Japanese relations and gender issues. Contact at, or follow on Twitter.


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