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August 18, 2009

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Image of 'ideal marriage' changes

ZHANG Zhigang beamed with pleasure in talking of his three-year marriage with Qu Yali.

"She is not a belle, but kind and supportive," said the 31-year-old Zhang, owner of an education and training center in Nantong, east China's Jiangsu Province.

Graduating from Tsinghua University in 2000 and then earning his advanced degree from a Canadian university, Zhang came back to China to seek a suitable job.

"At that hard time, I met Yali who made a difference to my life," Zhang said.

"As a decently paid English teacher, she didn't hesitate to pay for our house and car mortgages."

She even offered her savings to help start his business.

Qu said she was also satisfied with Zhang, who while not necessarily good-looking, earned a moderate but stable salary and, most importantly, was family-oriented.

Zhou Xiaozheng, head of the Sociology and Law Institute at Renmin University, said this signaled that young people now saw marriage in a different way.

Historically Chinese women did housework while depending on men to be the breadwinners. Even in modern times, some women welcome an old saying that "to marry well is better than to work well."

But there is a growing agreement that quality of life means more than just marrying rich men.

Women put additional criteria on judging good husbands, such as doing family chores, rearing children and being warm-hearted and considerate.

A close friend to Qu, Xu Xin, quit her job to be a housewife when she married a well-heeled businessman. Her husband is on constant trips and hardly attends to the family.

"Zhang Zhigang is not rich, but he cares for his wife more," said Xu. "I am now regretting my choice a little."

Jin Danlei, 25, a single woman, said: "Although many girls dream of meeting elite and handsome men for husbands, I prefer an average man who puts family values over money."

Women like Qu are also willing to lend a hand to their husbands in boosting their careers.

"I gave all my savings to him to start a new business because I was sure he had the potential for success," Qu said. "We can support each other both spiritually and financially."

An online survey conducted by China Survey at this month showed that 67.3 percent of men were comfortable with wives who can support their careers.

"She gives me understanding rather than complaints," Zhang said. "Her encouragement is a source of my confidence."

Professor Zhang Yiwu of Peking University said: "Zhang and Qu represent a successful case of marriage. They share both romance and life's burdens."

"Both spouses playing on an equal footing reflects a kind of social progress."


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