Couples tie knot across Straits
Love finds ways to cross differences, report Sun Li and Hu Meidong in Jinjiang, Fujian.
Hong Shuangfei is often reluctant to discuss her marriage, even though it’s more than two decades since she tied the knot. The 39-year-old’s reluctance stems from the fact that recalling the circumstances of the wedding can still prompt self-conscious giggles.
“My parents initially opposed the marriage, and it was as though I’d won a game when they finally agreed,” she said, laughing.
The native of Weitou village in Fujian province first met Chen Ying-chao, who hails from Kinmen county in Taiwan, in 1992. Later that year, they took the plunge and Hong became the first woman from her village to marry a man from Taiwan.
The proximity of Weitou and Kinmen, and the shared fishing grounds, inevitably result in friendships springing up, and people from Taiwan regularly drop by to visit the mainland village.
“My husband was a regular guest of my father, and that was how we knew each other,” Hong said.
Although her father, Hong Jiancai, deemed Chen, who sold fishery products, to be a “good and able lad”, he had grave reservations about the proposed marriage.
His concerns stemmed from the fact that for many decades, Weitou was regarded as a fortress against Taiwan.
One- China policy
In the 1950s, the village was of immense strategic importance to the defense of the mainland in the event of an artillery attack by the Kuomintang, which fled to Taiwan in 1949 in the wake of their defeat in the Chinese civil war (1945-49). Indeed, in 1958 the village was almost reduced to rubble by a massive bombardment.
Hong Jiancai, a war hero and former militia leader, was worried that cross-Straits relations would become tense and fractious and have serious ramifications for his family. “If a war occurred someday, would my role as a former mainland soldier jeopardize my daughter’s situation in Taiwan? A conflict would probably mean that I would never see my daughter again,” he recalled.
When the two sides reached a consensus in 1992, in which both agreed to abide by the one-China policy, Hong Jiancai began to bank on peaceful relations and gave the green light for his daughter to marry Chen.
However, his wife, Jiang Meili, argued that cultural differences would make life in Kinmen hard for Hong Shuangfei. She was also concerned that she would lose contact with her daughter because of the difficulties experienced by mainlanders who wanted to travel to Taiwan.
“I allied with my father to convince my mother that things wouldn’t be that bad,” said Hong Shuangfei, adding she promised to visit her mother regularly, irrespective of the inconvenience.
“As it turned out, things were really not bad at all,” she said.
The links between Weitou and Kinmen are deep; the forefathers of many Kinmen residents hailed from southern Fujian and so the language, food and culture are similar. “Even our god is the same. We all worship Mazu, the Chinese goddess of the sea,” said Hong Shuangfei. However, she remembered that one of the few problems she encountered after relocating was that some people in Taiwan didn’t understand the mainland very well.
“Many people came to check on me and were surprised that I actually looked nice. They thought people from the mainland were all hillbillies,” she said, adding that she wanted to take them to the mainland to see the reality for themselves, but was discouraged by the travel difficulties. wed men from Taiwan and more than 30 of them have moved to Kinmen. Others have settled in Penghu, Kaohsiung and Taichung.
While Hong Shuangfei has never regretted her decision, not every mainland bride has enjoyed married life in Taiwan.
Most of the first batch of mainland brides married veteran Kuomintang soldiers. Those men unable to find spouses in Taiwan were allowed to return to their hometowns after 1987, when the mainland and Taiwan resumed interpersonal relations, to look for brides.
“Most mainland brides married former soldiers and were much younger than their husbands. Many of those women were divorcees who wanted to change their lives through marriage,” said Lu Yuexiang, chairperson of the Chinese Production Party, a political party in Taiwan that focuses on equality and rights for mainland brides and other new arrivals.
Lu, 49, from Longyan in Fujian, was one of the earliest mainland brides to arrive in Taiwan and although she didn’t marry a veteran but a businessman she had met through a matchmaker in 1992, she had a hard time fitting in during the early years.
Long-standing cross-Straits confrontations, allied to social and economic differences, meant mainland brides often faced discrimination. Some Taiwan residents considered the
Hong Shuangfei, with her son and father, walks on the beach at her hometown in Weitou, Fujian province. She travels from Kinmen regularly to visit her parents.
Some of the 35 women from Chongqing who have married men from Taiwan.