The Daily Telegraph

China’s ‘Montagues and Capulets’ end marriage ban

- By Nicola Smith ASIA Correspond­ent

A CENTURIES-LONG ban on intermarri­age among people from rival Chinese villages has been lifted after two months of peace talks.

The history of animosity between four neighbouri­ng villages in Guangdong province had led to a modern day “Romeo and Juliet” situation where couples were forced to conceal their relationsh­ips.

Ancestral rules passed from generation to generation over 200 years warned young lovers in the region not to invoke a curse by getting married, the South China Morning Post reported.

In the past people would go to great lengths to cover up a “forbidden” relationsh­ip and meet in secret to keep their relatives in the dark.

The long-standing feud between the residents of Chaqiao, Meidong, Meixi and Xialiu was finally resolved by officials and marked by simultaneo­us grand ceremonies in their ancestral halls last month.

The breakthrou­gh came after peace talks involving village elders, academics and Communist Party officials. Hostility between the settlement­s can be traced back to the Ming and Qing dynasties from 1368-1911.

It is said to have started over conflicts about land and water.

News of the end of the feud was met with bemusement on social media. “I can’t believe the villagers could not marry freely until recently. They are contempora­ry Romeos and Juliets,” said one user.

In recent years, many Chinese villages with historical disagreeme­nts have establishe­d more friendly ties.

The thawing in relations coincides with a looming demographi­c crisis as many young people are delaying starting a family for financial reasons.

The number of marriages in China has declined for nine consecutiv­e years. Figures released in June showed that only 6.8 million couples tied the knot last year, compared with 13.5 million in 2013.

Increasing levels of education and financial independen­ce among young women have also been cited as reasons for the drop in marriages.

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