16-Year-Old Chinese Girl To Marry 34-Year-Old “Uncle”

16-year-old Wen Wen sits beside her possible husband, 34-year-old Deng Changjiang.
When bringing up how she fell in love with Deng Changjiang, Wen Wen laughs bashfully.
16-year-old Wen Wen sits beside her possible husband, 34-year-old Deng Changjiang.
When bringing up how she fell in love with Deng Changjiang, Wen Wen laughs bashfully.

From Chongqing Evening News:

In order to improve their situation through unity, Wanzhou 16-year-old young girl marries 34-year-old “uncle”

Young Girl:

He is steady with the motorcycle, and because he lives close by, we can take care of both families


Both families are poor, so it would be better for them to unite into one family to help each other.

Women’s Federation:

If a wedding banquet is held, will communicate and educate them on the laws.

In Huangxian Village of Longju Town of Wanzhou District, 34-year-old unmarried Deng Changjiang and a 16-year-old young girl from the same village are engaged and cohabitating, and will hold a wedding banquet according to local custom at the end of the month. With regard to this, both state: It is completely voluntary/consensual. Both of them come from poor families, the matchmaker who coordinated this marriage said: “Both families are poor, so it would be better for them to unite into one family to help each other.”

The local Women’s Federation state that if they fell in love and marry of their own free will, they will not interfere. However, if the two of them want to hold a wedding banquet, after conducting an investigation and confirming [that it is consensual], they will communicate and educate both sides on “Marriage Law”, “Juvenile Protection Law”, “Women’s Rights Protection Law”, and similar laws and family planning policies.

Deng Changjiang and his cousin.
Deng Changjiang (left) and his family and friends all believe it is mutual love.

34-year-old single man

Dropped out of school after graduating primary school

Father deceased, mother blind. In a impoverished mountain valley, it is difficult to find a wife

Deng Changjiang, 34-years-old, lives in the second group of Huangxian Village of Longju Town. Longju Town is about 18 kilometers away from Deng’s home, which includes nearly 10 kilometers of the 318 national highway, around 5 kilometers of tractor road, around 4 kilometers of a newly excavated road for motorcycles only, and around 1 kilometer of fields.

From his home to the town, one has to first walk around 4 kilometers of mountain roads and climb over a garbage dump before reaching the village. When there is good weather and one can take a motorcycle for part of the distance, one can reach the town in half an hour. However, if one encounters rainy weather, one has to walk the entire path up the mountain, and going to the town will take at least two and a half hours.

In the past in this mountain valley, there were 10 families, but now most of them have relocated onto the mountain, into the town, or into the city. The most valuable thing in Deng Changjiang’s family is that motorcycle, worth over 6000 yuan. Because of a trade-in, he only had to spend over 2000 yuan, but this takes up one year’s worth of his income raising cattle.

Around 6pm the day before yesterday, when this reporter found Deng Changjiang’s home, he happened to be at the front washing sweet potatoes, a meal for two pigs. His family can produce two pigs and one cow each year.

“6 years ago, my father passed away, and my mother lost her sight due to cataracts and needs someone to take care of her, so how could I leave!” Deng Changjiang said. After graduating from elementary school, he dropped out. Previously, people have tried to match him with a wife, but the female side all felt that his home was difficult to reach, that his family’s situation was poor, and would not even give him a chance.

Wen Wen's mother and father.
Wen Wen's parents home is not far from Deng's home.

16-year-old young girl

Dropped out of school in 2nd grade

Mother sick, father weak. The farthest place she’s ever been to was the town

16-year-old young girl Wen Wen (pseudonym) and Deng Changjiang are neighbors in the same village, the two families can even shout and communicate with each other, but because few people have passed through, the village road long ago became overgrown with weeds half as tall as a person, so one must over 1 kilometer following a brook to go between the two homes. Wen Wen’s mother suffers from epilepsy and often has seizures, while her 50+ year old father Wen Benfu’s body is weak, making it difficult for him to work. Longju Town is the furthest place she has ever been to.

Wen Wen’s family of three’s main source of income is a government subsistence allowance [a kind of social security], and apart from this, raising pigs: “But next year’s subsistence allowance, I don’t know why but it has been canceled” Wen Benfu and his wife are together starting a fire to cook, saving the left over charcoal each day to carry into the town each month, each half kilogram worth 6 jiao [0.6 RMB], to exchange for some cooking oil, salt, and laundry detergent.

Huangxian Village once had a village elementary school, with the sounds of children attending class. The village elementary school used to be near Deng’s Changjiang’s home. Back then, Wen Wen attended school at that village elementary school, but she did not like studying, and wouldn’t go even if her father hit her with a stick. She dropped out just after finishing second grade.

After dropping out, Wen Wen still liked to go play near the school, and Deng Changjiang’s place was also somewhere she often went. A villager said, “Play and play and eventually she ended up living there, becoming their wife/daughter-in-law.” According to their ages, Wen Wen can call Deng Changjiang “uncle”.

“I chose the coat, he gave the money.” Sitting in Deng Changjiang’s kitchen, Wen Wen is wearing a pink coat on top, her two cheeks bright red, and shyly laughed: “He is steady with the motorcycle, and because he lives close by, we can take care of both families.”

Wen Wen and matchmarker Zou Shenglun.
It was through a matchmaker's introduction that Wen Wen and Deng Changjiang established their relationship.

They are already living together, but claim they have not yet held hands

In Wen Wen and Deng Changjiang’s minds, their relationship began when the matchmaker officially went between the two side’s parents. When matchmaker Mr. Zou went to Wen Wen’s home to communicate the other side’s intentions, it was the this year’s rice harvesting season.

“Wen Wen often came to my house to play. At such a young age, she was already able to help with some housework, and is very kind-hearted. I too am not young anymore and want to start a family,” Deng Changjiang said. So, according to custom, he had the Zou Shenglun in the village propose marriage to Wen Wen’s parents.

Soon Wen Wen began living in Deng Changjiang’s home. They said, after moving in, Wen Wen helped the Deng family with the housework, and Deng Changjiang also often helps the Wen family do some work that requires a lot of strength. When the matter of how their relationship developed, they said they haven’t even held each others’ hands, but after shaking their heads, both appeared to be secretly giggling.

Reporter mistaken by Deng family to have come to steal [their son’s] wife

Right when this reporter arrived at Deng’s home, a middle-aged man brought out an old lady, the two of them demanding, “What are you guys here for? It is none of your business! If you don’t explain, don’t plan on leaving this valley.”

Only after this reporter explained the reason for coming did they reveal they were Deng Changjiang’s collateral relatives who live in Longju: “We were afraid you were here also to steal [Deng Changjiang’s] wife, to cause trouble, and specially rushed here to help.”

Deng Changjiang’s cousin said they need to be on their guard now, that as long as strangers enter the village, the moment they enter the village someone will tell them. “This is why we want to hold the banquet as soon as possible, to tell those matchmakers who want to separate them that she already has a husband she is satisfied with,” Deng Changjiang’s aunt-in-law said.

Deng Changjiang says they plan to hold the banquet at the end of the month together with his mother’s big 70th birthday. “We definitely won’t be able to get a marriage certificate [now], but 3 and a half years later when she is 20, we’ll go get it then.”

Wen Wen helping cook at the Deng family home.
Wen Wen is very hard-working in the Deng home, normally helping with some housework.

Young girl:

He is steady with the motorcycle, and because he lives close by, we can take care of both families

Sitting on Wen Wen’s left hand side, this big brother that will soon “marry” her, is someone Wen Wen has known for a long time. When she ditched school in elementary school, Wen Wen would often go play near Deng Changjiang’s home. After Deng Changjiang bought a motorcycle about 6 years ago, Wen Wen would occasionally take Deng Changjiang’s motorcycle to the town.

“At first, he would charge me money, but later he would sometimes charge and sometimes not charge,” Wen Wen said. She thought the reason Deng Changjiang didn’t charge was because they were neighbors who help each other out, and because of this she sometimes would help the Deng family do some work too in repayment.

“He is steady with the motorcycle.” Wen Wen also doesn’t know whether or not the man before her can bring her a happy life, but she candidly says: “We live close by, can take care of both families, so my mother and old man can feel at ease a bit.”

“Big brother”:

She is a hard-worker, and doesn’t look down on me as being poor

“When a boy and girl grows up, they should marry. I am already almost 35-years-old, and still a single man,” Deng Changjiang himself seems very helpless towards his single status. “Seeing others all go out to make money as laborers, moving out of the impoverished mountain valley, he is not very happy inside.”

“The longer one remains a bachelor, the less girls are willing to come consider you as a marriage partner.” Deng Changjiang believes 30-year-old bachelors in the countryside have it worse than 40-year-old bachelors in the cities. With regards to the girl willing to marry him beside him, Deng Changjiang is extremely satisfied: “Though Wen Wen is like me poorly educated, she is a hard-worker, and the key thing is that she won’t look down on me as being poor. I hope that after we become a family, our circumstances will quickly get better, and we can overcome our hardships.”

Wen Wen in the middle, her father on the left (?), and Deng Changjiang on the right.
It was through a matchmaker's introduction that Deng Changjiang and Wen Wen established their relationship.

Male matchmaker:

Both families are poor, it would be better to unite and help each other.

Fellow villager Zou Shenglun told this reporter that according to local custom, women always take the role of matchmaker, yet Wen Wen and Deng Changjiang’s matchmaker was him, a man, making it difficult for him right from the start too, but he still handled it. Zou Shenglun said that in their impoverished mountain valley, with Deng Changjiang’s family’s poverty so obvious, where could one find a wife willing to marry into his family?! And who would be willing to take on the burden of Wen Wen’s parents’ illness?

“Both families are poor, so it would be better for them to unite into one family to help each other,” Zou Changjiang said. This was the main reason he did all that he could do to match together this marriage, and the parents of both parties have verbally agreed to the engagement. As for the details of the engagement, both the male and female parties as well as the matchmaker are unwilling to speak of.

Girl’s mother: Baby is grown up now, can’t control her anymore

During the interviews, Wen Wen’s father Wen Benfu wasn’t very talkative. He did not clearly indicate whether he supports or is opposed to this marriage. “Off at her husband’s place! Very rarely comes back.” Amongst these few words, he has already regarded the Deng family as Wen Wen’s husband’s family.

Wen Wen’s mother expressed, “My baby is grown up now, has two feet, we can’t control her anymore, just hope she doesn’t suffer any misfortune.”

Deng Changjiang's 70-year-old blind mother.
Deng Changjiang's soon to be 70-year-old mother.

Man’s mother: Good! Good! Extremely good!

Deng Changjiang’s mother will soon be 70-years-old, and even though she can’t see what Wen Wen looks like, she still continuously says, “Extremely well-behaved! Likes to help, very hard-worker!” With regards to her son being able to find a wife, the old lady even more happily says, “Good! Good! Extremely good!”

Women’s Federation:

If they get engaged before she is of age, we will seek to educate and persuade

Director Zhang of the Longju Town’s Women’s Federation said that if the two are having a relationship and both sides are consensual, as long as the female party is 14 years of age, even if they are cohabitating, they are unable to intervene. However because Wen Wen and Deng Changjiang’s marriage involves a minor as the female party, if after an investigation that the engagement is true, they will seek to educate and persuade [against the marriage].

“The People’s Republic of China Minor Protection Law” clearly forbids minors from getting engaged, with article 15 stipulating: The parents or other guardians must not allow or compel a minor to get married, or establish a marriage agreement for the minor.

Article 62 stipulates: If the parents or guardians do not lawfully carry out their responsibilities as guardians, or violate the minor’s lawful rights and interest, other present organizations or resident committees/villagers’ committees shall admonish and intervene; and behavior that constitutes a violation of public security administration shall be lawfully punished by the public security organ.

As a member of this newspaper’s legal counsel, Han Zun Law Firm director and lawyer Shen Rengang explained that from the perspective of the law, minors do not have full civil capacity, so even if they consent to the marriage, it does not have legal effect, while the “Minors Protection Law” forbids parents from arranging marriage for minors.

What can we do for them?

Two poverty-stricken families, one family lacking labor, the other family lacking someone to manage the housework, them rushing to create a [combined] “family”, if only to “unite to help each other”.

If both parties were adults, we would definitely wish them well. But when it involves a 16-year-old young girl’s fate, it becomes an awkward topic.

How do we crack this difficult problem? Of course, we hope the local Women’s Federation’s education and persuasion will eventually be effective, putting off this “wedding banquet” that never should have been held at this time. Simultaneously, we hope everyone will offer some ideas, on how they can emerge from their present difficulties and hardships.

Abridged or excerpted versions of this news story have appeared on China Daily, Tiexue, QQ, and many other websites.

Comments from Tiexue:


As long as there is warmth [love between the two people, working together making each others lives better], who cares about the age. It’s at least more real than those so-called experts who find girls from their granddaughter’s generation.


Doesn’t the news always say peasants/farmers are now all relatively well off?


Hope they will be happy.


Indeed [their lives are] very difficult…but as long as they can be happy!!


Why is this girl constantly laughing like an idiot? She doesn’t have any mental problems, does she~~!!?


Sadness caused by poverty.

What qualifications do we have as people who have enough food and clothes [the basic necessities of life] to deny them what may be real happiness. Let’s wish them happiness/good fortune!


No one cares if they starve to death, yet there are people who care whether or not they have reached marrying age!


This is just an isolated phenomenon, though in society’s lowest levels there are indeed many poverty-stricken families who find it difficult just to feed themselves! Those who have actually been to those impoverished areas know just how unbelievably hard their lives are!!

Comments from QQ:


In the cities, there are 60-year-old men who keep 18-year-old mistresses…the difference is even larger, how come no one reports those?


The children of poor people grow up fast! In sadness, I wish them the best/happiness/good fortune! The Women’s Federation should preach less and provide more practical help and support, helping them escape poverty sooner, like helping their elderly with medical care! Wielding the law talking idly rather than going to do some practical work providing help and support, this kind of government department would be better not existing than existing.


At least that girl is smiling happily. At least the a family is smiling happily. This is enough.


The wealth gap is so terrible. The impoverished areas are truly too poor.

乱つ是 佳人:

Ignorant and more ignorant, at 16-years-old what does she know? Is today’s China really this poor? I’m speechless.


I think more people will be moved by the poverty in the photographs. After so many years following the reform and opening [of China], how severely polarized [between rich and poor] it is. What the ordinary common people hate is not poverty, but unfairness!


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Fauna is a mysterious young Shanghainese girl who lives in the only place a Shanghainese person would ever want to live: Shanghai. In mid-2008, she started chinaSMACK to combine her hobby of browsing Chinese internet forums with her goal of improving her English. Through her tireless translation of popular Chinese internet news and phenomenon, her English has apparently gotten dramatically better. At least, reading and writing-wise. Unfortunately, she's still not confident enough to have written this bio, about herself, by herself.


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