李银河谈为何越来越多人选择单身 – Li Yinhe discusses why more and more people choose to remain single – English

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Statistics show that, over the past 15 years, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of single people around the world: it rose from 153 million in 1996 to 277 million in 2011, or a 81% increase. In the UK, one-person households accounted for 34% of all households; in the US, they accounted for 27%. In Switzerland, 47% of all households consisted of one person only, and in Norway, 40% of households have only one person. As far as Eastern countries are concerned, the proportion of single-person household in Japan has gone up to 30%. The latest trends suggest that there is a similar increase in the number of people living alone in China, India and Brazil. Currently, the number of young men and women of marriegable age living alone in China has gone over 10 million; and in Beijing and Shanghai, there is over 1 million single young men and women.

What brought about this wave of single people in today’s China? There are many diverse reasons for it. For some people, it is a voluntary choice; others are forced to remain single because they cannot find a suitable marriage partner; and the majority of people just goes with the flow, if they find a suitable marriage partner, they get married, but as long as they don’t, they remain single.

择其要,there are four main causes for the tide of single people:

First, the development of an individual culture and the rise of individualism as a value. A classic sociological summary of the differences between East and West is as follows: Western societies are individual based, Chinese society is family-based. For the former, individual happiness is the main value; for the latter, family interests are the main value. With the progress of modernisation and urbanisation process, individualism has become more important in Chinese urban culture, and individual happiness has become increasingly important in the mind of many people, especially the younger generation, whereas the importance of getting married and having children to carry the family line is no longer as important as it used to be. This is the main cause for the wave of single people, especially among those who voluntarily choose the single lifestyle.

The second is gender equality, and the participation of women in the social division of labour. The rise of women’s participation in the social division of labour since the 1950s has completely changed the status of Chinese women in the community and the status of marriage. 最主要的变化就是从依附于男性的男主外女主内模式改变为男女平等的模式,women have their own income, and can independently support themselves. 如果说在传统社会,结婚是女人唯一的生活来源和生活方式,now women have the possibility to choose a single lifestyle. 这也是单身浪潮的成因之一。

Third, 人类预期寿命提高与终身配偶关系的矛盾。In traditional society, life expectancy only extended to people’s 30s or 40s, so it was not difficult to to maintain a life-long marital relationship. But in contemporary society, life expectancy has rise to 78 years, 长期配偶关系与情感的变化及审美疲劳的矛盾凸显,unless there is passionate love between partners, many people will find themselves indifferent or even tired of each other. Even among partners who passionately love each other, emotional change is still possible. 而固定的婚姻关系日益成为人们情感和欲望流变的羁绊。The soaring divorce rate is evidence for it. And the high cost of divorce (material and mental) has deterred many people from the hopeof marriage. This is another cause for the wave of single people.

最后,生育崇拜和以延续后代作为生命主要价值的改变。In traditional China, people were basically atheist, but ancestor worship and concern for the family line were Chinese people’s most religiously coloured values. 人们会为生育后代赋予个体生命延续的意义。此外,在人年老丧失劳动能力之后,子女的赡养是老人唯一的生活来源和情感慰藉。In modern society, the value of reproduction has gone down, The system of universal social pension has gradually replaced the role of children as pension providers. And if you choose not to have children, the actual grounds for marriage are reduced by half. Voluntary infertility has become a possible choice, and a direct consequence of this choice is the increase in the number of single people.

As to the issue of evaluating the wave of single people, I think the first principle should be not to pass on moral judgements. In other words, not to judge whether this is a good or bad thing. 这是因为道德是一个随着时间和空间改变而不断改变的东西。From the point of view of a family-based morality, the rising wave of single people is a bad thing; but from the point of view of and individual-based morality, many people choosing to live single is not a bad thing, but a natural choice consistent with human nature, entirely within the scope of the rights of the individual, and an expression of their individual freedom. 我们应当庆幸生活在这样一个个人自由选择空间大大扩展的时代和社会,无论法律还是传统习俗都丧失了约束人们按照铁板一块的传统方式生活的力量。

Q: How do you see the psychological phenomenon of “impossibility to love”?

A: Two reasons. One is, from childhood, that one has not had much love education, and read too few romantic novels. The other, the lack of spiritual pursuit, and satisfaction with material and sensual pursuits only.

Q: Why do some people suddely fall in love then suddely break up, and then very quickly fall in love with a new person again?


Q: How to maintain love, and ultimately go towards marriage?

A: The general rule is that passion turns into tenderness, and the raging fire into a gentle trickle; only by achieving this transformation can a relationship ultimately turn into marriage.

Q: When you love someone, how should you maintain the distance between you and them? How can you make sure the other person does not feel alienated, and does not feel like they’ve lost their freedom?

A: 缔结婚约就是放弃了自由权利,因为婚姻要有忠诚承诺。要自由恋爱,可以离婚。如果既不想离婚,又想给对方自由,可以与配偶另行约定,比如约定双方可以在何种程度上接纳第三者。

Q: A lot of people are experimenting with pre-marital sex, what is your view on that?

A: There is a rising trend of pre-marital sex these days. Since it is impossible to prohibit pre-marital sex, the best thing to do is to ‘‘ not to ‘block it’. Sexual education should start at puberty at the latest, and when students cohabit, like at university, the school should teach them about contraception, rather than waiting to get pregnant, then get an abortion.

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Sources :

source: Discovery 123, 09 November 2012
source: Image source: Baidu

About julien.leyre

French-Australian writer, educator, sinophile. Any question? Contact [email protected]