The Ugly Wife Is a Treasure at Home


The Ugly Wife Is a Treasure at Home

True Stories of Love and Marriage in Communist China

Melissa Margaret Schneider

304 pages


August 2014


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August 2014


$18.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

“The ugly wife is a treasure at home” is not just an idle expression in China. For centuries, Chinese marriage involved matchmakers, child brides, dowries, and concubines, until the People’s Republic of China was established by Mao Zedong and his Communist Party in 1949. Initially encouraging citizens to reject traditional arranged marriages and wed for love, the party soon spurned ”the sin of putting love first,” fearful that romantic love would distract good Communists from selflessly carrying out the State’s agenda. Under Mao, the party established the power to approve or reject proposed marriages, to dictate where couples would live, and to determine if they would live together. By the 1960s and 1970s, romantic love had become a counterrevolutionary act punishable by “struggle sessions” or even imprisonment. The importance of Chinese sons, however, did not wane during Mao’s thirty-year regime. As such, in a world where nobody spoke of love, 99 percent of young women still married.
The Ugly Wife Is a Treasure at Home draws the reader into the world of love in Communist China through the personal memories of those who endured the Cultural Revolution and the generations that followed. This collection of intimate and remarkable stories gives readers a rare view of Chinese history, social customs, and Communism from the perspective of today’s ordinary citizens.

Author Bio

MELISSA MARGARET SCHNEIDER is an American couples’ therapist, writer, and the founder of She wrote this book while living overseas in Shenzhen, China. She currently lives in the New York City area with her husband. 


“Melissa Schneider brings us an intriguing look into China's love culture.”—Natalie Tso, host of Eye on China on Radio Taiwan International

“These fascinating interviews not only reveal how some Chinese men and women are struggling to reconcile old marital norms with new sexual and relationship trends, but also shed light on the cultural origins and variability of many emotional patterns we sometimes see as universal.”—Stephanie Coontz, author of Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage

“This excellent book provides an insider’s view and intimate portrait of how real Chinese people of different generations perceive love and marriage. It is an exceptionally vivid and compassionate examination of love stories in contemporary China with universal relevance.”—Eva Lingxiao Yang, journalist with China News Service

Table of Contents

Note on Pronunciation
Introduction: Who Wants an Ugly Wife?
Prologue: Rooster Weddings, Second Wives, and Little Feet
Chang Xing
Part 1. The 1950s Generation: When Love Didn’t Exist
[1]Love after Revolution
Jack Chou
[2]We Didn’t Know What Love Was
Lucy Lai
[3]The Three Wives of a Former (Teenage) Intelligence Operative
Tom Liu
[4]The First Group Wedding in Zhengzhou
Ma Yajing
[5]The “Old Hand” Man
Mr. Yang
Part 2. The 1960s Generation: Forbid the Early Love
[6]Marriage Is Nothing Special
Ziu Shouhe and Lin Chunjiao
[7]Wearing White for Chairman Mao
Xu Kiwi
[8]The Boy with the Baby-Raise-Wife
Liu Wumin
[9]My Reasons for Hating My Father
Wen “Ayi”
[10]A Good Fortune-Teller and Three Tips for Concealing Your Outside Woman
Mr. Zhang and Mr. Wu
[11]You Know Your Boyfriend Is Married If . . .
“Big Carol”
Part 3. The 1970s Generation: Sex and Love . . . or Marriage?
[12]My Lover’s Name Is Sam
[13]For One Tree, Do Not Sacrifice the Forest
[14]Shenzhen Marriage Park: Want Ads of Last Resort
[15]The Ultimate Perfect Happiness as a Stay-at-Home Mom
[16]A Man Who Could Speak His Own Name
Chou Xiao
Part 4. The 1980s Generation: Reform and Opening Up of the Heart
Ben Wang
[18]Six Times Love
Pan Shanshan
[19]Everyone Knows That a Girl Shouldn’t Like a Girl
[20]A Wife of Noble Character, Who Can Find?
Lightly Chanchan
[21]A Tale of Two Sisters: Arranged Marriages and Secret Boyfriends
[22]She Cut Out My Chicken Eyes
Part 5. The 1990s Generation: Unguided Love
[23]The Buddhist Oracle Said “No Boyfriends”
[24]I Thought We Would Be Together Forever
Ethan Li Mingwen
[25]I Thought to Myself
Yu Lihe
[26]A Conventional Man
Will Guo Pingyou
[27]There Are Three Kinds of Chinese Parents
Emma Yang Xichi and Peony Li Dandan
Appendix: Timeline of Recent Chinese History
Selected Bibliography

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