Love knows no boundaries or so an old saying goes. Whoever said this probably forgot to take into account the strict and universally recognized prohibition on members of an immediate family that forbids them to engage in romantic love. The incest taboo is most commonly observed in the restraint of sexual relations between father and daughter, mother and son, and brother and sister (Ember, Ember,  Peregrine, 2002). The practice is found in almost all recent cultures, save for the ancient Egyptian society which specifically allows intermarriages in Pharaohs royalty. The said practice is in line with the belief that the Pharaoh and his family are deities and therefore they should not commingle with ordinary mortals. Ember and Ember (2002) offers at least five plausible explanations for the existence of incest taboochildhood-familiarity theory, Freuds psychoanalytic theory, family-disruption theory, cooperation theory and the in-breeding theory. However, the Chinese has viewed incest taboo in a different and rather negative light and hence it has developed a practice intended to circumvent the incest taboo.

The article I have chosen to review explores the Chinese custom of arranged marriages called tung-yang-hsi (literally daughter-in-law raised from childhood) or for Hokkien speakers, sim-pua (literally little daughter in law). Reverend Justus Doolittle has narrated the practice as in the following manner. When a female infant is born to a poor family and her parents decide that they do not have enough resources to raise her, the latter makes a deal with a relative or a family friend wherein the little girl (usually as young as possible or until the child is two years old) is given away gratuitously or for a valuable consideration. The receiving family accepts the female child so she will marry the former son who is not yet betrothed for marriage. The little girl is then brought into the household of her young future husband and they are raised together in the same family. In sum, this practice is about the parents adopting a future daughter-in-law for their own biological sons.
When the time comes that they have reached the suitable age for marriage, a ceremony will be conducted. However it will be a somehow modified wedding and certain practices are done away with like the distribution of bridal cakes and red bridal chair for the very fact that the little girl has already become a part of the husbands family long before the marriage. Therefore, a distinction is made between the two marriages, if the woman enters her husbands family as a young adult, it is considered as a large marriage otherwise, if she is adopted as a child, it is called a small or minor marriage.

Data Presentation
The author utilized case studies through key informant interviews as well as the ethnographic approach and immense field notes in understanding the prevailing norm on raising daughters-in-law. Wolf also aggregated the narratives made by Chinese nationals and further notes that the little reference to this type of marriage in Chinese literature indicates its rarity. Most of the existing studies in this aspect have been conducted on rural communities. It is therefore possible that it is only observed in North China Plain, Manchuria and Shantung Peninsula, but not in the southern territories of China. In fact, because of the passage of 1950 Marriage Law in China, a number of tung-yang-hsi have been freed although there have been related complaints as regards the governments failure to officially abolish the system.

Population census over the years revealed that a great deal of tung-yang-hsi existed in the 1930s but that the count continuously declined in the succeeding years. One possible explanation for this phenomenon is the deteriorating authority the children attribute to their parents. With the advent of liberal ideas from other countries, Chinese children imbibe the notion of marital independence. Moreover, the same author has proved in a previous study that children raised together in the same family generally find it awkward to engage in a sexual relationship, a conclusion very much consistent with the childhood-familiarity theory. As one of his interviewees had revealed to him, what is the point of raising another daughter when my son will not marry her anyway

A contradictory finding was made upon the authors investigation of accounts made by foreign missionaries in China. The Founding Hospital has reported that most of the girls taken from their institution were intended to be the future wife of the adopting parents. Similarly, one missionary shared that she frequently encounters women who would introduce little kids as daughters who have been betrothed to their little sons. The prevalence of the practice was also evidence by folksongs about the life of tung-yang-hsi. Furthermore, customary law in the country recognizes the practices legality although the populace usually refuses to talk about it. In fact such marriage is considered minor not because the child is still young but because the practice is believed to be socially despised.

Another disadvantage gather by the author through interviews was that this form of arranged marriage diminishes if not totally obliterates the affinal ties between the womans natal family and the husbands family. Its corresponding consequence is that both families lose the opportunity to have alliance and prestige coming from their ability to host and afford an extravagant occasion such as a major wedding.

Despite several downsides of adopting daughters-in-law, what is the familys motivation to perpetuate the tradition Mao Tse Tung suggests that if a young man does not have a tung-yang-hsi, chances are he would have an old woman for a bride. The logic behind this statement is the financial costs of bringing into the family a young adult which necessarily entails a considerable amount of dowry and a small fortune to throw a party. Hence, most poor families would rather become practical by striking an early deal with the parents of the female child in order to avoid the aforementioned expenses.

The author however is of a different opinion. Such practice is only cheaper but not necessarily economically advantageous. Due to the weaker affinal link, the families have smaller circle of relatives who they can turn to in times of need. Wolf further disputes Mao Tse Tungs theory upon interviewing affluent families who chose to raise their own daughters-in-law. In fact, despite having adopted such set-up they still go through the traditional rigors of grand wedding ceremonies.

This circumstance leads to the conclusion that there is more to the tung-yang-his system than gaining economic advantage. The practice is a potent way of avoiding inevitable conflicts between the mother-in-law and the daughter-in-law. It is in this light that the incest taboo is seen as destructive of the peace and harmonic of the domestic scenario. Introducing a stranger to the family may compromise the relationship between the son and the mother because the son will necessarily have to choose which side to take in case of conflict. Thus, taking the future daughter-in-law into the mother-in-laws household early on in life familiarizes them with each other and does away with the threat to family stability. Anthropological studies often exaggerate the advantage of prohibiting incest while entirely downplaying its potential pitfalls.

Analysis and Conclusions
Wolfs study on the various perspectives taken on the advantages and disadvantages of circumventing the incest taboo is enlightening. The approach was easily comprehensible because the predicates were laid one by one keeping into mind the logical flow of the concept. Moreover, the results of his study challenge the ultimate foundation of a universally accepted concept governing familial relations. Finally, the article also made me realize that different cultures have varying appreciation of the tightness of family ties as well as the valuation placed upon the sanctity and preservation of domestic relationships.


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