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Extravagant dowries in Jinjiang raise eyebrows

After attending a wedding banquet last month in Fu-jian province's Jinjiang city, Yan Hongming joked that he'd changed his 2014 resolution from getting six-pack abs to marrying a woman from Jinjiang.

“It wasn't local women's charm that made me say that,” he explains. “I don't intend to really marry a Jinjiang lady. I just couldn't find a better way to express myself about the wedding's impact on me.”

Yan says the motorcade consisted of fancy sporty cars, such as Ferraris and Bentleys.

The motorcade's first automobile, a Porsche Cayenne decorated with flowers and a red ribbon, was a gift from the bride's father, a Jinjiang food company entrepreneur.

The groom's father is a Jinjiang real estate businessman.

Guests sat around about 50 tables. Each table cost more than 10,000 yuan (US$1,601).

During the banquet, the host read to the attendees the litany of valuable dowries that included bank accounts and real estate.

Yan, a 26-year-old from Fujian's Longyan city, said he knew rich men's daughters in Jinjiang are married off with bountiful dowries. Yet he was still amazed by the extravagance.

What Yan saw was certainly not the biggest wedding dowry in Jinjiang's history.

In December 2012, Wu Duanbiao, chairman of the ceramics firm Fujian Wanli Group, gave his daughter a lavish dowry that included four boxes of gold jewelry, shares in the ceramics firm, a villa, two luxury cars and tens of millions yuan in cash. The dowry was worth about 1 billion yuan (US$161.2 million)

In November that year, Jinjiang native Wu Jinbiao, chairman of Billion Industrial Holdings Ltd., spent more than 250 million yuan (US$40.3 million) to marry off his daughter.

The region's generous dowries continuously make headlines.

In April, photos of brides from Jinjiang's administrative city Quanzhou, who wore what's said to be half a kilogram of gold jewelry, went viral. Thousands of netizens were stunned by these “golden brides” and quipped that marrying a local girl is “better than robbing a bank.”

Local folk custom expert Fu Sunyi says gold wedding jewelry and big dowries are commonplace in the area.

“But the amount of gold and dowry sizes depend on families' financial situations,” Fu says.

“There is no city history to which extravagant dowries or 'golden brides' can be traced. It would be a misinterpretation if people regard the practice of bestowing generous dowries as a traditional marital custom of Quanzhou and Jinjiang.”

Xu Wendian, a 70-year-old Jinjiang resident, says the expensive dowries first appeared in the 21st century.

In the 1950s, local weddings featured musicians and a sedan chair for the bride. In the '60s, the dowry only included daily necessities, such as a thermos and towels, Xu recalls.

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In this undated photo, a wedding motorcade of classic British TX4 taxis drives along the street in Jiangsu province's capital Nanjing. Chinese weddings are often used to show off wealth. (China Daily/Asia News Network)

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