Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




James Flath


This dissertation focuses on exploring the myth of ―revolutionary marriage‖, a popular and lasting marriage tradition of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
The concept of ―revolutionary marriage‖ came out of a marriage revolution initiated by the May Fourth radicals in order to challenge the traditional marriage system. This term was then borrowed by the early Chinese Communists who used it to describe their socialist marriage ideal. However, regarding the CCP‘s marriage policy, there was always a gap between the progressive ideals and the conservative realities. In every piece of propaganda the CCP swore to completely overthrow the feudal arranged marriage system and to give people in general, and women in particular, the freedom to love and marry. In its mass line practice, however, the Party had to make compromises with the old system, which was deeply rooted in Chinese society, by exercising constant restraint on the individual‘s marriage freedom. To fill the gap between ideal and practice, the Party re-interpreted the ideal model of ―revolutionary marriage‖ as one that demanded people‘s unconditional submission to the Party‘s arrangement of their love and marriage for the sake of the Communist revolution. After the founding of the PRC in 1949, the ―revolutionary marriage‖ model expanded out across the party line to become a nationwide practice.
Through a comprehensive examination of the theoretical sources, historical origin, social context, and practical applications of the revolutionary marriage model, I endeavor to argue that rather than a static socialist project, this model was actually a flexible social control program developed by its designers to fit in the context of a transitional China where the old traditions had been fundamentally challenged and while new practices and customs were still under construction.