Nothing says Marry me! like 99 iPhones—except, perhaps, 4,500 diapers. Or 99,999 chilies. These are some of the unusual tokens of love that prospective grooms have been flourishing in one of the world’s toughest marriage markets.
One Guangzhou businessman arranged a fleet of luxury cars in the shape of a heart before popping the question. A wealthy suitor in Linyi felt that nothing less than a convoy of expensive vehicles, including two Ford Raptors and a Lamborghini Gallardo with a giant teddy bear strapped to its rear, would do for his girlfriend. The immodest proposal is not just a rich man’s game, though: Hopeful squires of humbler tastes have made offerings like a bouquet of meat, a message spelled out with lychees, and a declaration of love composed with 1,001 hot dogs.
China has little tradition of creative proposals, in part because, into the 20th century, most marriages were arranged. Throughout much of the second half of the century, moreover, the government discouraged elaborate weddings. Even now, public displays of affection are frowned upon by the older generations—hence the novelty of conspicuous proposals, which in many cases go viral on social media and sometimes even make the nightly news. The craze reflects a tendency among the younger generation toward flamboyant gestures, particularly romantic ones—but it’s also symptomatic of just how high the stakes have become for the modern Chinese marriage.