With this click, I will thee wed

Updated: 2011-10-28 08:02

By Zhang Yuchen (China Daily)

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Online marriage game may be more than harmless romantic fantasy, Zhang Yuchen reports from Beijing.

Qian Yu spends hours talking to his bride, discussing furniture for their luxury duplex and colors for the living room walls. They have finally pinned down European Classic style, light purple for the walls and red for the carpet.

Since the summer holidays, Qian has seemed the normal happy newlywed, excited by the mere details of cooking and dining with his wife. But he is just 15 and his married life exists only in cyberspace.

Qian and his "bride" - he said he doesn't know her real name - are two among millions of Chinese teenagers and adults who indulge in virtual marriage. "Not legally binding, for romantics only," according to the home page at 78ba.com.

They type on their keyboards to chat and smile into the camera above the computer monitor. In his case, Qian acts out his fantasy in his bedroom at home in Beijing.

"The Internet marriage itself is just a tool in terms of a game," an outlet for pressures and desires, said Sun Zhongxing, a sociology professor at Fudan University in Shanghai. "Most participants in virtual marriage are unmarried people, and singles are provided a chance to know more available candidates.

"But I am really concerned about the younger people involved in virtual weddings."

Qian and his cyberwife were once partners in an online game called 9 City, then moved into a private chat room. They called each other Honey or Sweetie for about a month before Qian - in the online persona of Cold Wind in a Deep Valley - proposed to Goodies of the Vanity.

Their wedding on Aug 4 - on the Internet, of course - attracted hundreds of participants in the same online community. The "guests" sent gifts of flowers, red packets and diamonds purchased with points earned in games - one for flowers, as many as five for jewelry.

With this click, I will thee wed

Less studious

Qian is quite attentive in this relationship, a people person. In the real world, he tends to be quiet. He is in the second grade of middle school and has two or three friends.

"I noticed he has not been that into schooling since the beginning of this semester," his mother, Zhang Ping, said. "He speaks even less to us (his father and me) but he may linger online for quite a few hours and he keeps grinning foolishly at the monitor."

Recently, Zhang caught her son writing "Miss you ..." to his "wife" online, but she said nothing to Qian. She didn't want to panic him into thinking he would be punished.

"I do fret about his being so absorbed in a virtual relationship," she said.

"I think she worries too much," Qian said. "It's nothing real."

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