Establishing a Tradition of Migrant Brides: The Aborigines

Michael Rudolph

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Along with over 2 million Chinese fleeing to Taiwan with the KMT at the end of the 1940s, more than half a million mostly badly educated soldiers also came to the island, the majority of them without spouses (Hu Taili 1993). When they were allowed to marry in 1959 under the special conditions of martial law, many of them had no other choice than to marry indigenous girls who were procured in Taiwan’s backward mountain regions and who then served as ‘Mainlander brides’ in the ghetto-like living quarters of the ‘old soldiers’. Simultaneously, many young indigenous women were also engaged as prostitutes in military brothels. The specific historical situation generated conditions that fostered large scale adolescent prostitution among aborigines in the 1970s and 80s. (Rudolph 1993).
The phenomenon of cross-ethnic marriage and the large-scale procurement of ethnically different women for matrimony have recently seen a new upsurge in Taiwan, as masses of brides from South East Asia and Mainland China are imported to the island. In my contribution, I argue that the special historical and social conditions as well as the particular socio-cultural circumstances of Taiwan’s indigenous peoples after 1949 assisted the development of the migrant bride phenomenon in the 1960s. Catalytic, however, was the desperate situation of the marginalized Mainlander veterans who bought ethnically different wives for matrimony. Similarly, the development of large-scale cross-border and cross-ethnic marriage as we observe it on the island today is enhanced by the disadvantaged position of certain marginalized groups of men in Taiwan, i.e., especially Mainlander veterans who are in need of care in their old age, as well as peasants and fishermen who live in marginalised areas and who are forced to seek their wives outside their own society. The upsurge of the migrant bride phenomenon in recent years is additionally supported by an increasing divergence of value orientations of men and women in Taiwan today, as well as the global rise of the internet, which not only enhances the mutual connectivity of buyers and sellers, but also stimulates the exotic fantasies of Taiwanese men.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationImmigration Societies : Taiwan and Beyond
EditorsAstrid Lipnsky
Place of PublicationHamburg, Muenster
PublisherLIT Verlag
Publication date2015
ISBN (Electronic)978-3643906182
Publication statusPublished - 2015
SeriesVienna Taiwan Studies Series


  • Taiwan, cross-ethnic marriage, migrant brides, indigenous peoples, aborigines, internal and international marriage migration


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