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Discover Guangzhou Self Guided Book is written by Janvi Tours, formerly Guangzhou Private Tour Guide Janvi or Guangzhou Tour Guide Janvi


Written by Janvi Chow
Published August 2018

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Home Travel Guide Around Guangzhou Spinsters' House

Spinsters' House

Spinsters' House

The house is located in Shunde District, Foshan. This Spinsters' House was established in the 1950s by overseas Chinese spinsters returning from Singapore. They don't live there for they live back with their families or relatives. This Spinsters' House is for their meeting during the traditional festivals like the Spring Festival, the Mid-Autumn Festival, etc.

Spinster is known as self-combed women in the Pearl River Delta. Self-combing was a unique custom to the PRD that can be traced back to the middle term of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 A.D.). Several elder women would host the "Comb" ceremony, there the women who wanted to become comb sisters will change their hairstyle with a promise that they would never get married, and invited guests to make it public that they would be single all life long and could never have any form of sexual behavior. If they go back on their word, they risked being drowned or burned to death, and their parents would not be allowed to collect the body.

In the late Qing Dynasty, the Pearl River Delta was forced open and factories were set up, which provided work opportunities to girls in the area. With economic independence, they chose to be independent socially and refused to get married. The economic situation was one of the main motivations that forced a daughter becoming a spinster to support the whole family. According to the local Guangdong custom, women supposed to join in 'outside' work to support the family in the same way as men, instead of dealing with only the inner aspects of family life. The eldest daughter often had to take on some responsibility for the family business and household chores, because she was the first person in her generation whose labor could be used by the family. However, some elder sisters became self-combed to allow their younger sisters or brothers to marry early.

Until the 1930s, the whole of China's silk industry collapsed, young women heard that they could get a higher income if they worked in South Asia, so they called their friends to go there for earning a living. To earn more money, many women who have worked in South Asia for many years have never talked about marriage. Some of them chose to go to Guangzhou, Hong Kong or Singapore worked as an individual maid in a rich family.

Iidentity of Spinster

The period of self-combing vanished after New China, and the custom gradually faded away as time passed by. At present, there are only dozens of spinsters left in Guangdong, which is the last generation of self-combed women in China.