Rival media draw a blank probing report of lavish Maanshan wedding

Rich mother-in-law's gift was reported to have caused dramatic scenes at banquet. But was the Maanshan wedding just a myth?

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 October, 2013, 3:59am

The Jinling Evening News reported on October 3 about a lavish wedding banquet held at a large hotel in the city of Maanshan in Anhui the day before.

The bride, 25, came from a family that had struck it rich in the mining business, it said. The bridegroom, also 25, hailed from a family with modest means.

The mother-in-law took out a key and handed it to the bridegroom. Guests assumed it unlocked a new home in Maanshan, where apartments can cost as much as one million yuan (HK$1.26 million).

"I heard from my daughter that you like cars," she reportedly said. Her gift was a Bentley Continental, which sells for more than four million yuan.

The bridegroom was on the verge of tears as he took the key, and when other guests told him how much the car was worth, he dropped to his knees in front of the woman's mother, swearing he would not betray her daughter as long as he lived.

The report was picked up by the mainland's major internet portals. The bridegroom was criticised for bowing to the rich, while the in-laws were blamed for showing off their wealth. A second report said that after witnessing the event, a friend of the bridegroom stood up and praised the in-laws' generosity. Perhaps drunk, he then lambasted his own parents, who were sitting beside him.

He berated them for being poor, saying he never had any pocket money when he was growing up. He said he had gone on many dates but they had never blossomed into romance.

He attributed this to their failure to buy him a nice apartment and secure him a well-paid job. "Without a million yuan, why did you give birth to me? Aren't you turning me into a victim?" he said. The man's father sat quietly at the table while the mother cried.

According to the original report, the wedding was held in one of the city's largest hotels, on Taibai Avenue. The Wanjiang Evening News, Maanshan's main daily newspaper, checked every hotel on the street, but none said it held the banquet.

The newspaper also said it couldn't find any residents who attended the wedding. "Who is the rich mother-in-law?" it asked. "What is the licence plate of the four million yuan Bentley? Where was the … banquet held?" It concluded: "According to our investigation, the reported wedding did not exist."

Anhui Business News, the largest daily morning newspaper in the province, agreed. "Maanshan is a small city. There would have been many witnesses at such a major event. But locals were completely unaware of it. This is highly strange," it said. "The generous mother in law, the knee-dropping groom, the friend roaring to parents - all these dramatic elements occurred at a wedding in Maanshan that is known to no one but a news outlet outside the province.

"The generous mother-in-law may well be a myth."

In defence, the Jinling Evening News, based in Jiangsu , said it would not reveal where the wedding took place or name guests out of privacy concerns. The mother-in-law had turned off her mobile phone to avoid local reporters because the family did want to become a public target in Maanshan.

Rednet.cn the online mouthpiece of the Hunan provincial government, eventually weighed in: "The entire report was based on one source. Even if the journalist could not get hold of the groom or the mother-in-law, the wedding must have had many participants, so why can't reporters interview a few more people to back up the report?"

Li Dongwang, a resident in Beijing's Dongcheng district who had been following the news, said the story might contain exaggerations but it became popular because it reflected reality.

"As the nation's resources fall more and more into the hands of the 1 per cent of rich people, there is less and less for young men from poor families to move up," he said. "Rich in-laws have become a shortcut to wealth in people's dreams."