Relationships and Marriage in China – What’s Love Got to Do with It?
Shanghai Marriage Market – Love the Chinese Way
We had a very interesting walk around the main Shanghai square on an early Saturday morning. In search of a break from the insufferable heat and humidity, my friend and I took shelter in the deep shade of the People’s Square.
There we were met by a busy crowd of mostly elderly people. At first glance, it seemed to be an ordinary fair, which, however, turned out to be a live version of personal ads from the gazette (人民公园相亲角, rénmín Gōngyuán xiāngqīn jiǎo or literally, “People’s Park Blind Date Corner“, directed by worried, desperate, but at the same time enthusiastic parents and grandparents with CVs of their single offspring, seeking appropriate marriage partners for them, or at the very least trying to get them a blind date.
Elderly Chinese mostly don’t receive a pension, which is why it is very important for their children to get married, because as singles they can scarcely take care of them. That’s why parents in some Chinese provinces, Shanghai included, have become experts in finding blind dates for their children. They start working on it actively as early as June, in the hope that during the fall and winter, or until the Spring Festival, their children will already be married or at least in a serious relationship.
It was difficult to find someone we could talk to in English, and our knowledge of Chinese was nothing to write home about, but we still managed to find out a few things, and to be a little shocked by what we had learned.
Every weekend from noon until 5 p.m., parents, mostly of young men under 28 and young women under 25, exchange information on their sons and daughters in order to find them a suitable marriage partner. The parents walk around browsing and taking notes of ads in the hope of finding a perfect match for their child. This is one of those experiences that fascinate you as you walk between the “notice boards” and enthusiastic parents, wondering what qualities the future bride or groom needs to have, so you can find various information like the age, height, weight, education, employment, their Chinese zodiac sign, hobbies, and for some even a photo.
Although such gatherings are fun for the parents, with young people who strive for the Western lifestyle, these methods of getting to know someone are not really popular, but if you ask them something about it the majority of the young Chinese will say they understand their parents, but few will continue to discuss the topic. Still, we managed to scratch under the surface and find out a few more details.
If the plan in the park fails, the thing to do is go to Plan B, explained to us by Lynn (23):
“In China there are groups of people working as “marriage brokers”. They get paid based on the information collected on girls and boys, and arrange a date for the clients engaging their services. If the couple decides to get married, the broker will be invited to the wedding as a witness. In China there is huge potential in the marriage market, because due to the economic growth and social development young people are increasingly postponing marriage, which greatly worries the parents since they want to see their children married, and later on giving them grandchildren. That’s why they engage the services of such companies to help them.”
Due to the strong economic growth in the recent years, after completing their education, the young Chinese keep on living in big cities away from their families. Because of the hectic life juggling home and work, they barely have a chance to meet members of the opposite sex.
Rent a Partner
During certain holidays such as the Spring Festival or the Chinese New Year, the young Chinese return home for family gatherings. The pressure exerted by parents and the environment on the young to get married is so great that they find very creative ways to avoid it and reduce the fear of returning home. We found one of those creative solutions especially impressive. It refers to finding a bogus fiancé. Young Chinese who are not in a relationship and are at a marrying age, hire partners to appease the concerned parents and relatives, and to avoid a host of questions such as: do you have a girlfriend/boyfriend, when will you get married, your friends already have children, why don’t you?, my friends are grandparents already… It is interesting that there is even a song about the questions asked by parents at the Spring Festival, which is a hit on the Chinese social networks.
There are countless websites on which you can rent a partner, and the going rate is currently 1,500.00 to 2,000.00 yuan per day, which includes going to the parents’ home for dinner, getting to know the family and friends, watching movies, going to the store, and other usual activities. The client also pays for a return ticket to the parents’ home, accommodation, daily necessities, and a decent outfit for the future husband or wife to look appropriately. All other services are negotiable, so a kiss will set you back 50 yuan, and sleeping in the same room between 300 and 600 yuan.
Even though online services for this kind of advertising were launched only a few years ago, today they are the most popular websites. Such websites certainly have their advantages: they will save the single young Chinese from the above questions about marriage, which they find very stressful, and allow them to enjoy the spirit of the festival without fear of embarrassment. The parents will also be happy, knowing that the marital future of their children is secure. At least for a while.
by Kristina Belec