Blind dates: A centuries-old tradition in China
Back during the feudal age in China, a marriage could not be arranged without first obtaining permission from one’s parents or a matchmaker, which was a very important profession during those times.
Today, such a profession can still be found in the rural regions of China and it is considered a highly respectable one that provides a good income. Matchmakers are paid a fee whenever there is a successful match that ends up in marriage. Some also charge a fee whenever a male client wants to meet a female candidate. In this case, matchmakers generally charge more for women with good qualities.
Traditionally, parents whose children are of marriageable age would often approach a matchmaker with their conditions. When the matchmaker finds a suitable candidate, a blind date would be arranged.
If the man and woman both find one another to be acceptable, the matchmaker would then introduce the two families and propose to the woman on behalf of the man’s family.
Guo Fang from rural Huainan city, Anhui province, got married last year after meeting a man just thrice.
“My parents looked for a matchmaker and coaxed me to return home to attend the blind date with the man,” said Guo, 22, who was previously working in Shanghai as a saleswoman for three years.
“That’s how young people enter marriage in my hometown. Parents still forbid us from starting a relationship with someone while working in cities and urge us to return home to tie the knot via a matchmaker,” she said.
As such, the top priority for young people when they return to their hometowns during the Spring Festival is to go on blind dates. Some matchmakers are known to work tirelessly for the entire month to organize blind dates for these returnees.
As professional matchmakers aren’t popular in major cities, young Chinese often meet potential partners via mutual friends or relatives who think the two might be a good match.
Cai Mengsha, 29, has been urged by her parents to attend over 30 blind dates, mostly set up by her parents’ friends, over the past three years.
“It’s hard and awkward to start a conversation with a stranger, so the topics are always the same and dull. The more blind dates I attend, the less confident I am in such a setting,” said Cai, a Shanghai native.
But not everything ends in vain. Wang Wei, who met his wife on a blind date three years ago, said he was heartened by their similar backgrounds and temperaments and the pair soon developed interest in one another after chatting for two hours.
Wang admitted that he had experienced his fair share of disappointing blind dates before. “Sometimes the girl’s appearance was too different from what the middleman described. Some people used portraits that were photoshopped or taken several years ago!” he said.