Blind dates: A cen­turies-old tra­di­tion in China

China Daily (USA) - - SHANGHAI - ByZHOUWENTING in Shang­hai zhouwent­ing@chi­

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.

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