Match­made in heaven

El­derly cou­ple de­vote re­tire­ment to bring­ing cou­ples to­gether

Global Times - Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - By Xu Ming

Chen Yilun and his wife Lan Yuyun, both in their 80s, had only one day off in the eight­day Na­tional Day hol­i­days: They were too busy at­tend­ing to peo­ple seek­ing match­mak­ing ser­vices.

“They trav­eled far from ev­ery cor­ner of the coun­try and you just can­not say no to them,” said Chen in Wuhan, Hubei Prov­ince. Dur­ing the hol­i­days they were also in­vited to at­tend the wed­dings of cou­ples who just got mar­ried as a re­sult of their ef­forts.

Since their re­tire­ment, Chen and Lan have made match­mak­ing their sole en­ter­prise. From 63 years ago when Lan acted as a go-be­tween, till to­day, they have matched 1,740 cou­ples free of charge. Their na­tion­wide rep­u­ta­tion for hon­esty and ef­fi­ciency has earned them the crown of “su­per match­mak­ers.”

Their work­shops are crammed with anx­ious peo­ple seek­ing part­ners for them­selves and, more com­monly, for their chil­dren. Word of mouth has prompted many ne­ti­zens to seek them out, in the hopes that a visit will bring an end to a life of be­ing sin­gle.

But their pop­u­lar­ity does not make their job any eas­ier. In ad­di­tion to strict pro­ce­dures to en­sure the truth­ful­ness of the ap­pli­cants’ in­for­ma­tion, Chen re­vealed that “talk­ing sense into them [the ap­pli­cants]” takes a lot of en­ergy.

“We often stress af­fec­tion and feel­ings when seek­ing part­ners, but too many come here with other con­sid­er­a­tions, which should be ad­justed here first,” Chen told the Global Times.

Hon­est op­er­a­tors

In Lan and Chen’s work­shop, piles of note­books record­ing the in­for­ma­tion of the ap­pli­cants are care­fully clas­si­fied into groups such as “younger women,” “older women,” “male re­mar­riage,” and so on. All the notes are hand­writ­ten and Lan re­fuses to put the in­for­ma­tion in com­puter files be­cause she wor­ries “it may be seen by oth­ers.” The cou­ple rely en­tirely on their mem­ory and the clas­si­fi­ca­tion sys­tem to do their work.

The 50-square-me­ter flat gets crowded on the three days of the week that they work, even though they only hand out 20 num­ber slips for each day.

Those who are lucky enough to get a num­ber slip first go to Chen for reg­is­tra­tion, where he checks their

hukou reg­is­tra­tion book (which re­veals their mar­i­tal sta­tus), grad­u­ate diploma and take note of their ba­sic in­for­ma­tion such as height, salary, fam­ily back­ground and so on. Dur­ing the process, Chen talks to the ap­pli­cants about their fam­ily and what they are look­ing for in a part­ner, some­times even ask­ing what their par­ents’ jobs are.

“The more de­tailed, the bet­ter,” said Chen. Then he grades the ap­pli­cants based on the in­for­ma­tion he gets, be­fore he hands the reg­is­tra­tion form to his wife, who is in charge of the next step: the ac­tual match­mak­ing.

“We try our best to en­sure all the in­for­ma­tion is true. We are re­li­able in this as­pect, which dis­tin­guishes us from many mar­riage agents,” said Chen. A lot of mar­riage agen­cies, in­clud­ing match­mak­ing web­sites, have been found to pro­vide fake in­for­ma­tion to their clients.

Since 1954, when Lan acted as go­b­e­tween for her el­der brother, they have matched 1,740 cou­ples, some­thing the se­nior cou­ple take the ut­most pride in.

“I would be ly­ing if I said we are not tired. But we en­joy the process of de­vot­ing our­selves to help­ing oth­ers. It is a job of hap­pi­ness,” said 85-year-old Chen, a gen­tle per­son who laughs a lot.

By com­par­i­son, his wife Lan, who is in charge of com­par­ing the ap­pli­cants’ in­for­ma­tion and match­ing them, is more se­ri­ous and some­times a lit­tle harsh. If an ap­pli­cant de­mands too much from his or her part­ner, she would bluntly ask them to take a look at the mir­ror be­fore go­ing to her.

“What she says hurts, but is true,” said Chen, “Her bark is worse than her bite.”

Im­bal­anced mar­ket

The ap­pli­cants’ in­for­ma­tion forms, which in­clude de­tailed in­for­ma­tion from date of birth to loans, serve as an ac­cu­rate guide­line for Lan and Chen’s match­mak­ing. To make it more pre­cise, when it comes to per­son­al­ity, Chen, a for­mer chem­istry teacher, even uses chem­i­cal el­e­ments to cat­e­go­rize the ap­pli­cants.

“If a man is very ac­tive, I would mark him with ‘K,’ and ‘Ar’ is for an in­tro­verted per­son,” said Chen. When the two meet each other, they could com­ple­ment each other.

How­ever, they have dis­cov­ered that find­ing a mar­riage part­ner is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult.

Lan ob­serves that af­ter the 1980s, peo­ple seek­ing match­mak­ing ser­vices tended to have greater ma­te­rial de­mands from their po­ten­tial part­ners, in terms of prop­erty, bank sav­ings, salary, and so on. In re­cent years, many women have sought men who earn dou­ble their salary while men are only in­ter­ested in women who are ei­ther pretty or rich.

“Peo­ple care less and less about char­ac­ter and moral­ity,” said Chen.

A can­di­date’s pro­fes­sion is another im­por­tant el­e­ment. Ac­cord­ing to Lan and Chen’s ex­pe­ri­ence, the “best-sell­ing” pro­fes­sions are en­gi­neers, fol­lowed by doc­tors, civil ser­vants and col­lege teach­ers, while jour­nal­ists and po­lice­men fare the worst in this mar­ket.

Peo­ple over 27 are cat­e­go­rized by them as “older men” and “older women,” but “while women over 27 are walk­ing down­hill, men over 27 are in­creas­ingly com­pet­i­tive,” Lan con­cludes.

Her big­gest headache is that most of the ap­pli­cants are “older women,” while there is a se­vere short­age of male re­sources.

As Chen ex­plains, for ev­ery out­stand­ing male can­di­date, there are eight fe­male ones. “So­ci­ety is pro­gress­ing, the num­ber of ex­cel­lent fe­males is grow­ing in big cities, but ex­cel­lent males are de­creas­ing in com­par­i­son.”

Lan often tells fe­male ap­pli­cants that “the time [when it was a women’s mar­ket] has changed.”

“Some­times their stan­dards need to be low­ered to find an ideal part­ner,” said Chen.

Devo­tion mat­ters

Chen and Lan have three chil­dren and are a liv­ing ex­am­ple of happy mar­riage. When they got mar­ried in 1957, they did not even have a proper bed. At that time, Chen was very poor, but de­spite com­ing from a well-off fam­ily, Lan still chose him.

In Au­gust, they cel­e­brated their di­a­mond wed­ding an­niver­sary with dozens of other cou­ples at Wu­dan­g­shan Moun­tain, where they marked the oc­ca­sion with a he­li­copter ride over the peak.

“Mar­riage means af­fec­tion and devo­tion. If both just make de­mands, then the mar­riage won’t be a happy one,” said Chen. They have found the key to hap­pi­ness and are try­ing to spread the idea to peo­ple seek­ing help from them.

“Once an old man came to me ask­ing for a woman 20 years younger than him. I told him: ‘You are not ask­ing for a wife but a house­maid,’” said Chen, “In mar­riage, you can­not just care about your­self. You should also con­sider the other side.”

Their free ser­vices have at­tracted con­tro­versy, how­ever, with some ne­ti­zens claim­ing that they take money on the sly while seek­ing fame by pos­ing as a self­less cou­ple.

But Chen brushed aside such crit­i­cisms, telling the Global Times that agen­cies have at­tempted to steal ap­pli­cants’ in­for­ma­tion from them in the past, hint­ing that their ex­pand­ing busi­ness is seen by some match­mak­ing agen­cies in the city as a threat.

“As re­tired peo­ple we spend very lit­tle, and we have a re­spectable re­tire­ment pen­sion. We don’t need to make money this way,” said Chen.

Peo­ple look for po­ten­tial part­ners at a match­mak­ing event in Hangzhou, Zhe­jiang prov­ince. In­set: Lan Yuyun (left) and Chen Yilun Page Ed­i­tor: xum­ing@glob­al­

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