Matchmade in heaven
Elderly couple devote retirement to bringing couples together
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.
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.”
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org