Match­mak­ing mar­kets take off

Many large ci­ties in China now of­fer spa­ces where par­ents meet and try to get their chil­dren mar­ried off.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIVING - By ZHOU WENTING

THEY carry bot­tled wa­ter, fold­ing chairs, soda wa­ter and mos­quito re­pel­lent.

While the scene ap­pears no dif­fer­ent to any other bustling mar­ket in Shang­hai, the “com­modi­ties” are any­thing but or­di­nary. The items on of­fer are un­mar­ried peo­ple, most of them older than 30, and there­fore far above the op­ti­mum mar­riage­able age, ac­cord­ing to stan­dards in China.

The se­niors and mid­dle- aged par­ents are here to find spouses for their un­at­tached chil­dren. They ap­praise each other with side­long glances, at­tempt­ing to hide their heavy hearts and ap­pear un­com­pro­mis­ing, while try­ing to pre­vent their off­spring from be­ing lonely when the next Chi­nese Valen­tine’s Day ( known as Chap Goh Meh in Malaysia and cel­e­brated in Fe­bru­ary) rolls around.

Match­mak­ing mar­kets have sprung up in many large Chi­nese ci­ties, such as Beijing, Nan­jing, Chengdu, Xi'an and Fuzhou, largely be­cause the younger gen­er­a­tion is post­pon­ing mar­riage.

In 2010, the av­er­age age of mar­riage in China was 26.7 years for men and 24.9 for women, com­pared with 25.3 for men and 23.4 for women in 2000, ac­cord­ing to the na­tional cen­sus, con­ducted ev­ery 10 years.

In Shang­hai last year, the av­er­age age of mar­riage was 34.5 years for men and 32 for women, com­pared with 10 years ago, when it was 31.1 for men and 28.4 for women.

At the park, um­brel­las are placed in rows, each adorned with A4 sheets of pa­per cov­ered with hand­writ­ten in­for­ma­tion about the un­mar­ried chil­dren.

Un­at­tached males usu­ally pro­vide de­tails of their in­come and prop­erty sta­tus, while women are gen­er­ally in­ter­ested in a man’s ap­pear­ance and whether he has a sta­ble job. No pho­tos are ex­changed un­less some­one ex­presses a se­ri­ous in­ter­est.

Com­pas­sion and a gen­tle na­ture are the top re­quire­ment for Chi­nese men when look­ing for a girl­friend, while in­tegrity and a strong sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity are what women ex­pect most from their other half, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent sur­vey con­ducted by Yangcheng Evening News in Guangzhou, Guang­dong prov­ince, which polled nearly 1,000 peo­ple in Beijing, Shang­hai, Guangzhou and Shen­zhen.

At a park cor­ner, peo­ple get straight to the point.

Wu Tianli ( not her real name) is one of many par­ents of un­mar­ried daugh­ters who be­lieve that “own­ing an in­de­pen­dent apart­ment for mar­riage” is the top at­tribute for a prospec­tive son- in- law.

“Need­less to say, the man must own an apart­ment, ei­ther through his own ef­forts or with his par­ents’ as­sis­tance. If not, his fam­ily doesn’t place enough im­por­tance on the son’s wed­ding and my daugh­ter won’t re­ceive the re­spect due to her,” Wu says.

She is look­ing for a part­ner for her 33- year- old daugh­ter, who works for a For­tune 500 com­pany and earns more than 20,000 yuan ( RM12,000) a month – al­most three times higher than the me­dian in­come in Shang­hai.

“She en­joys her sin­gle life and is a fer­vent trav­eller. She says she doesn’t want to share her money with some­one with a lower in­come be­cause it would af­fect her qual­ity of life,” Wu says.

A pass­ing man who hears her words is vis­i­bly an­noyed. “Then why does a man need to share his in­come with a woman?” he asks.

Ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey of more than 50,000 sin­gle peo­ple na­tion­wide, re­leased last year by the dat­ing web­site Baihe, nearly three out of four fe­male re­spon­dents wanted their spouse’s in­come to be at least dou­ble their own, while more than half of the men ex­pected their wife to earn the same amount as they do.

A woman sur­named Cao has been ac­tive in the match­mak­ing cor­ner for a year, look­ing for a hus­band for her 25- year- old daugh­ter.

“If I hadn’t started at that time, it would have been too late. Look, there are rows of women born around 1987 over there,” she says, also point­ing out that more women are avail­able than men.

Many par­ents lament that even though their daugh­ters are well- ed­u­cated, pretty and have de­cent jobs, tra­di­tional Chi­nese per­cep­tions of mar­riage are cruel to women.

“It’s to­tally fine for men to put mar­riage on the agenda af­ter age 35, but women who haven’t mar­ried by 30 are be­lieved to be ‘ prob­lem­atic’, and as par­ents we feel em­bar­rassed in front of rel­a­tives and friends,” says a woman who only gave her sur­name, Feng.

“Our daugh­ters are 25 when they gain a mas­ter’s de­gree, and are about 30 when they reach a cer­tain point in their ca­reer. Many of them won’t con­sider a se­ri­ous re­la­tion­ship be­fore then,” Feng says.

Ac­cord­ing to a 2014 sur­vey con­ducted by the dat­ing web­site Ji­ayuan, which polled its 90 mil­lion users, men pre­fer a part­ner four to eight years younger than them­selves, while women usu­ally look for a part­ner who is three to five years older.

A 60- year- old Shang­hainese sur­named Jiang, one of the founders of the match­mak­ers’ cor­ner in 2005, fi­nally found a Mr Right for her daugh­ter af­ter nine years at the mar­ket.

“They first met over a lunch and then he asked my daugh­ter out for a cup of cof­fee that same evening. When I saw that my daugh­ter had put on light makeup for the evening date, I knew they had clicked,” she says. – China Daily/ Asia News Net­work

o ses a ai a e par­ents tape in­for­ma­tion sheets about their un­mar­ried chil­dren to the um­brel­las at the match­mak­ing mar­ket in peo­ple’s park in down­town Shang­hai. — China Daily

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