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