CHINA

The return of matchmaking parents

Gathering of matchmakers in a park in Shanghai. Photo by . Go to a park on a Sunday in China, and you'll find thousands of parents mingling on the grass. Not for a picnic - these desperate mums and dads are exchanging photos and CVs of their sons and daughters, in hope of finding them a spouse.

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Gathering of matchmakers in a park in Shanghai. Photo by "Jenming".

Go to a park on a Sunday in China, and you'll find thousands of parents mingling on the grass. Not for a picnic - these desperate mums and dads are exchanging photos and CVs of their sons and daughters, in hope of finding them a spouse.

True love is not always the most essential factor for marriage in China, where the use of a matchmaker is a traditional method of looking for a partner. In recent years parents have adopted the role as young people focus increasingly on their careers rather than their love lives, with the average marrying-age for Chinese women rising from 20 to 24 since 1990. In large cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, thousands of parents reportedly meet in parks at the weekend to swap photos and descriptions of their twenty-something sons and daughters. They then hand over phone numbers of eligible candidates to their children, saying that a colleague passed them on.

"[Ms Wang] requires mate"

Photos taken in Shanghai by "jenming"

The text reads: "Ms Wang, born 7 December 1977, 1.60m tall, graduated student, working for an export trade company, unmarried. Requires mate: honest, responsible, healthy, no bad habits, aged 30 to 35, in a stable job."

 

Photo taken in People's Park (Renmin Gongyuan), Shanghai by Qiao Jie Na.

A woman waits with advertisements pegged to the bushes.

"Sexy Beijing" on matchmaking

This online Beijing-based parody of Sex and the City was launched in 2006 and has become an increasingly popular show both in China and abroad. The latest edition, posted 20 August, follows presenter Sufei on a visit to a 'parental matchmaking session' in a park in Beijing.

"[My mum] has the final decision"

Zhou Wan is a 20-year-old English literature student in Sichuan.

I'm a student so my mother tells me I'm too young for a boyfriend now, but she certainly wants to get involved. My parents are always interfering. As my sister is now working, my mother is trying to force her to get with someone. She's always introducing her to boys. But my sister hates it!

I finish studying in two years and my mum will start looking for me then. It's so scary! So I'm trying to find a boyfriend before I graduate. I'm not a traditional Chinese girl - I don't want to get fixed up with some old guy, and that's what my mum's hoping to do. Plus, I want to have my career. Girls in China are not so romantic anymore - they're more realistic.

If a boy wants to marry then he must have a house, a car, and money. And then there's the cost of the matchmaker. They have to work hard if they want a wife.

In the country, in poor areas, they almost always use a matchmaker to get married. It does work! You or your parents pay them to find a suitable boy or girl, you go on several organised dates, and then both parents have dinner together and if they're happy a wedding date is chosen. The normal age in the city is 24 and 20 in the country. If a girl doesn't want to get married her parents will force her. If my mum checks out my boyfriend and she doesn't like him, then she'd stop it. She has the final decision. One of my friends is marrying a guy who her parents don't approve of, and she can't go home anymore."