In today’s fast paced and career-oriented world, it can be tough finding a partner to spend the rest of your life with. And it can be especially tough in China’s larger cities, considering the strict requirements that act as a sort of Chinese social standard for getting married. For men, this means being financially successful enough to buy an apartment/house and in most cases, own a car as well. Women, on the other hand, have the unfair disadvantage of becoming too old or risk being labeled one of the infamous 剩女 (shèngnǚ). Sure, one can try out the many online dating sites and apps in order to meet that special someone, but many large cities, including Shanghai, have gone one step further and brought online dating, well, offline.
Every Saturday and Sunday, amidst the hustle and bustle of busy Shanghai, lays an even greater hustle and bustle in one of the city’s most popular parks. The People’s Square Marriage Market is a place for parents and grandparents to advertise their 20-30 year old children and grandchildren (of whom mostly are young women) to literally hundreds of other parents and grandparents for the prospects of finding that perfect match. This advertising takes place via hundreds of “resume-like profiles” containing such detailed information as the person’s age, height, salary, education, and occupation. And behind every profile sheet is a parent waiting eagerly to exchange details with the next parent in order to set up a match made in heaven.
Unfortunately, actually finding this match is not as easy as you may think, especially when many sons and daughters are either unknowingly or unwillingly taking part, or have such high standards that finding a qualified match becomes an ever endeavoring search. “I have sent my daughter on over 10 dates with men I found at the marriage market, but nothing has worked out yet” says one mother. “I’m afraid she may never find a husband, and this would be very saddening indeed.”
It is a scene quite depictive of Chinese culture as it relates to marriage ideals, and certainly shows how much importance Chinese parents place on marriage and family in general. Beyond this, however, the marriage market also seems to be a place for community socialization, as older generations chat casually and share stories about each others’ lives and families. If you are interested in checking out this marriage market for yourself, head on over to People’s Square Metro Station (Exit 9) on a Saturday or Sunday, and take a stroll through the advert-ridden walls of Shanghai’s former race course.