Shanghai marriage market

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The market in 2013

The Shanghai Marriage Market (Chinese: 人民公园相亲角; pinyin: Rénmín Gōngyuán Xiāngqīn Jiǎo; lit. 'People's Park blind date corner') is a marriage market held at People's Park in Shanghai, China. Parents of unmarried adults flock to[1] the park every Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. to trade information on their children.[2]

Overview[edit]

Advertising notices at the market

The primary goal of attending the Shanghai marriage market is for parents to find a suitable partner for their child. The standards of finding the right match may be based upon (but not limited to) age,[1] height,[1] job,[1] income, education, family values, Chinese zodiac sign,[1] and personality. Seniors born between the 1950 and 1960s tend to be the vendors at the marriage market. These seniors advertise their unmarried children born anywhere from the 1970s to 1990s in the market.[3] All of this information is written on a piece of paper, which is then hung upon long strings among other parents' advertisements for their children.[1] Advertisements are also attached to paper bags, clipped to trees, taped on umbrellas, or laid on the ground across People's Park. The parents walk around chatting with other parents to see if there is a harmonious fit only after their children's standards are met.

There are two main zones in the marriage market: the free zone and the amateur matchmaking zone. The free zone is where concerned parents look for potential partners for their only sons or daughters. There are also some seniors looking for their own partners.[4] Within the free zone, there are many sub-zones where parents can post their children’s posters. Some sub-zones are divided by birth year, such as the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s zones. Others include the overseas zone, “New Shanghainese” zone, divorcee zone, Muslim zone, and regional zones.[5] In the amateur matchmaker zone, professional or voluntary matchmakers share lists of potential candidates to parents attending the market.[4] There are professional matchmakers in the market who charge a consultation fee of RMB 100-200 for females and no fee for males. This discrepancy is said to be due to the surplus of females in the marriage market. According to local media reports, these professional matchmakers are often tricksters that disappear after receiving fees from parents.[6]

Umbrellas used for advertising

Many parents do not have permission from their child to go to this event.[citation needed] It has been described as "match.com meets farmers' market" with a low success rate.[7] In many parents' eyes, parent matchmaking gatherings such as the Shanghai Marriage Market are the only way to uphold a traditional dating style for their children in modern China. China's long idealized tradition of continuing their family lineage is very important within Chinese culture.[2] As the children of the One Child Policy start to become of typical marriage age, the so-called marriage "market" of China has wavered in stability, particularly for males in China. The University of Kent predicts that by the year 2020, 24 million men will be unmarried and unable to find a wife.[7]

The marriage market at People's Square has existed since 2004.[1] As of April, 2013, it costs approximately $3.20 USD for an advertisement that is displayed for five months, and marriage brokers provide full access to phone numbers for a $16.00 registration fee.[1]

Marriage markets in China[edit]

History[edit]

The first organized marriage market appeared in 2004 in Longtan Park, Beijing. Retirees who frequented the park for morning exercise found in conversation that many of them had unmarried children in their mid-to-late twenties. Anxious to marry off their children, the seniors began to hold matchmaking events where they presented information about their children and looked for potential matches. Since then, parks in major cities like Shenzhen, Wuhan, Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Tianjin have become unofficial matchmaking venues.[8]

Patterns in Marriage Markets[edit]

These marriage markets do not have a formal organizer; typically, seniors living in the area gather voluntarily. Nonetheless, marriage markets tend to share similar characteristics. Firstly, sex ratios generally favor men, despite demographically having a surplus of men in China. In Beijing’s Zhongshan Park, 80% of parents are looking for husbands for their single daughters.[9] The majority of participants in market are young, college-educated women who work professional jobs and grew up in Shanghai. These urban daughters represent China's new middle class but are often categorized as "leftover women" in these marriage markets.[10] Parents adopt a range of strategies to market their children, such as having good customer service and negotiation skills, designing posters carefully, and dressing well to signify good upbringing.[11]

While there are no formal requirements for one to be advertised in the market, certain traits are deemed more desirable. For women, younger age, attractive physical appearance, good education, and docile temperament are sought after. For men, it is important to have a higher educational level, good career, and high income. Men are also expected to own an apartment and a car. Having Shanghai household registration record (hukou) is immensely important for all participants.[12]

Scholarship on Shanghai Marriage Market[edit]

Ethnographic research has been conducted to study parent’s motivations for attending the Shanghai Marriage Market. Paradoxically, Shanghai Marriage Market has a low success rate and most parents concede that it is unlikely to find a match, yet parents regularly return to the market to continue advertising their children. One study explained that the market responds to the collective anxieties of Chinese society, especially those born in the 1950s and 1960s. This generation of seniors are parents of the only-child generation who grew up as sent-down youth. In order to keep their urban household registrations, many of them remained single into their thirties, when they returned to their home cities. The state had to intervene in the dating scene to solve this problem of “overaged youth”. Another source of parental anxiety is an overarching sense of volatility and insecurity since market era economic reforms in China. Parents worry for their children’s financial stability in a fast-paced, expensive urban center like Shanghai, especially without a robust social welfare system that provides housing and security. As such, these parents are worried that their only children will grow up leading difficult lives and having unhappy marriages. The marriage market is an outlet for parents to share their private worries in a public space, something that traditional Chinese culture deems inappropriate in other settings. Therefore, the market’s primary function is to create social gatherings for seniors to share their collective worries in the changing environment of urban Shanghai.[13]

The Shanghai Marriage Market is also a response to the rapid individualization in China since the market reform era. The opening of markets and state’s withdrawal from many social services creates a need for greater socialization, particularly for seniors from that generation. Therefore, the market counters social anxieties arising from marketization and commodification.[13]

Other motivations for going to marriage markets include an emphasis on homogamy, as many parents only consider candidates from similar socioeconomic backgrounds as themselves, and skepticism about their child's ability to find a suitable partner.[14]

Changes in marriage patterns[edit]

Recently, well-educated women in China with established careers are in less of a hurry to get married.[15] They have more options than women in past generations and are not afraid to put their career first.[16] This change in marriage ideology puts the women in a higher position of power within a traditionally male-dominated society. Now more women seek to find a responsible man with personal integrity instead of just a high paying job.[16]

Many men's standards have changed with the progression of women's status in the work industry as well, they expect a woman that has been educated and well on her way to a career path. But what has drastically changed is the older generations viewpoint on the subject—they agree with the younger generation, with the two most important qualities in a wife being "elegance and a decent career path," quite a change from "diligence and the willingness to suffer the burden of life".[17]

Baifaxiangqin[edit]

The term baifaxiangqin (白发相亲) describes the phenomenon of parental involvement in matchmaking for their unmarried children for the object of marriage. In addition to attending marriage markets, other types of matchmaking activities in China include matchmaking fairs, clubs, TV shows, and online dating platforms.[18] Scholars argue that the rise of the matchmaking economy is due to the discourse on sheng nu, or "leftover women". The idea that women in their late twenties are considered “leftover” not only underscores the centrality of marriage in women’s lives, but also deepens the anxieties of parents eager to marry off their urban daughters.[19]

Continuity of Traditional Ideas[edit]

Contemporary marriage practices in China reflect the resurgence of the traditional gender role ideology. Parents’ filtering of potential matches for their children in marriage markets aligns with the sociological concept of a “marriage gradient” , where men occupy a superior status and marry women below them in age, educational attainment, and occupation.[20] The traditional Chinese concept of 男尊女卑 values the innate superiority of men over women. In marriage markets, women are evaluated based on their youthfulness, physical appearance, and temperament while education and income level are key characteristics in male participants. This reflects the traditional mate selection pattern of exchanging a man’s wealth and social status for a woman’s attractiveness and youth.[20]

Traditional family values also shape parental involvement in marriages in China. Parents tend to prioritize the procreative and social support functions of marriage rather than the emotional component, reflecting traditional Confucian values. Furthermore, marriage is understood as an obligation that a child must fulfill, so not doing so would be unfilial. Because of filial piety, getting parental approval of one's significant other is essential before getting married.[20]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Tacon, Dave (April 6, 2013). "Finding a spouse in a Chinese marriage market". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 2013-05-13. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ a b Bolsover, Gillian. "What's it like inside Shanghai's 'Marriage Market'?". CNN Travel. Retrieved 10 April 2012. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ Sun, Peidong (2012). ‘Who will marry my daughter?’ Shanghai’s marriage market and ‘Baifaxiangqin’. Beijing: China Social Sciences Press.
  4. ^ a b "5 "When Are You Going to Get Married?" Parental Matchmaking and Middle-Class Women in Contemporary Urban China", Wives, Husbands, and Lovers, Stanford University Press, pp. 118–144, 2020-12-31, ISBN 978-0-8047-9185-4, retrieved 2021-05-09
  5. ^ Wong, Wei Mei (January 1, 2016). "Past matchmaking norms and their influence on contemporary marriage markets in China". Journal of the Anthropological Society of Oxford. Vol. 8, No. 3. |volume= has extra text (help)
  6. ^ Yang, Yijun (May 30, 2011). "A Marriage Made in the City Park". China Daily.
  7. ^ a b Warner, David (11 February 2010). "Shanghai's marriage market: Bridal bliss or marital mayhem?". CNN Travel. Retrieved 10 April 2012. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  8. ^ Gui, Tianhan (September 2017). ""Devalued" Daughters Versus "Appreciated" Sons: Gender Inequality in China's Parent-Organized Matchmaking Markets". Journal of Family Issues. 38 (13): 1923–1948. doi:10.1177/0192513X16680012. ISSN 0192-513X.
  9. ^ Sun, Peidong (2012). ‘Who will marry my daughter?’ Shanghai’s marriage market and ‘Baifaxiangqin’. Beijing: China Social Sciences Press.
  10. ^ "5 "When Are You Going to Get Married?" Parental Matchmaking and Middle-Class Women in Contemporary Urban China", Wives, Husbands, and Lovers, Stanford University Press, pp. 118–144, 2020-12-31, ISBN 978-0-8047-9185-4, retrieved 2021-05-09
  11. ^ Wong, Wei Mei (January 1, 2016). "Past matchmaking norms and their influence on contemporary marriage markets in China". Journal of the Anthropological Society of Oxford. Vol. 8, No. 3. |volume= has extra text (help)
  12. ^ Yang, Yijun (May 30, 2011). "A Marriage Made in the City Park". China Daily.
  13. ^ a b Sun, Peidong (2012). ‘Who will marry my daughter?’ Shanghai’s marriage market and ‘Baifaxiangqin’. Beijing: China Social Sciences Press.
  14. ^ Gui, Tianhan (September 2017). ""Devalued" Daughters Versus "Appreciated" Sons: Gender Inequality in China's Parent-Organized Matchmaking Markets". Journal of Family Issues. 38 (13): 1923–1948. doi:10.1177/0192513X16680012. ISSN 0192-513X.
  15. ^ The decline of Asian marriage: Asia's lonely hearts, The Economist.
  16. ^ a b Mullen, Mark (16 October 2007). "On-the-go Chinese women in no hurry to wed". NBC Nightly News. Retrieved 10 April 2012. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  17. ^ Horne, Emily. "Online Dating Sites Come to Life: The Shanghai Marriage Market". Dateline Shanghai. Retrieved 10 April 2012. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  18. ^ Wong, Wei Mei (January 1, 2016). "Past matchmaking norms and their influence on contemporary marriage markets in China". Journal of the Anthropological Society of Oxford. Vol. 8, No. 3. |volume= has extra text (help)
  19. ^ "5 "When Are You Going to Get Married?" Parental Matchmaking and Middle-Class Women in Contemporary Urban China", Wives, Husbands, and Lovers, Stanford University Press, pp. 118–144, 2020-12-31, ISBN 978-0-8047-9185-4, retrieved 2021-05-09
  20. ^ a b c Gui, Tianhan (September 2017). ""Devalued" Daughters Versus "Appreciated" Sons: Gender Inequality in China's Parent-Organized Matchmaking Markets". Journal of Family Issues. 38 (13): 1923–1948. doi:10.1177/0192513X16680012. ISSN 0192-513X.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

External video
video icon "Shanghai's "Marriage Market" at People's Park"