Support Marketplace

Day Eight: A visit to Shanghai's marriage market


  • Photo 1 of 10

    Kai Ryssdal talks to a parent at Shanghai's marriage market in China.

    - Marketplace

  • Photo 2 of 10

    At the People's Park in Shanghai, paper flyers advertise young Chinese people looking to get married.

    - Marketplace

  • Photo 3 of 10

    Marriage advertisements adorn a corner of Shanghai's People's Park every Saturday.

    - Marketplace

  • Photo 4 of 10

    Here, one of the marriage ads includes pictures.

    - Marketplace

  • Photo 5 of 10

    Chinese parents sit under umbrellas at People's Park, where they sit ready to answer questions any passerby may have about their son or daughter at the marriage market in Shanghai.

    - Marketplace

  • Photo 6 of 10

    A parent waits to see if anyone is interested in marrying their child. Young people are traditionally expected to get married before they turn 30, especially women.

    - Marketplace

  • Photo 7 of 10

    The marriage market provides an opportunity for Chinese parents to set up a date for their children and make a potential love connection.

    - Marketplace

  • Photo 8 of 10

    Kai conducts interviews at the marriage market in Shanghai.

    - Marketplace

  • Photo 9 of 10

    More advertisements. Parents sometimes advertise their children without their consent.

    - Marketplace

  • Photo 10 of 10

    Kai conducts more interviews. At the marriage market, there are brokers who try to play matchmaker -- some for a price.

    - Marketplace

At the People's Park in Shanghai, paper flyers advertise young Chinese people looking to get married.

Available: 27-year-old female. Seeking: Man born between 1979 and 1983, 1.76-1.88 meters tall. Must live in Shanghai and have good job. Owning own apartment a definite plus, possibly required depending on other qualifications. Objective: friendship, perhaps matrimony.

I went to Shanghai's marriage market the other day -- which sounds worse than it actually is in practice. But I'll let you decide. The back-story goes like this: There's incredible pressure on young people here to get married. And to do it before they turn 30 -- especially the women. When I say incredible, I mean incredible. Every Saturday a corner of People's Park in the center of town is turned into a real-life version of a lonely hearts club. Only it's the parents who are looking for love.

Walk into the park/market and what you see are paper flyers -- hundreds of them -- posted and pasted everywhere. On trees and park walls and on the pavement, advertising the virtues and desires of unmarried children -- sons and daughters -- as supplied by their parents. Often the mother or father is standing nearby, ready to answer questions. Parents of prospective mates make the rounds, checking out the competition, trying to judge the market. Because there are, after all, buyers and sellers -- those with children on offer and those who're looking -- although no money changes hands. All that's exchanged, if there's interest on both sides, is a phone number. For a dinner date, maybe. And if things go well, who knows...

So for all you 30-something Americans out there whose mothers are bugging you to get married... count your blessings that's all they're doing.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

At the People's Park in Shanghai, paper flyers advertise young Chinese people looking to get married.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...