China: 5-year plan

Day Eight: A visit to Shanghai’s marriage market

Kai Ryssdal Jun 6, 2011

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.

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