Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category

Wanted: Smart son-in-law

June 23, 2008

Finding suitable suitors for busy offspring keeps Beijing parents flocking to matchmakers’ park

Jun 22, 2008 04:30 AM

Bill Schiller

Asia Bureau

BEIJING–Beneath a canopy of gnarled and ancient cypresses on the banks of the Huchen River – just steps from Tiananmen Square – they gathered in their hundreds last week, as they do every week, looking for love.

Not for themselves, for their kids.

Welcome to the White Collar Matchmaking Exchange, a twice-weekly gathering in central Beijing’s Zhongshan Park where parents fervently search for Mr. Right – or Ms. Right, as the case may be – for their unmarried children.

Carrying short biographies of their sons and daughters, carefully written on small white placards, the parents arrive at 1 p.m., place the cards on the pavement and await approaches from other parents whose children just might be the suitors they’re looking for.

“I want to build a bridge for them,” explains Tong Shouyang, a 74-year-old father who is on the hunt for a husband for his 31-year-old daughter. “If they can then look into each other’s eyes and find each other – then I think that’s great.”

Tong is here for the same reason all the other parents are: their kids are putting in so many hours at work in the new, industrious China that few have time to find a mate on their own. So, the parents have decided to do it for them.

In many major cities across China parents gather in parks to swap information and arrange introductions. Here in China’s Olympic city, however, there’s trouble brewing.

Filtering through the trees of this idyllic park, a tape-recorded female voice of officialdom rings out from loudspeakers.

“With the Olympic Games approaching day by day,” the voice says, “senior authorities and relevant departments have requested higher standards for the environment and order of Zhongshan Park. Due to the importance of its location … from May 29, no further White Collar Matchmaking Exchange activities shall take place in this park.”

It is now late June. But the wheeling and dealing continues.

For three weeks, these parents – dignified and mild-mannered – have paid little heed.

“We’re not going anywhere,” says one father, who asks that his name not be used for fear of government reprisals.

“This park is very central, very convenient and easy to get to by bus. And we’re not doing anything wrong.”

From the far bank of the river, two police officers in a parked car silently monitor activity.

City officials recently erected signs stipulating that parents should move on to other parks.

Bus routes and schedules have been posted on a board to show them how to get there.

But the parents have stubbornly stayed on.

Parents here feel that finding partners for their children is the unfinished business of their life’s work. And they like doing that business in Zhongshan Park.

After all, the Matchmaking Exchange has been meeting here for three years. Some weeks, as many as 4,000 parents have turned up.

“In China,” Tong explains patiently, “if our children are 30 years of age and not married – even if everything else is settled: a job, a house, a car – then that weighs heavily on a Chinese parent’s heart.”

As he speaks, occasional passersby stop to read his daughter’s details: “Female. Born Feb. 8, 1977. 1.68 metres tall. University diploma, double Bachelor degrees. Unmarried. Works with a real estate company. Engineer. A Beijinger.”

Says Tong: “I’d like her to meet someone of the same academic level – someone who is taller than 1.75 metres.

“He must be smart. He must be capable.”

Tong has been looking for a suitable match for about a year and he’s arranged about a dozen dates for his daughter.

“Unfortunately, none of them have worked out,” he says. “I thought the guys might be suitable, but my girl, well … she didn’t think they were good enough.”

Why does the candidate have to be more than 1.75 metres, he is asked?

“Offspring!” Tong says wide-eyed.

Although his daughter has never thanked him, he knows she appreciates his tireless efforts, he says.

“She doesn’t have time to go out,” he observes, “and her colleagues are all too short.”

Not far away, a friendly-looking mother in her 60s sits on a small stool behind a card proudly detailing her son’s attributes – and his requirements for a wife.

“Male. Born Oct. 1970. 1.85 metres tall. Double degrees from a famous university. Now works in management at a Beijing university. Healthy. Outgoing nature. Trustworthy, good-looking and virtuous. A Beijing householder from an intellectual family.

“Looking for someone under 32, unmarried, between 1.66 and 1.75 metres … honest and kind, outgoing and easy-going, good-looking and in good shape. Healthy, lighter skinned – a traditional girl.”

“Lighter skinned?” the mom is asked.

“Many Chinese men tend to think lighter-skinned women are more beautiful,” she smiles.

Another mother, Zhou Xiangdong, explains that it’s no wonder her 31-year-old daughter and others like her are still looking for husbands in this modern age.

The new and prosperous China has altered the priorities of young Chinese – and brought increasing pressure on women, she says.

“Today, young women have sacrificed almost everything to achieve their current positions in society. They devote far more time and energy to their jobs.

“It used to be that if you met someone and you liked each other enough, then perhaps you’d stay together. But that’s not the way it is now.

“My daughter has been to some organized social activities, kind of like dates. And the first thing the guys ask is: `Do you own a house? Do you own a car?'”

She sighs.

Back by the embankment, a mother carrying an umbrella is reading the public notice urging parents to move on. “The Olympics are coming,” she says. “They don’t want large groups of people meeting. Anywhere.”

Bill Schiller is the Star’s Asia Bureau Chief. Contact him at


Love in China: Matchmakers, moms and the Internet

Updated: 2006-02-13 09:13

The gateway to marital bliss in Beijing has a frosted glass door with two candy-apple red hearts and lots of computers.

Pairs of single men and women hold a 8-minute-talk face to face in Shanghai’s

Zhongshan Park on October 22, 2005. Nearly 5,000 local young professionals, all in a love hunt, convene for a mass match-making activity held in the park. [newsphoto]

Introducing the Beijing Military and Civilian Matchmaking Service, one of a growing number of Chinese companies that are wedding high technology with low-tech tradition to spawn romantic unions.

Bi Zhenxie, a 25-year-old real estate agent who has never had a girlfriend, was on his first visit, filling out a form with his personal details and what he wants in a mate.

“I’m so excited,” said Bi. “I just work, go home, then work again. Now I’m beginning to consider having a family because I’m getting up there in years. The pressure is on.”

Romance and marriage have changed drastically in China after 25 years of breakneck economic growth and looser social controls.

In a country now wide open to Western influences, even Valentine’s Day is making inroads, with chocolates, dinner dates, flowers and cards all becoming popular expressions of affection on the occasion.

For centuries, families relied on village matchmakers. Then came traditional Chinese unions sanctioned _ and sometimes arranged _ by companies for their employees. Today, the search is fueled by personal choice, sped up by the convenience of the latest technology.

“China is now free and transparent. Everyone has the freedom to find their partner,” said Wang Peng, a divorced 43-year-old who was making his first visit to the Beijing Military and Civilian Matchmaking Service.

“Now people can meet face-to-face, talk about their feelings, exchange ideas,” said Wang, a businessman with carefully combed hair. “They can find a common language and be together.”

The first state-sponsored matchmaking agency was set up in 1986 in the southern city of Guangzhou. Today, there are more than 20,000 registered agencies, according to the government’s Xinhua News Agency. Fees can run to thousands of yuan (hundreds of dollars) _ a fortune in a country where the average person earns just US$1,000 (euro835) a year.

But “it is the most convenient and fastest way to solve their marriage problems,” said Wang Weiming, general secretary of the Matchmaking Industry Committee of the China Social Work Association. “The modern matchmaking industry will grow and will not die out as long as human beings exist in this world.”

“Love is no longer the same as before because of the changes in society,” said Ren Wen, one of Beijing Military and Civilian Matchmaking Service’s employees, who are called “teacher” by clients.

“People are more independent. They want to think for themselves,” Ren said. “They’re also more independent financially, so they have greater and higher requirements.” With her hair piled high, a pearl necklace and coral-red lipstick, Ren looks like a traditional matchmaker but navigates her desktop computer with practiced smoothness.

“It’s a good deed. I like helping people to find their mate,” she said as she clicked on her mouse to get more information for Tian Li, a 48-year-old widow with a husky voice and a shy smile.

“I think I’m fairly attractive. I want to see what options I have,” Tian said. But for some parents, a low-tech approach is easier _ and a return to the days where they had some say in their children’s lives.

In Zhongshan Park, off Tiananmen Square in the heart of Beijing, hundreds of mothers and fathers gather twice a week in a do-it-yourself hunt for a partner worthy of their offspring.

They come with glossy photos of smiling sons and daughters, and swap stories of children so busy with careers that finding a spouse has fallen by the roadside. Some camp out on the ground and set up handwritten personal ads touting the virtues of their children.

“This is an effective way to do things,” said Guo Shufang, a slight, 65-year-old woman.

The retired office worker has come to Beijing twice from the northeastern city of Dalian, looking for a wife for her 31-year-old son, a software engineer. “You check out the potential candidates, you talk to their parents, you try to arrange for a meeting,” Guo said.

Duan Guoyi, 57, a retired construction company driver, had a photo of her 28-year-old daughter, who worked in Ukraine for five years. Duan said the park has yielded one or two men, though neither got far with the daughter.

“She told me one was too fat, the other was too quiet,” Duan said. “She’s not worried, but I am.”

“The older you get, the harder it is,” she said. “The economy has changed the way that people talk about love. Now, money, cars, homes come first.”

For Chen Yuannong, a 44-year-old office worker, career came first, but after she was divorced, loneliness set in.

At a friend’s urging, Chen signed up at the Beijing Military and Civilian Matchmaking Service. She met several men within a week and later married one.

“I carried hope in my heart that I would find someone suitable,” Chen said. “He is a kind man. Our life is good now.”

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