Marriage markets: A Chinese specialty?

Walking through People’s Park in Shanghai on a cool Sunday afternoon, one would find it almost impossible to let the strange umbrellas with sheets of paper taped to them lining the footpaths go unnoticed. It looks like some sort of a market but for what?

Fruits, vegetables or even clothes would usually be anyone’s guess but Shanghai seems to work in a slightly different fashion. The mention of a marriage market here is not something that raises eyebrows or gets frowned upon. Instead, Chinese citizens from the older generations actually embrace this idea. The sheets of paper taped to the umbrellas carry the marriage proposal and the desperate parents looking for a match for their child sit beside it.

But what exactly goes on at a traditional marriage market? What kind of life partners do people expect to find here? What are the success rates for matches here and what is the general opinion about such a place? These are only a few of the questions that usually come to mind when being told about the marriage market in Shanghai.

Walking around People’s Park and taking some time to talk to the people here ended up revealing quite a few unexpected stories…

Mr. Zhu (铸先生), from Shanghai, was looking for a partner for himself at the marriage market. This however was a little strange since usually only parents turn up to look for matches for their children.

What kind of woman are you looking for yourself? 
 “I’m just looking for a big-breasted woman.”

Why do you think people here are reluctant to talk to us or let us take pictures?
 “People here would not want to talk to you or allow you to take pictures of them because marriage is a personal matter.”

“I have been here many times before and I think that this place is very messy. This is usually done by desperate parents and the success rates are very very low. I think it is also because everyone says that people who come here to look for partners are not good people. They are not interested in people. They put more focus on money, a house or a car.” -Li, Shanghai

As a concerned parent looking for a match for her daughter, this lady reluctantly agreed to a picture but refused to give out her name.

What kind of boy are you looking for her? Someone loving and caring?
 “NO. No one talks about love here. He just needs to have a good income and a house.”

Can I take a picture of you please?
 “NO.”
You can look down or just look the other way if you want.
“Okay fine.”

This lady also refused to give out her name since she did not want to be recognized by anyone.

It is fine if you don’t want to tell us your name. Can you tell us where you are from?
“Anhui” (she said with a laugh).

Who are you looking for a partner for?
 “My son.”
What kind of girl do you want for your son?
 “My son is 180cm tall. So I want a girl who is 163cm or taller.”

“It’s pretty fascinating how people just set up shop here and look for a mate for their loved ones. But at the same time it seems weird that almost all of these descriptions of people have no pictures to go with them.” -Julian, Germany

“Maybe they don’t really care about appearance? (she said with a laugh) Or maybe they just figure it out later if everything else matches?” -Cheryl, Hong Kong

Mr. Ye (叶先生), was taking his usual Sunday stroll at People’s Park when we met him and decided to ask him about his thoughts on this place.

“Everyone here only cares about money or a house or a car. If you have a house you have a wife. The lowest price for you to be able to get a marriage done here would be 1 million yuan (一百万). If you don’t have that then I doubt you can get anything.”

This parent, like a few of the others, did not want to tell us his name or about his experience.

Can you tell us your name or surname?
 He shuffled around a bit like he was uncomfortable.

It’s okay if you don’t want to tell me your name. Can you tell me where you are from?
 He made a face and started looking in a different direction. “No questions. No No.”

Can I take a picture of you? 
 “No no. No pictures!”

2 parents discuss a potential match.

This lady from Anhui was looking for a match for her granddaughter living in Shanghai while the man was looking for a wife for his son who is an engineer also living in Shanghai.

Mrs. Wang (王太太),from Jiangsu, was looking for a partner for her daughter.

“This is a good idea. We get to find partners for our family members who need them.” 
-Mrs. Wang

As Chinese students from the young generation, what do you think of the marriage market?

“I think most parents just do this because of so much pressure on them. In China family is very important. They are afraid that their children will not be able to make a family.” — Mr. Chen (middle)

“This is definitely not a good idea! I don’t want to be sold as a good in the middle of a market.” — Mr. Li (left)

“I think success rates are very low since this is mostly for money.” — Mr. Han (right)

Mrs. Ma(马太太) had her proposal posted in the international section of the marriage market where proposals for people living abroad are posted. She was looking for a match for her son who is an engineer and lives in America.

What kind of girl are you looking for him?
 “She needs to be a female with feminine taste.”