Monday, July 30, 2012

Single in Shanghai

While I was growing up, my now 93-year-old bachelor Great Uncle Peter had a shrine to St. Joseph in his bedroom.  On the shrine, he would place pictures of all of his nieces, nephews, great nieces, and great nephews in hopes that the Good Lord would lead them to love.  As teenagers, my single cousins and I would brace ourselves for the inevitable “So is there anyone you are sweet on right now?” that would pop out of his mouth every time we saw him.  I thought this question was mildly irritating and inappropriate, but looking back I realize all he wanted was for us to find our soul mates and live happily ever after.  Being a bachelor who had a lady friend for 50+ years, he wanted more for us.  I learned this weekend, things could be MUCH worse than a school picture taped to a shrine inside a home.  Chris and I took a trip to the Shanghai Marriage Market.

Two women check out some prospects at the Shanghai Marriage Market.

Yes single friends, if you are (or aren’t) looking for that special someone, you can take the Metro to People’s Square Park on the weekends and witness hundreds of parents trying to arrange fateful meetings between their eligible, single offspring. 

Parents browse potential suitors for their children.  Note how some parents use umbrellas and gift bags to make their child's profile stand out. 

Here is how the marriage market process works.  Eager parents post a poster containing a picture of their child with the his or her age, height, job, salary, educational experiences, real estate holdings, and future spousal requirements in People’s Square Park.  If the child does not know his or her parents are wanting to set them up, many times the parent will steal a picture of their child and post it in the park.

Parents looking for future daughter or son in laws will browse the want ad like sheets and contact the posters (who are often waiting on the park sidelines) to arrange a meeting between their offspring.  If it works out, all parties may live happily ever after. 
This is a sample posting for someone looking for a mate born in 1977-1982.

Upon seeing the madness of cackling parents, the following question popped in my head:
            “In a city of 23,000,000 people, why is there a need for a marriage market?”

My initial internal responses were simple.  Parents want to see their children happy.  Parents expect so much from this generation of Chinese citizens; hence their sons and daughters are too busy with studies and work to find a quality spouse. 
For 10-20 RMB ($1.50-$3.00) one may hire a matchmaker to facilitate the process.  While the initial cost is low, the matchmaker expect a handsome bonus and a wedding invitation if the match works out.

These answers were too simple for me.  I turned to the web and Googled Shanghai Marriage Market to get an answer to my question.

According to CNN, dating in China is pretty tough.  Thanks to the one child per household law, many parents selected to have male offspring.  Hence there are going to be 24,000,000 more marrying aged males than females in China in 2020.  Additionally, there is an unspoken “ABCD rule” where males of one class marry one class below them.  This rule has led to a surplus of intelligent, productive, beautiful women in Shanghai who are financially independent and looking for love.  To make matters more bizarre, if you are single over the age of 30, you are considered a “sheng nu” or a leftover woman.   Please know, dear readers, I do not agree with this system.  I am just providing this information to provide understanding of this practice.
One parent identifies a potential winner.

Here are more bachelors and bachelorettes.

The marriage market can backfire.  Check out the clip below.

Shanghai Love Market from Craig Rosenthal on Vimeo.

Gotta love it!