Single, aged 29, and living in Beijing. In the world’s most populous country, finding a significant other should be a piece of cake, right? Step outside into the busy streets of the city, or take the subway for a couple of stops, and it’s a guarantee that you will run into a significantly large number of other singles who are more than ready to mingle. With China’s more than 180 million single people, why has the western concept of online dating services skyrocketed? Ironically, China’s own culture is to blame.
“My parents worry that their only son might end up to be a bachelor for life and relatives simply enjoy nosing into others’ private lives,” said Wang Zheli, 36, according to China Daily. “As a result, I live like a zoo animal, being watched and commented on by different people every day.”
The tremendous pressure that singles face from families in China stems from the Confucius concept of filial piety. This concept is deeply rooted in Chinese culture, mandating that children honor and respect their parents to their utmost ability.
Contrary to Western practices, when parents are old enough to retire in China, they are expected to move back in with their children. Because the sons and daughters are expected to repay their parents for having raised them, they are to fully take care of their parents after they have retired.
A man uses a clipboard to advertise his daughter’s basic information at a blind date corner at People’s Park in Shanghai. [Photo/Xinhua]
“For many Chinese filial piety is very important, and on the subject of marriage the opinion of parents carries significant weight,” said marriage expert Tong Li, according to CCTV
. “For many parents the marriage of their children is a family issue, not an individual decision. So even if their daughter is in no rush, they will take it onto themselves to hurry her along.”
For hundreds of years, China’s society depended heavily on arranged marriages. Parents took it upon themselves to make sure their children were well off in the future. Chairman Mao abolished arranged marriages in 1951 in efforts to revolutionize Chinese culture. Habits are tough to break, however, as this left the society a bit confused on how to go about getting married.
After the One Child Policy was passed, little emperors were created. Being an only child gave you the right to be spoiled and pleased by your parents. After years of being sheltered by overprotective parents since birth, trying to figure out how to ask out the opposite sex is not exactly the most natural concept for these young adults.
A parent considers a dating advertisement in Nanjing, Jiangsu province. Parents posted their children’s information in a park to help them find partners. Photo by Yang Bo / China News Service
Parents, still desperate to get their children to find their significant others, began to post advertisements in parks with information about them. It is not uncommon to find these parents hiring match makers or attending speed dating workshops for their children. The idea of their sons or daughters becoming 剩女（Shèngnǚ） or 剩男（Shèng nán）， literally left over man or woman， is simply unbearable.
Even if this trend is a bit more socially acceptable in China, it is still an embarrassment that young Chinese singles do not necessarily want to submit themselves to. This is when online dating comes in handy.
“It’s the accuracy of the photos compared to real thing that’s the biggest problem,” says Power Li, a 32-year-old civil servant, according to Time Magazine. “You see a girl on the website who you quite like the look of, but then when you ask her out you find they look nothing like their online photos.”
Online dating has spread like wildfire, attracting over three million paying customers. According to CCTV, nearly half of those seeking marriage in China had registered in one of the country’s three leading dating agencies.
Western as it may be, these online websites continue to demonstrate Chinese culture and characteristics. Apart from asking your typical age, gender, and hobbies, these websites also inquire about your face shape, blood type, and most importantly, if you are willing to allow your future in-laws to live in your home. Of course, there is also a section to write what you are looking for. Some examples I found read:
“I hope you are gentle, kind, and a little quiet. I hope you are kind to the elderly, like small animals, except for mice, and have a lot lot love.”
“The world is so big, there are so many countries, so many cities, a big crowd, It’s not too late for you to appear, I believe in fate, I believe in miracles, I believe in love at first sight, I look forward to your acquaintance.”
Photo Courtesy of CCTV