Old man reading at a park

The Desires and Disappointments of Chinese Seniors Seeking Twilight Love

At Beijing’s Changpuhe Park, hundreds of elderly Chinese have been looking for a partner for company, sex, and mutual care, but few succeed

“An apartment is a must,” a man in his late 60s emphasizes to several of his male peers at Changpuhe Park in Beijing’s Dongcheng district on a Tuesday morning, citing a common requirement for marriage in China.

But they are not talking about their children, whose generation’s anxieties about marriage—and the seeming impossibility of affording it—is a well-reported phenomenon in Chinese society today. Rather, these uncles are sharing their own stories of successful and failed dates. They hope to find themselves a partner at this very park, one of Beijing’s most popular xiangqin (相亲, matchmaking) sites for divorced, widowed, or unmarried city residents aged between 40 and 80.

At around 10 a.m. there are only about a dozen of them in the park. They rapidly fire questions as TWOC’s reporter approaches, “Have you come to xiangqin too? How old are you?” One woman, who guesses that TWOC is too young to be looking for a partner among her peers, suggests we instead go to Zhongshan Park, a spot well-known for hosting a matchmaking corner (相亲角) for young singles in their 20s or 30s (or rather, parents who attend on their behalf). Most, though, become reticent after knowing TWOC is here as reporters, and refuse to answer questions.

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author Tan Yunfei (谭云飞)

Tan Yunfei is the editorial director of The World of Chinese. She reports on Chinese language, food, traditions, and society. Having grown up in a rural community and mainly lived in the cities since college, she tries to explore and better understand China's evolving rural and urban life with all readers.

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