The Shanghai Marriage Market

These days, there are so many ways to find a potential mate. There’s the good ol’ fashioned random encounter — a chance, flirty conversation in a bar; an accidental bump of your cart into another’s at the grocery store (hello Social Safeway); or, hallelujah, sharing a pew with an attractive fellow worshiper at church. Many more options exist online from Match.com to OkCupid to the latest, Tinder. But, have you ever heard of Shanghai’s Marriage Market? It takes matchmaking to a whole new level, one that would surely infuriate singles of any nationality, given that it’s the parents and grandparents doing the setting-up.

Marriage market entranceEvery Saturday and Sunday, from noon to five, matchmakers set up shop in People’s Square, a park that’s a short stroll away from major tourist attractions. The matchmakers sit on their fold-able chairs behind their fold-able tables. Parents or grandparents stop by to flip through books full of profiles of potential partners for their kids or grandkids.

Other matchmakers make creative use of the perfectly planted shrubs and trees to display their goods: laminated computer print-outs or handwritten flyers listing vital statistics, including gender, place of birth, year of birth, height, degree, occupation, mobile number. Some include small photos but most don’t. All specify what they’re looking for in a mate: an appropriate age, a specified height, a minimum degree level.

Oddly, none of the ads mention anything about personality types, likes and dislikes, hopes and dreams. Which makes me think two things: either romantic notions aren’t important matchmaking criteria or they are so important they can’t easily be summarized on a single sheet of paper. I’m leaning towards the former. It seems that Chinese parents are more concerned with their kids’ (and their mates’) financial security. Most of the ads include monthly salary amounts and some even indicate their living situation. Presumably, the singles who own their own apartments are more appealing to parents on the prowl in an expensive, heavily populated city like Shanghai. As are laowais, or so we figured when people started approaching us to ask if we were single. My response was to flash my ring and keep walking; Iggy’s was to point to me and tell them that, yes, I was single and looking. Oh, he is a funny one. But even if I was single, I wouldn’t be considered a catch. I’d just be another leftover woman, one almost too old to be advertised at the Shanghai Marriage Market.

This entry was published on February 21, 2014 at 4:49 pm. It’s filed under China, Markets, Shanghai and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

135 thoughts on “The Shanghai Marriage Market

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  1. I enjoyed reading your blog!

  2. I had seen a report on this on TV— and thought- I wish my parents would try this (Sarcastic of course!)! Seems like this method takes the fun and life out of dating- but maybe there just isn’t enough women? Maybe this is the new arranged marriage? Who knows but thank you for writing about this.

  3. This reminds me of the Indian marriage scenario. However, the market thing is a way too much! I really wish this concept shouldn’t come to India. Being single and an eligible matrimonial catch, this marriage- market petrifies me! A good read though! šŸ™‚

  4. Sharon Nyatanga on said:


  5. Very interesting. Great pix. Let me know if you’d be interested in participating in the RACE – up on my front page. I would be happy to promote your blog.

    Cheerleading your way.


  6. This is so true that Chinese young people are in a high demand of finding a boy/girlfriend to get married. Young generation is too busy to have time look for a date. And in China, we are always asked question by those relatives. “Have you found a boyfriend yet?” “How old is he?” “How much money does he make a month?” “Does he have a car, an apartment?” Therefore, a lot of young people have to “rent” a boy/girlfriend when they go back home for new year or big event to avoid all those gossip questions. It is a very funny thing in China now.
    Interesting article. Welcome to my blog to read some articles about Chinese culture, food and language. Thank you.

    • I’ve heard that many singles in China don’t enjoy going home for Chinese New Year because that’s when they get pestered by all the relatives. I couldn’t imagine. I look forward to reading your blog and learning more about China! Thanks for sharing.

  7. seanbalko on said:

    Incredibly fascinating!

  8. This is insane (and Iggy is hilarious!). I cannot imagine a world like this, although Tinder has pretty much taken over my life and this is just a few short steps past it, I guess. Anyway, very interesting blog. (BTW, don’t you have to be educated and urban to be considered a “leftover woman?” šŸ˜‰ )

  9. Pingback: Are You the One?- A discussion of Chinese marriage and how people date | China Red

  10. This was an interesting read. Im surprised but not surprised.

  11. whatsoever on said:

    Your observance was quite meticulous.

  12. Wow! Fascinating!

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