Frenzied Matchmaking, Al Fresco

Your Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders
June 19 2013 11:00 AM

Shanghai Marriage Market: Where Moms and Dads Match Up Their Offspring

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On weekends, the northern walkways of People’s Park are filled with middle-aged men and women affixing posters to the ground, bushes, and lengths of string suspended at eye level. The posters advertise the glowing attributes of the goods they are offering: their marriage-ready sons and daughters.

Traditionally, Chinese marriages begin with parental matchmaking—before a potential couple meets, their parents will discuss the viability of the union, swapping information on looks, interests, and finances. In 21st-century Shanghai, the process can be difficult. Fast-paced lives, busy schedules, and a male-skewed sex ratio resulting from the country’s one-child policy all hinder parents who want to marry their children off before they hit the crucial age of 30. 

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The outdoor marriage bazaar draws hundreds of traders every week, each one clutching a piece of paper listing height, age, educational background, occupation, and spousal preferences. Some mothers and fathers bring a folding chair, settling in for the day of fielding offers and swapping the vital statistics of their offspring with other matchmakers. The success rate is low—there are parents who have been coming every weekend for years—but, given the social stigma facing unmarried thirtysomethings, the marriage market has nevertheless thrived since 1996.

More on the Shanghai marriage market can be seen on Atlas Obscura.

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