'Single sticks' search for light

Updated: 2006-11-12 09:31

BEIJING -- It's 'Guanggun day' in China and 1,111 lonely hearts are sitting bashfully across from each other in the vast banquet hall of a Beijing hotel.

The men -- the true Guangun or single sticks, as bachelors are called in China -- are on one side, while the women, known as Mingming or bright, are on the other. They are all single and today, the eleventh day of the eleventh month is their day.

The number one plays out in almost every aspect of the day. The singles paid 111 yuan to attend the get together.

The hope for today's party is that a Guangun and a Mingming will meet and become a 'guangming' which literally means light.

Guanggun Day or single stick day originated in the 1990s. College students came up with Nov. 11th with all it's single digits to celebrate and perhaps wallow in the loneliest number.

"At 11 minutes past 11 o'clock on Nov. 11, we started banging washbasins and shouted,' give me a chance to love you', only god knows who we were sending the message to", Zhang Xiaohao, 30, in recalling a Guanggun Day when he was a university student.

Still single and still shouting, Zhang is now an engineer with a U.S.-based software company. He says he works late almost every night and his "social circle is too limited, with few women around me."

A survey of 'single sticks' conducted by China Youth Daily showed that 58.6 percent of the respondents say they are single because they have few opportunities to make new friends.

"I know more people today, but feel close to very few," Zhang said.

Sociologist Wu Qinghua said even in big, crowded cities like Beijing and Shanghai people can feel isolated as human contact is increasingly restricted to people in business circle.

Men in China are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to finding mates and experts warn it's going to get worse as the population's gender imbalance grows.

Government statistics show that 117 boys are born for every 100girls in China. If current birth ratios continue, there will 25 million more men than women in China by 2030, according to a study issued by France's National Institute of Demographic Studies in October last year.

But on the 11th day of the 11th month many of the singles at the Beijing party are neither bashful nor discouraged.

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