How much do you earn? Making a match isn't always romantic
Parents exchange information about their unmarried children during a matchmaking event in Beijing International Sculpture Park earlier this month. [Photo/China Daily]
"This is not romantic at all." Yu Junjie, 24, was amused to see so much personal information posted at Beijing International Sculpture Park's matchmaking event. Many of the fliers listed specific salary and housing requirements.
Despite the cold weather and the unromantic posts, parks in Beijing and across the country became hot matchmaking spots as aspiring married people flocked in to find their life mates as Valentine's Day drew near.
What began as small groups of parents meeting to exchange information about their unmarried children has been drawing more young people in recent years. Roughly 50,000 people registered their personal information on large boards erected on the square at Beijing International Sculpture Park Feb 2-9.
Li Mingshun, deputy head of the marriage and family board of the China Law Society, said the lack of time to meet people has contributed heavily to the popularity of massive matchmaking events. Most young people are busy at work or studying for advanced degrees, so the Spring Festival holidays provide a chance for them to meet many people in a short time.
Such an event might be a time-saver, but Yu Junjie found it a romance-killer. She pointed out one notice that required the potential match, if a Beijing local, to have a monthly salary of more than 5,000 yuan (about $760). For guys without a Beijing hukou (household registration), the salary minimum was 10,000 yuan.
Yu, who is 24, said that finding love through the thousands of personal ads on the boards was more challenging than finding a needle in a haystack. A friend of hers, also checking posts on the board, said, "Come on, people who come here are looking for marriage, not love."
A nationwide survey released in December found that marriage is not about the chocolate and roses of Valentine's Day. The study by the China Association of Marriage and Families Research and Baihe Marriage Research Institute said that more than 70 percent of women polled think that to be eligible for marriage, a man should have a house, a steady income and some savings.
And 41.7 percent of women surveyed wanted their partners to be civil servants, because they consider those jobs "gravy" and the most stable in China. Wang Zhiguo, relationship counselor at the Baihe institute, said the report shows that many women view marriage as a form of social security. The Law Society's Li Mingshun said there's nothing wrong with listing one's basic needs for marriage, especial now, as society becomes more open.
Flipping through his cell phone, Suo Jinpeng, 28, said he had gotten seven phone numbers this day from young women or their parents. "Casting a wide net will expand my chances."
During the three hours he spent wandering in the park, Suo said, the most frequent question he was asked was his salary. He said it's a reasonable question, but "a little bit unfair. I also want to know how much money these girls make, but guys are not supposed to ask such questions, I guess."
There's no apparent discomfort among the parents who frequent matchmaking events - about half the crowd at Sculpture Park, according to one of the organizers, Hao Pengfei.
Holding her daughter's work ID, a petite woman who gave only her surname, Li, responded quickly when asked what kind of guy she was looking for: "College degree and above, owning his own apartment. My requirements are quite simple."
Li is proud when she talks about her daughter, who is 28 and in graduate school in Nanjing. Another couple approached Li with a compliment: "Your daughter has your looks. She looks just like you from the picture." And they started to exchange information about their kids.
Liu Hongjun, 58, was not happy about several potential daughter-in-law candidates. This was the third day he and his wife had spent in parks, looking. They have been trying since summer to find a woman who would marry his 32-year-old son. "Some girls' parents will have second thoughts as soon as they know my son has been divorced."
It was nearing the end of the event, and Liu was taking the small photo of his son from the post. "He does not like some girls we picked for him." There have been arguments, Liu said. "That's probably the generation gap. We have different views and standards about marriage."
Li Mingshun said there are reasons for parents' active involvement in their children's quest for marriage partners. "By talking to the other parents, parents can know a lot about the other family's back-ground, even if they don't meet the kid."
For many of these parents, marriage is not simply a matter of a couple, but their family as well.