Wanted: a spouse. But the lovelorn are redefining their criteria

Hu Min
The iconic matchmaking market in People's Park shows shifting trends in what young people are looking for in marriage.
Hu Min

The young generation is reshaping and reshuffling the matchmaking market in Shanghai, as a weekend visit to People's Park downtown can attest.

On a sultry afternoon, one corner of the luxuriant, tranquil park is abuzz with the usual crowd of parents. They stand underneath umbrellas alongside notice boards they have erected to advertise the attributes of their offspring as ideal marriage mates.

The placards usually read like a resume: age, income, educational background, car and home ownership.

Wanted: a spouse. But the lovelorn are redefining their criteria
Hu Min / SHINE

A parent talks with two young visitors at the matchmaking corner in the People's Park on Saturday.

For decades, the iconic area known as "matchmaking corner" has been the destination of the lovelorn and parents anxious about the single status of their children.

Nowadays, many young people are also turning up there, but the messages they bring are different from the older generation. Their criteria for marriage have strayed from the traditional.

"I don't like men who work in the financial industry, and I prefer those with memberships on different online platforms, from Taobao's 88VIP to Sam's and airlines," one of their boards reads. "Those who look like actors such as Bai Ke, Lei Jiayin and Greg Hsu get extra points."

Wanted: a spouse. But the lovelorn are redefining their criteria
Hu Min / SHINE

The stalls extend almost to the entrance of the People's Park.

The woman with the placard said she already has an apartment and car, and is looking for someone very distinctive beyond material assets.

Other mating checklists presented by the younger generation also bear witness to the trend.

"I like ACG (anime, comics and games), visiting supermarkets on weekends and a Buddhist mindset in daily life," reads one.

"Those requirements are pretty low," said one surprised parent passing by.

"Hello, are you looking for a spouse?" Nick Zhang, 33, asked a young woman as she passed him the bazaar.

"Her appearance attracted me at the first sight, and I wanted to have a talk," Zhang told Shanghai Daily.

The woman ignored the overture after a brief glance and walked on.

Zhang, a native of Hunan Province, now works in Shanghai.

"It is my second visit here," he explained. "I open with a self-introduction because I think it's important to be a bit bold."

But so far, no positive results.

Wanted: a spouse. But the lovelorn are redefining their criteria
Ti Gong

A criteria list reads the demand of a woman, who is expecting a man not working in the financial industry but appreciating the fun of having bargains.

As they walked along, Angela Wang and a friend, both born in the late 1990s, were stopped by a mother woman trying to "promote" her son as good marriage material.

Wang, a Jiangsu Province native who works at a government department in Shanghai, stopped politely to listen to her.

"Actually, we both had no interest in the man, but we were shy to refuse the mother," she told Shanghai Daily.

Wang said she visited the park mostly out of curiosity and partly because of pressure from her parents to get married.

"But after walking around, we feel only a bit dazed and bemused by it all," she said. "There are too many people and placards, and the place is so noisy."

Wang said it was interesting to note that incomes of potential spouses, as shown on the boards, were pretty high.

"There is a man whose annual salary is 900,000 yuan (US$124,258)," she said. "But he's nearly as old as my father! For me, self-motivation in a man is important, and I think memberships on various platforms indicate whether someone is down-to-earth and cost-conscious – which are good points. Common interests are also important."

Wanted: a spouse. But the lovelorn are redefining their criteria

The matchmaking market in a weekend afternoon

Another young female visitor, who identified herself only as Ni Ni, said she was a 25-year-old migrant working in Shanghai.

She triggered the interest of several parents because of her good looks, but when asked about what she wanted in a spouse, she went blank.

"I blurted out 'a man' before I could think of what to say," she said, looking awkward. "I have never encountered anything like this before in my life."

One parent even examined her palmistry.

"I came here to learn how I might use this matchmaking market, " she said. "My parents back home are anxious about my single status, but I am not worried about it. I don't want my parents to end up choosing someone for me."

Wanted: a spouse. But the lovelorn are redefining their criteria
Hu Min / SHINE

Boards read like resumes, with the one in the center introducing a woman of gentle personality, love of art and good family background.

Ni Ni said she has few requirements for a spouse apart from what she called "eye affinity."

Alex Yang from Suzhou in neighboring Jiangsu Province, said he came to the matchmaking market just as a kick.

"I came with my girlfriend out of curiosity," he said. "This place is quite similar to a big vegetable market, but it is a lot of fun."

A security guard told Shanghai Daily that some parents arrive at the market as early as 6am to get prime spots to set up their placards.

"Most stay until nightfall," he said. "Unlike the past, people of all ages come here nowadays. Many faces are familiar."

Wanted: a spouse. But the lovelorn are redefining their criteria

Young visitors look at the criteria board at the matchmaking corner

Security guards are on constant patrol to maintain order and remind people not to take photos of prospective matches without permission.

An Irish tourist named Niamh said she stumbled into the area after disembarking from the Metro. Intrigued by what she saw, she took photos of the placards.

"I just can't believe it," she told Shanghai Daily. "I have never seen anything like this before. It appears that people can find prospective spouses here."

A Shanghai resident surnamed You, who lives near the park and is a frequent visitor, said she has observed changes in the "matchmaking corner."

"Placards for people born between 1986 and 1993 now dominate the bazaar, instead of notice boards for those born in the 1970s and 80s," she said. "And the percentage of post-1995 marriage-seekers is growing, with even a few posted for those born since 2000."

She also noted a shift in marriage requirements, with homeownership no longer so prominent.

Wanted: a spouse. But the lovelorn are redefining their criteria

Resume-like criteria lists spreading on the terrace of the matchmaking corner

A Haagen-Dazs outlet at the exit of the park is stuffed with "negotiating" parents and young people talking to candidates of interest, but You said she didn't seem much success happening there.

Ding Xiaochun, a psychology consultant passes through the park numerous times because of the proximity of his workplace on Jiujiang Road. He said he sometimes gets stopped by people asking for his advice.

"I tell them that a successful marriage depends on maturity and the joint commitment of two people," he said.

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