The Shanghai Marriage Market

The informant is from Shanghai, China. She came to the United States when she was in middle school. Her family still lives in Shanghai, and she returns home every break. Her primary language is Cantonese. She is 20 years old, and she majors in Cinematic Arts. 

Informant: The Shanghai Marriage Market is a marriage market in which parents of unmarried adults flock to People’s Park in Shanghai, China every Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. The market’s name in Chinese is 人民公园相亲角 (pinyin: rénmín Gōngyuán xiāngqīn jiǎo), and it literally means “People’s Park blind date corner.”

“The old parents would take a resume, which has their daughter’s or son’s name, age, height, college degree, job, interests, religious values, etc. They would hang the resume upon long strings among other parents advertisements for their children. Then, they meet other parents and talk about their children, like, “oh, my son. He is so good. You should meet my son.” or “I think my son fits your daughter.” Basically, instead of having kids meet each other, the parents meet each other to find a future daughter-in-law or son-in-law. 

To be honest, it’s a tradition that is dying out. It was popular about 10 years ago. It has a low success rate, and in fact most daughters and sons of modern China don’t want to meet their other half through this way. So the parents that go to the marriage market usually do not have their child’s permission. But there still are many parents who go to the market, and there definitely are cases of successful matchmaking. I think the market exists just to uphold the old Chinese tradition.”

Matchmaking was an integral part of the ancient Chinese marriage customs. Almost all couples were married through matchmaking, because China’s long idealized tradition of continuing their family lineage was very important. Marriage wasn’t  purely about intercourse between man and woman. It was more about that between two families, and it served many political roles. This Shanghai Marriage Market is a good example of deepening difference between the old generation and the new generation. The old generation tend to follow old Chinese traditions, while the new generation, influenced by the advance in technology, follow different values. Whether this park would remain after five years or so would be an intriguing questions.