LOVE HUNTERS AND HIGH-END DATING SERVICES IN CHINA

FINDING BRIDES FOR CHINESE MULTIMILLIONAIRES

In 2004, a yuan billionaire who made a fortune in auto parts and was distraught over a divorce with his wife took out an advertisement in a newspaper seeking a virgin bride. The billionaire received about 600 applications. He interviewed 20 of them and selected one as his wife. The success of the endeavor prompted other super-rich but lonely men to seek virgin brides, spawning a mini- industry run by a Shanghai lawyer who chose a bride for himself from among the applicants. When one applicant was asked by the New York Times how she felt about the virginity requirement, she replied, “Isn’t the purpose of saving our virginity: to get a good price?”

Carol Huang of wrote: Young Chinese women in swishy dresses and strappy sandals sit in a row clutching forms that list their weight and measurements as they wait for an interview with the "appearance consultant". Dressed as if for a beauty contest, they are among more than 1,000 bidding to make it to the next stage of this bizarre competition -- the chance to join an exclusive group of 50 vying for marriage to a multimillionaire. [Source: AFP, Carol Huang, August 24, 2012]

The testing process screens everything from looks and education to family background and astrological compatibility. The 50 lucky qualifiers win the chance to meet 32 men worth at least 100 million yuan ($16 million). Although it is at the extreme end of the scale, the matchmaking event arranged by the China Entrepreneur Club for Singles in Beijing reflects the growing challenges of finding a spouse in modern China. [Ibid]

"I don't need to be so rich. I'm just saying I want the ability to have a good lifestyle," said Zeng Xie, 25, wearing thick mascara and a delicate dress as she slipped out between interviews to check in with her mother. Zeng's mother, who gave only her surname, Niu, rated her daughter's chances of finding love in the city as low, and bemoaned her unwillingness to return to the family's home town. "She's got a lot of great qualities, so she has quite high standards," said Niu. "Kids these days are working and they are so busy, they don't have time to make friends."

Experts say the material demands of some young Chinese have escalated as the country's wealth has grown -- with home ownership a common requirement, according to Yale sociologist Deborah Davis. Davis says that transient urban lifestyles have combined with frenetic social change, booming wealth and more relaxed sexual mores to complicate the process of finding a partner in China. [Ibid]

Many of China's flourishing dating websites and other matchmaking businesses target the ultra wealthy, said Wu Di, a psychology consultant and television personality who discusses dating and marriage. The China Entrepreneur Club for Singles requires men to verify their net worth and pay a 200,000 yuan ($31,000) fee. Half are divorced and half of those have children -- factors that might give some women pause. [Ibid]

The criteria for women are pretty exacting. They should be 20 to 28 years old, 165 centimetres (five feet four inches) or taller, beautiful and gentle with at least a junior college education. Contest founder Cheng Yongsheng stresses that they also screen women for character, putting them through a multiple-round two-month process of "in-depth tests" and interviews with family. They cannot be too poor or they will be gold-diggers, nor can they be too rich and not appreciate the value of hard-earned money, he said. [Ibid]

At the China Entrepreneur Club On Sunday women were assessed not only by the appearance consultant but also three others asking questions such as how did they handle stress, how would their parents describe them and what did they want in a man? Several insisted they cared about love more than money. Zeng said she was perfectly content to live on her 30,000 yuan monthly salary and, as an occasional model, did not lack potential boyfriends. She sought a husband who was responsible and treated her as an equal. Chen Li, 29, wanted a life partner of good character and sighed that this might not be the best place to find him. "Rich, divorced men just want a young and pretty woman who can have babies," she said, adding that she did not think she fitted the bill. "Being successful and being good are not the same thing."

Diamond Love: High-End Matchmaking in China

Brook Larmer wrote in the New York Times, “Dozens of high-end matchmaking services have sprung up in China in the last five years, charging big fees to find and to vet prospective spouses for wealthy clients. Their methods can turn into gaudy spectacle. One firm transported 200 would-be trophy wives to a resort town in southwestern China for the perusal of one powerful magnate. Another organized a caravan of BMWs for rich businessmen to find young wives in Sichuan Province. Diamond Love, among the largest love-hunting services, sponsored a matchmaking event in 2009 where 21 men each paid a $15,000 entrance fee. [Source: Brook Larmer, New York Times, March 19, 2013 ^-^]

Yang Jing ‘s “success as a love hunter has made her the breadwinner in her own family. Despite her growing discomfort with the sexism that permeates the love-hunting business, she has sympathy for her superrich clients. “These men are lost souls,” she said. “They worked hard, made a lot of money, and left their old world behind. Now they don’t have time to find a wife, and they don’t know whom to trust. So they come to us.” ^-^

“Ms. Yang’s boss, Fei Yang, is a smoky-voiced woman in a black leather jacket who used to trade in electronic goods. Inviting me to sit on a bright pink couch in her lushly carpeted office, she explained how the firm has “spread the culture of the relationship” since 2005, when it opened in Shanghai. It now has six branches, with 200 consultants, 200 full-time love hunters and hundreds more part-time scouts, virtually all of them women. Teacher Fei, as her employees call her, runs a series of “how to be a better wife” workshops that coach women on the finer points of managing a wealthy household, reading their husbands’ moods and “understanding the importance of sexual relations.” The fee for two, 14-day courses is $16,000.^-^

Women Recruited by Chinese Love-Hunter Business

Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore wrote in The Telegraph, ““I’m single and my family is urging me to get married,” says Ruby, 28, a woman who participated in a Love Island Hainan Island event. “I want to find a loving man who is good to me, who is very experienced, who is mature, who respects and loves himself. Someone who is very responsible.” Although too polite to say it, Ruby is also looking for someone rich.” [Source: Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore, The Telegraph, October 22, 2013 ^|^]

“Aged between 22 and 32, the women in Hainan range from university students to bankers and fashion designers; they’re beautiful, tall and slender. Kitty, a performing artist, was selected for the weekend after being approached by a love-hunter at a shopping mall in Shenzhen. “I was very honoured by the invitation,” she says, adding that “the most important thing is to find someone you can identify with spiritually. Of course it’s a bonus if you find a guy who doesn’t need to be worried about everyday meals.” ^|^

“Not all of the women had been picked by love-hunters. A few, such as Ruby, were there on the prowl themselves. A so-called “jade princess” (the term for women who have been successful in the jade industry), Ruby runs a family business in southern China and doesn’t quite have the model-like features of the other women taking part in the weekend: a little softer around the tummy, her eyebrows a tad overplucked. At 28, she is considered to be a sheng nu or “leftover woman”, a derogatory term used for unmarried women who are 27 and older. ^|^

“Ruby paid the £10,000-plus for the weekend. (The other women’s expenses were covered by the male participants.) Still, in a country where women are expected to marry up, taking part at least offered Ruby the chance to meet men who are her financial equals. “Wealth is important because if both [spouses] are wealthy you can form a joint force to become more successful in business,” she explains. “But I don’t want that at the cost of him not being in love with me.” It’s a romantic sentiment, and one that many of the women express. “I am ready to commit to family life,” says Elise, a dreamy 28-year-old who works in marketing. “I would like to have someone to cook with, go to the supermarket with, go for a run with.” ^|^

Male Clients of Chinese Love-Hunter Business

Brook Larmer wrote in the New York Times, “Diamond Love’s chief target is men, the wealthier the better. The company’s four million members are mostly men who pay from a few dollars a month for basic searches to more than $15,000 for access to exclusive databases with customized assistance from a professional love consultant. The company’s wealthiest, highest-paying clients — 90 percent of whom are men — show little interest in lectures or databases. They want exclusive access to what Ms. Fei coolly refers to as “fresh resources”: young women who haven’t yet been exposed to other suitors online. It’s the love hunters’ job to find them. Besides giving clients a vastly expanded pool of marriage prospects, these campaigns offer a sense of security. Rigorous background checks screen out what Ms. Fei calls “gold diggers, liars and people of loose morals.” Depending on a campaign’s size, Diamond Love charges from $50,000 to more than $1 million. Ms. Fei makes no apologies for the high fees. “Why shouldn’t they pay more to find the perfect wife?” she asked me. “This is the most important investment in their lives.” [Source: Brook Larmer, New York Times, March 19, 2013 ^-^]

Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore wrote in The Telegraph, “The men are mostly aged between 40 and 60, and many have ample bellies. They are mostly fuyidai or first-generation rich, having made their fortunes in property, shipping and industry, or as powerful government officials. Some are divorced, others are workaholics who have never been married. The notable exception, an insouciant 27-year-old “second-generation rich”, has been pushed into attending the weekend by wealthy parents eager to see him settle down. [Source: Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore, The Telegraph, October 22, 2013 ^|^]

“China’s millionaires can attend £2,000-a-ticket one-off singles’ events, or hire “love-hunters” to scour the country searching for the perfect match. And then there are weekends such as the one in Hainan, organised by Diamond Love, one of the country’s biggest and most exclusive matchmaking companies. Founded in 2005, it has four million registered users, of whom 600,000 have paid annual fees of £10,000 to become a VIP member. “Superficially, you think these men are just looking for very beautiful women,” explains Ren Xuemei, Diamond Love’s chief marriage counsellor. “But in fact it is more than that. Our members have social responsibilities; they are from big wealthy families or are in charge of big companies.” To the men, the ability to entertain clients or fit in at social functions is vital, she says. ^|^

Love-Hunting Event on Hainan Island

Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore wrote in The Telegraph, “At the edge of a pool on the tropical island of Hainan, in southern China, a young woman in a frilly fuchsia bikini is poised, ready to jump. Beneath her a group of pasty middle-aged men are waiting to catch her. She takes a deep breath, turns her back to the pool, and falls into their arms with a splash. She’s the first to take the leap. Waiting in the shade of the palm trees is a row of women in similarly skimpy swimwear. Some giggle nervously and adjust their straps. They have every right to be anxious: there’s a lot at stake. Today’s poolside game is an icebreaker at a matchmaking weekend for millionaires at a luxury resort, and while most of the dozen girls have been selected following a six-month nationwide search, the 10 men have each paid 100,000 yuan (over £10,000) to attend. All have one goal in mind: marriage. [Source: Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore, The Telegraph, October 22, 2013 ^|^]

“And they get what they pay for: this event, for instance, has been six months in the making, with the company dispatching thousands of “love-hunters” on to the streets to identify potential candidates, approaching 30,000 women, before conducting interviews and tests to whittle the list down to 50. Profiles detailing age, family background, education, height, weight and personal interests were then sent to the male members to decide who should come. Most of the women here today emphasise their accomplishments: calligraphy, literature, music and the arts (although the recruits are also stunning). According to Yan Hongyu, the agency’s senior manager tasked with ensuring the weekend runs smoothly, they must also “be aware of the three subordinates”, referring to the Confucian belief that a woman should be subordinate to her father when she is a child, her husband when she is married, and her son in her dotage. ^|^

“On the first night guests mingle awkwardly at a drinks party, the women parading in body-con dresses. One burly man in a floral shirt, who later complains that the female selection is not up to scratch, taps on his iPhone, looking bored. On the second night, after a day of trust-building exercises and a tour of the location of a hit rom-com, everyone meets on the beach for a barbecue. Couples sit on beanbags encircling a stage, and at intervals the women get up to perform. One does calligraphy, another “sand painting”, a third Chinese dance. (Flower-arranging had been demonstrated over dinner the previous evening.) ^|^

“Ruby belts out My Heart Will Go On in quivering, poorly enunciated English. Only one of the women, Lisa, a sweet, waif-like media student, will later confess to feeling uncomfortable with the transactional nature of the weekend. “I felt we were a bit objectified because only girls performed,” she says. “Why only the girls and not the guys?” The performance is open to the public, and an audience of beach-goers in Speedos settles on nearby deck chairs to watch. As one little girl stands transfixed, she asks her grandmother, “What are they doing?” “They’re trying to get married,” comes the reply.” ^|^

As the Hainan the weekend has drawn to a close “the final activity is a “rose-giving” ceremony not dissimilar to the one in the American reality show The Bachelor. Each male has been instructed to give a rose to whomever has caught his heart. Tension is in the air. Ruby arrives in her finest: a strapless baby-blue and pink dress, stilettos, jewels dripping from her neck and ears. Roses are doled out. A stout millionaire in glasses mops sweat from his brow as he hands a rose to the woman who “has made a deposit in my bank of love”; she coyly lowers her eyes. ^|^

“A 50-year-old divorcee gives his rose to Elise. Ruby waits patiently. Then a slim, serious-looking man steps forward. He is 42 and a property magnate who has never married. “My job this weekend is to select a wife,” he had said earlier, citing parental pressure. “I cannot wait forever.” He clutches two roses and addresses the audience sombrely. “Ruby is the jade princess of my heart.” Unable to hide her surprise, Ruby wipes away a tear. She accepts the rose. Later, at a beach bar, Yan is ecstatic. She is well on the way to meeting her target of arranging second dates for half the attendees. “This is the most satisfied I’ve felt all year,” she says. After the rose ceremony the property magnate and Ruby arrange their next date. (Five months on, I learn five couples have been on multiple dates.) He will make the hour-and-a-half flight to her home to meet her parents. As all the attendees gather in the lobby to check out, Ruby emerges in a flouncy summer dress. Clutching her sunhat, she waves to the other girls. The property magnate sweeps up her luggage and escorts her to the waiting car.” ^|^

Love Hunting for Brides in a Beijing Shopping Mall

Brook Larmer wrote in the New York Times, “From her stakeout near the entrance of an H & M store in Joy City, a Beijing shopping mall, Yang Jing seemed lost in thought, twirling a strand of her auburn-tinted hair, tapping her nails on an aquamarine iPhone 4S. But her eyes kept moving. They tracked the clusters of young women zigzagging from Zara to Calvin Klein Jeans. They lingered on a face, a gesture, and then moved on, darting across the atrium, searching. “This is a good place to hunt,” she told me. “I always have good luck here.” [Source: Brook Larmer, New York Times, March 19, 2013 ^-^]

“For Ms. Yang, Joy City is not so much a consumer mecca as an urban Serengeti that she prowls for potential wives for some of China’s richest bachelors. Ms. Yang, 28, is one of China’s premier love hunters, a new breed of matchmaker that has proliferated in the country’s economic boom. The company she works for, Diamond Love and Marriage, caters to China’s nouveaux riches: men, and occasionally women, willing to pay tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars to outsource the search for their ideal spouse. In Joy City, Ms. Yang gave instructions to her eight-scout team, one of six squads the company was deploying in three cities for one Shanghai millionaire. This client had provided a list of requirements for his future wife, including her age (22 to 26), skin color (“white as porcelain”) and sexual history (yes, a virgin). ^-^

“These millionaires are very picky, you know?” Ms. Yang said. “Nobody can ever be perfect enough.” Still, the potential reward for Ms. Yang is huge: The love hunter who finds the client’s eventual choice will receive a bonus of more than $30,000, around five times the average annual salary in this line of work. Suddenly, a signal came. From across the atrium, a co-worker of Ms. Yang caught her eye and nodded at a woman in a blue dress, walking alone. Ms. Yang had shaken off her colleague’s suggestions several times that day, but this time she circled behind the woman in question. “Perfect skin,” she whispered. “Elegant face.” When the woman walked into H & M, Ms. Yang intercepted her in the sweater aisle. “I’m so sorry to bother you,” she said with a honeyed smile. “I’m a love hunter. Are you looking for love?” ^-^

“Ms. Yang started part-time work as a love hunter while a university student eight years ago. After a brief stint as a hospital nurse, she joined Diamond Love full time and is now its most seasoned Beijing scout. Despite a recent promotion to a consulting job, in which she deals directly with clients and their delicate egos, she is often tapped to lead the highest-stakes campaigns. Her hit rate is astonishing. In three large-scale campaigns over the last three years, the firm’s top clients ended up choosing candidates whom Ms. Yang personally discovered. Her success has earned her huge bonuses — in one case, $27,000 — and a reputation as one of China’s most accomplished love hunters. ^-^

Chinese Wife-Hunting for a Half Million Dollar Client

Brook Larmer wrote in the New York Times, “When I first visited the Beijing office of Diamond Love last year, Ms. Yang was fretting over a love-hunting campaign for a potential client: a divorced 42-year-old property mogul who was prepared to spend the equivalent of more than a half-million dollars. This wouldn’t be the biggest case in company history; two years ago, a man paid $1.5 million for a successful 12-city hunt. But the pressure felt more intense this time. It wasn’t just that Ms. Yang would vie with hundreds of other love hunters for a possible winner’s bonus of $32,000. Her boss had entrusted her with a central role in this campaign — the firm’s biggest of the year — with a client who was known to be an imperious perfectionist. Failure was a real possibility. [Source: Brook Larmer, New York Times, March 19, 2013 ^-^]

“Mr. Big, as I’ll call him — he insisted that Diamond Love not reveal his name — is a member of China’s fuyidai, the “first-generation rich” who have leapt from poverty to extreme wealth in a single bound, often jettisoning their first wives in the process. Diamond Love’s clientele also includes many fuerdai, or “second-generation-rich,” men and women in their 20s and 30s whose search is often bankrolled by wealthy parents keen on exerting control over their marital choices as well as the family inheritance. But fuyidai like Mr. Big are accustomed to being the boss and can be the most uncompromising clients.^-^

“Mr. Big had an excruciatingly specific requirement for his second wife. The ideal woman, he said, would look like a younger replica of Zhou Tao, a famous Chinese television host: slim with pure white skin, slightly pointed chin, perfect teeth, double eyelids and long silken hair. To ensure her good character and fortune, he insisted that her wuguan — a feng shui-like reading of the sense organs on the face — show perfect harmony.“When clients start out, all they want is beauty — how tall, how white, how thin,” Ms. Yang said. “Sometimes the person they’re looking for doesn’t exist in nature. Even if we find her, these clients often have no idea whether that would make their hearts feel settled. It’s our job to try to move them from fantasy toward reality.” Fantasy, of course, is precisely what Diamond Love sells. ^-^

“Even before Mr. Big signed a contract, Ms. Yang sensed trouble brewing. She and a colleague culled the company’s exclusive databases to find women to serve as templates for the love hunters’ search. Together with Mr. Big, they looked at the files and pictures of their top 3,000 women. He rejected them all. “Even if the girl’s eyebrow was just a half-millimeter too high, he would toss the photo out and say, ‘No good!’ ” Ms. Yang said. “He always found something to complain about.” With more than a half-million dollars on the line, Ms. Yang was beginning to doubt her ability to deliver. And not just for Mr. Big. One afternoon when we met, the normally animated Ms. Yang slumped onto the sofa, exhausted. She had just spent an hour with a rich Chinese businesswoman in her late 30s. The woman proposed spending $100,000 on a campaign to find a husband who matched her status. “I had to tell her we couldn’t take her case,” Ms. Yang said. “No wealthy Chinese man would ever marry her. They always want somebody younger, with less power.” We sat in silence a minute before Ms. Yang spoke again. “It’s depressing to think about these ‘leftover women,’ ” she said. “Do you have them in America, too?” ^-^

The day Mr. Big signed, Ms. Yang took a flight to Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province, where she would kick-start the campaign. During her 20-day search there, she had recurring nightmares. “I always feel unsettled during a campaign,” she said, “but this time, the stress was crazy.” Her team of 10 love hunters scoured university campuses and shopping malls for three weeks, trying to meet a daily quota of 20 high-quality women, or two per person. Ms. Yang offered a bonus, about $16, for every candidate above the quota and set a personal goal of finding 10 “Class A” women a day herself. ^-^

“One afternoon in Chengdu, after slurping down a bowl of beef noodles at Master Kong’s Chef’s Table, Ms. Yang noticed a young woman sweeping past her into the restaurant, chatting on a cellphone. Long black hair hid most of the woman’s face, but there was something captivating about her laugh and easy gait. “She seemed open, warm, happy,” Ms. Yang said. After a moment of indecision, Ms. Yang followed her inside, apologized for the intrusion and switched on her charm. Linking arms with the woman — one of her patented moves — Ms. Yang came away with her phone number, photograph and a few pertinent details: she was 24, a graduate student and a near-ringer for the TV hostess Zhou Tao.” ^-^

Finding the Right Girl for the Half Million Dollar Client

Brook Larmer wrote in the New York Times, “The love-hunting campaign for Mr. Big yielded more than 1,100 fresh prospects who met his general specifications, including 200 in Chengdu. “The cruel process of culling,” as Ms. Yang called it, whittled that number to 100, then 20, and finally to a list of eight. (For Diamond Love, a fringe benefit of love-hunting campaigns is that the hundreds of rejected potential mates can be cycled into its databases — a process of replenishment paid for by its richest clients.) The firm subjected the finalists to another round of interviews and psychological evaluations. Barely two months after the search began, Mr. Big received thick dossiers on each of the eight, with detailed information about their families and finances, habits and hobbies, and physical and mental conditions.[Source: Brook Larmer, New York Times, March 19, 2013 ^-^]

“Finally, a series of grainy videos landed in his e-mail in-box. The first showed the top three prospects from Chengdu, sitting and standing, walking and talking, smiling and laughing. One of them, a demure 24-year-old with long black hair and black hot pants who seemed poised in front of the camera, was the graduate student whom Ms. Yang had pursued on a hunch at Master Kong Chef’s Table. Ms. Yang’s hunting skills and tenacity had paid off again, giving her two of the eight finalists, and a 25 percent chance of winning the bonus of $32,000. (For finding two of the top 20, she had already earned a share of a smaller bonus.) When I asked about the reward, Ms. Yang demurred at first. “My aim is just to find a match that makes both people happy,” she said, before adding: “Inside my heart, I want my girls to win.” ^-^

“Ms. Yang has worked hard for the chance. She heads to her job early in the morning and returns after 8 p.m., leaving her 5-year-old son in her mother-in-law’s care. She is often gone for weeks at a time on love-hunting trips. Her husband, whom she married at 22, when he was 35, ran a trucking logistics company that folded in 2009. Since then, he hasn’t worked much. With one large bonus, Ms. Yang bought him a Mitsubishi car that he tinkers with. Her occupation has given her a rather jaded view of the prospects for career women like herself. Once she told me half-jokingly: “It’s a good thing I’m already married. I would never stand a chance.”^-^

“In June, Mr. Big flew to Chengdu for meetings with the three local finalists. Riding an elevator to the lobby of the Shangri-La Hotel, he fidgeted nervously with the part in his moussed hair. He had invested more than a half-million dollars in the search, and was about to see if the money was well spent. His final date in Chengdu was with the Zhou Tao look-alike whom Ms. Yang had approached at the noodle restaurant. At first, it seemed a mismatch, and not just because of the 18-year age gap. He knew nearly everything about her — her dating history, her recent acceptance to a graduate school, her father’s lofty government post — while she knew little more than his height and weight. She didn’t even know his name. Diamond Love had told her only that his net worth exceeded $800,000. ^-^

“The young woman tried to keep things casual by taking him to a local Sichuanese restaurant. But Mr. Big insisted on bringing along a female consultant from Diamond Love and sitting awkwardly off to one side during the meal. According to the consultant, Li Minmin, he sat in this position “to better evaluate her profile, her skin, and her teeth.” The two barely spoke without the consultant’s prodding. Still, Mr. Big seemed pleased by the woman’s sense of privacy when he inquired about her father’s job. “He’s a civil servant,” she said. What level? “Management.” It took several minutes — and a blunt question about his title — before she acknowledged that her father was, in fact, the boss of an influential government office. “From childhood,” she told him, “my father taught me to keep a low profile.” ^-^

“Suddenly, this seemed like a suitable match in the Chinese tradition of family doors of equal size. Here were two discreet people of similar social status, a wealthy entrepreneur and the daughter of a high-ranking official. After dinner, Mr. Big called off all other dates with finalists and dispatched his consultant to buy a Gucci handbag for the woman, as a token of affection. Barely a week later, in early July, he flew her to Hainan Island for a vacation at a luxury beachside resort. The two stayed in separate hotel rooms. When they returned, Ms. Li assured me that “the relationship is still pure.” ^-^

“Ms. Yang was pleased that her love-hunting had hit the mark, but she wished that the courtship would move faster: a $32,000 bonus could make a big difference to her family. After texting and phoning, the couple met again in Beijing and then took a holiday in a mountainous area of western Sichuan Province. In Chengdu, though, he declined to meet the woman’s parents, and instead of joining her at a wedding of her friends, stayed in the hotel. The couple has not yet decided to marry. But they are still dating exclusively, and Ms. Yang says Mr. Big is serious about marriage. Nobody pays a half-million dollars “just to play around,” she says. “He just needs a little more time.” ^-^

Competition, Secrecy and Spies in the Love-Hunting Business

Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore wrote in The Telegraph, “Love-hunting is a fiercely competitive business – bonuses for finding a match can reach five times a love-hunter’s salary – and largely attracts ambitious career women. But Wu believes her job is about more than earning a living; she says she is “helping other people create happy marriages”. She bats away suggestions that women are objectified or demeaned by the process. “I don’t think of these women as commodities or products. Every girl is independent and has her own thoughts. At the end of the day it is up to her to decide whom to date.” [Source: Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore, The Telegraph, October 22, 2013 ^|^]

“ Other companies are catching on fast. Launched just last year, the Chinese Entrepreneurs’ Club for Singles now boasts 100 members, many of whom, it claims, are on Forbes’ World’s Billionaires List. Standard annual membership fees are over £20,000, plus about £40,000 for each city in which a search is conducted. Last year, its chief love-hunter, Wu Can, 32, was handed a particularly tricky case: a prominent 42-year-old billionaire had asked for a 10-city search. The girl had to be 5ft 5in, young, slim, with smooth alabaster skin. And a virgin. Wu got to work, searching shopping malls and city streets. Her job is to spot that indefinable something – a sparkle in the eyes, a smile – that might please her client. “I look at what she is wearing, how she walks, the attitude she gives me,” explains Wu. “We follow her around to see what shops she goes into, what kind of customer she is.” After eight months she hit the jackpot: a 23-year-old media student. The student and the billionaire are now dating. ^|^

Brook Larmer wrote in the New York Times, “The second time I dropped by Diamond Love’s offices last year, Yang Jing took me by the arm and whispered: “We’ve had a spy!” A few days earlier, just as Mr. Big was set to sign the contract and begin paying his $600,000 fee, a woman from a competing agency contacted him. Displaying inside knowledge of his contract with Diamond Love, she offered to carry out an even more comprehensive search. Mr. Big called Diamond Love in a rage that his confidential information had been leaked. [Source: Brook Larmer, New York Times, March 19, 2013 ^-^]

“Within hours, according to Ms. Yang, the office’s management team ferreted out and dismissed the office mole — a secretary whom the competitor had recruited as a spy. But it took a full week of apologies and vows of enhanced security to coax Mr. Big to finally sign the contract. The terms stipulated that his file would be destroyed, “Mission Impossible”-style, once he had found a wife. “We always sign confidentiality agreements,” Ms. Yang said, “but now we’re operating like a secret organization.” “Ms. Yang wasn’t just haunted by a fear of letting the ideal candidate — and the bonus — slip out of her grasp. The office leak had also made her worry about security. One more false step and Mr. Big would bolt. ^-^

Chinese Love Hunting Industry

Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore wrote in The Telegraph, “The success of the matchmaking agencies has had a ripple effect. Exorbitantly priced courses are springing up, aimed at grooming women into respectable wife material. Diamond Love has a High-End Marriage Wisdom School, which teaches girls manners, parenting skills, how to get along with the opposite gender (including sessions on how to be charming, sexy and “gentle as water”) and make-up application – all for a fee of about £2,000 for three days. [Source: Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore, The Telegraph, October 22, 2013 ^|^]

“Marriage Quotient offers similar courses but with a difference. Run by a life coach called Liang Yali, the Shanghai-based service caters solely to “leftover” or divorced career women in their mid-thirties who have high-powered jobs but no husband. She holds seminars on “how to show love and get love” as well as a year-long VIP course costing well over £30,000. ^|^

Liang is not a matchmaker; instead, she aims to build confidence by providing health, diet and make-up advice as well as a psychological assessment, to discover what might be holding her clients back, such as low self-esteem. She also helps them write their profiles and edits the messages they send to prospective dates. “In Chinese tradition, [women over 30] are treated like trash,” says Liang, who met her own husband – an American industrialist older than she is – when she was a 35-year-old divorcee with a child. Faced with such ageism, many clients search further afield; so far they have found husbands in nine different countries. ^|^

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Chinese government, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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