DATING IN CHINA
C. Le Blanc wrote in the “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life:“Although most young people think that the best way to find a partner is through their own efforts, there are still a number of them who are helped by their parents, relatives, or friends. On most occasions, the males take the initiative. The response of a girl invited for the first time in her life for a date is usually to postpone it until later, unless she is well acquainted with the inviter. Mutual attraction is of utmost importance in selecting a partner. Position and wealth are also important considerations. [Source: C. Le Blanc, “Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life,” Cengage Learning, 2009]
In the past girls began pinning up their hair at the age of 15 to indicate they were eligible for marriage. Dating was virtually nonexistent. Girls mostly stayed at home and were rarely in the company of non-family members. Dating changed under the Communists. In the early 1950s, half of all married couples met through relatives, neighbors and coworkers. By the late 1950s, more and more couples were meeting through government matchmaking agencies, clubs and associations, singles parties and personal advertisements in magazines like Chinese Woman and Economic Life.
These days, Western-style dating often only takes place in universities, where young people are beyond the supervision of their parents and can do what they want. One young man told The Times: “I’d like a girlfriend who is kind-hearted, who believes in me and is faithful. She shouldn’t be with me and other men at the same time.” Asian-style dating often involves groups of young women and young men going out together in group for a meal or for a drink, or to a karaoke. If they go to a nightclub, men and women dance together in a group. Potential boyfriend and girlfriends break off from the group, often in a way orchestrated by other members of the group, and go for walk somewhere.
Sometimes there is a blurry line between dating and matchmaking. “Helpful” elders sometimes arrange blind dates for their children and , according to the Wall Street Journal, this has led to many avid discussions on blind date do’s and don’ts, At Chinese speed dating sessions parents sometimes accompany their children. In rural China spouses still often depend on relatives or neighbors to introduce them, but they know each other before the wedding and can call the plans off if they do not get along. [Sources: Wall Street Journal, 2017;Stevan Harrell, “Encyclopedia of World Cultures Volume 6: Russia — Eurasia/ China” edited by Paul Friedrich and Norma Diamond, 1994 |~|]
In China, dating sometimes takes on a sense of urgency. The competition for love is intense and the clock is ticking for many. The number of unmarried men exceeds the number of available women by 20 million to 30 million, according to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. For women not only have the years gone by as they sought careers their expectations are higher. According to the Strait Times: As more women earn college degrees, their demands increase. Many hope to meet future spouses with good jobs and property. [Source: Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, August 8, 2011]
See Separate Articles: LOVE IN CHINA factsanddetails.com ; MARRIAGE IN CHINA factsanddetails.com ; GHOST MARRIAGES IN CHINA factsanddetails.com ; MODERN MARRIAGE TRENDS IN CHINA factsanddetails.com ; ARRANGED MARRIAGES AND MATCHMAKERS factsanddetails.com ; LOVE HUNTERS AND HIGH-END DATING SERVICES IN CHINA factsanddetails.com ; WEDDINGS IN CHINA: MONEY, RULES AND LACK OF A CEREMONY factsanddetails.com ; TRADITIONAL CHINESE WEDDINGS factsanddetails.com ; WEDDINGS CUSTOMS IN CHINA: PHOTOS, THE BANQUET AND GIFTS factsanddetails.com ; CONCUBINES AND MISTRESSES IN CHINA factsanddetails.com ; DIVORCE IN CHINA factsanddetails.com ; DIVORCE LAWS IN CHINA factsanddetails.com ; BRIDE SHORTAGE AND UNMARRIED MEN IN CHINA factsanddetails.com ; FOREIGN BRIDES IN CHINA factsanddetails.com
Websites and Sources: Marriage: Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Chinatown ConnectionChinatown Connection ; Travel China Guide travelchinaguide.com ; Agate Travel warriortours.com : Dating Chinatown Connection Chinatown Connection
Obstacles to Dating in China
Dating in high school and university is still widely discouraged by parents and teachers who believe that interest in the opposite sex detracts from studying. In the 1980s, couples were still apprehended by discipline police at universities for smooching on campus. A decade-old law forbidding marriage among university students was only repealed in September 2005. Some colleges require married students to live apart while they are enrolled.
Liana Zhou and Joshua Wickerham wrote in the “Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender”: In the old days “ Courtship and dating were nonexistent since marriage was arranged by parents or matchmakers, and couples often did not know each other until the wedding day. In fact public displays of affection between woman and man were considered taboo; a woman would be condemned as immoral if she approached a man in public.[Source: Liana Zhou and Joshua Wickerham, “Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender: Culture Society History”, Thomson Gale, 2007]
Most parents don’t want their children to date in high school or the first two years of university. Some object to dating in the last two years. Even so many highschool students and some middle class students have boyfriends and girlfriends. When one middle school girl was asked if she had boy friend she told National Geographic, “There’s a boy who likes me. But all the boys in my grade are very low-class.”
In China it is not unusual to find women in their late 20s who have never had a relationship. Twenty-year-old Barbara Li, a lingustics major from Nanjing University who works at a magazine in Shanghai, told The Times, “I’ve been single all my life. In high school, we were not permitted to have boyfriends. At university there were only six boys in my class.” She says her mother signed her up for an online dating service without her permission and her dad complains she is too independent.
Courtship and Mate Selection in China
Angie Eagan and Rebecca Weiner wrote in “CultureShock! China”: Because Chinese families are extremely close, even through adulthood, many singles live with their parents until they are married. Parents are very protective of daughters, even fully adult daughters. They expect a slow courtship, which the boy will earn their trust and respect as he does their daughter’s, and are oftentimes strict about curfews and intimacy. Many foreign men dating Chinese girls do not understand the strong ties between the parent and daughter, and sometimes encourage independence and rebellion against parental control. This is completely contrary to the way that a Chinese suitor would approach the family, and only tends to create a wedge between the parents and daughter. Oftentimes a girl will not tell her parents she is seriously dating someone until she believes he is accomplished enough to win her parents’ respect. In one case, a Chinese friend had been dating a man for 12 years before she introduced him to her parents. This was only after they had agreed to get married and she had little choice. Her concerns were well-founded. She spent the next year negotiating with her parents over his suitability to be her husband. [Source: “CultureShock! China: A Survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette” by Angie Eagan and Rebecca Weiner, Marshall Cavendish 2011]
Hsiang-ming kung wrote in the “International Encyclopedia of Marriage and Family”: With the influence of Confucianism, romantic love between husband and wife was considered detrimental to the supremacy of filial piety between the parent-son relationships. Courtship, in ancient China, was for men to seek concubines or mistresses; it had no place in conventional marriage. Given the emphasis on family importance, one's future mate was decided by one's parents or grandparents, and not by the young couple themselves. Because marital relations were part of one's filial duty to parents, the choice was more important for parents taking a daughter-in-law to continue the family line and to help out with the household chores than for the son taking a wife (Baker 1979). The arranged marriage could ensure that criteria of strength, skill, and conscientiousness were used in the choice rather than criteria of beauty. Personal affection and free choice based on love were considered not only unnecessary but also harmful. The Chinese believed that real affection grew up in marriage, be it romantic or not. Should personal gratification not exist, the couple was still together to continue the family, not to like each other. [Source: Hsiang-ming kung, “International Encyclopedia of Marriage and Family”, Gale Group Inc., 2003]
“The Chinese also emphasized the importance for decent young people not mingle or fall in love until they were married. However, parents never fully succeeded in keeping boys and girls apart or in eliminating love from their life. Premarital sex was forbidden for both genders, but the rule was more strictly enforced for girls than for boys. Young men's sexual experimentation was more likely with prostitutes or household servant girls (Levy 1971).
“Although most parents and the society itself still consider premarital sex unacceptable, boys and girls mingle freely in both Taiwan and China. Attractions between one another are prevalent. Despite the moral prohibition, more and more young people think premarital sex is acceptable especially when two people are in love. However, more young boys than girls believe so. Survey researchers have found that it is not unusual for young people to engage in premarital sex. For example, among college students in Taipei (the capital of Taiwan), 37.5 percent of male students and 26.7 percent of female students have had premarital sex (Yen, Lin and Chang 1998). Among university students in Beijing (the capital of China), on the other hand, 15 percent of males and 13 percent of females have admitted doing so (Li et al. 1999).
“Along with freer association between the two genders and the pursuit of romantic love among the youth, the Civil Code of 1930 proposed by the Kuomintang and the Marriage Law of 1950 and 1980 by the Chinese Communist Party have weakened parental control in mate selection. Young people in Taiwan and China alike are more likely to choose their own mate with parents' approval, or under parental arrangement with the children's consent (Yi and Hsung 1994; Riley 1994). The thousand-year-old parent-run system has been transformed into a joint parent-child system. An increasingly child-run pattern is also quite common.
Matchmaking and Dating in Modern China
Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore wrote in The Telegraph, “ China’s spectacular economic growth has, for many, turned dating and marriage into a commercial transaction, and material expectations from marriage have soared. It is often said – only half-jokingly – that to compete even at the lower reaches of the urban Chinese dating market men must have at least a car and a flat. The matchmaking industry has gone into overdrive, not just to cater to the rich but also because of government unease over the numbers of older single professional women.[Source: Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore, The Telegraph, October 22, 2013 ^|^]
“Although forced or arranged marriage was banned in 1950, finding a partner remains a formal process for many.“Marriage is seen as a factor in promoting social stability,” explains Leta Hong Fincher, the author of a forthcoming book on “leftover women” and gender inequality in China. “There is lots written in the state media about how all these tens of millions of unmarried men pose a threat to society. But at the other end of the spectrum, unmarried women who are not fulfilling their 'duty to the nation’ by getting married and having children are also seen as a threat.” As it has moved from communism towards a freer economy China has become a richer – and also increasingly unequal – society. And as a disproportionate few make fortunes, leaving tens of millions of ordinary people behind, many women see marrying a rich man as a short-cut to wealth. ^|^
Brook Larmer wrote in the New York Times, “This may be a time of sexual and romantic liberation in China, but the solemn task of finding a husband or wife is proving to be a vexing proposition for rich and poor alike. “The old family and social networks that people used to rely on for finding a husband or wife have fallen apart,” said James Farrer, an American sociologist whose book, “Opening Up,” looks at sex, dating and marriage in contemporary China. “There’s a huge sense of dislocation in China, and young people don’t know where to turn.” [Source: Brook Larmer, New York Times, March 19, 2013 ^-^]
“The confusion surrounding marriage in China reflects a country in frenzied transition. Sharp inequalities of wealth have created new fault lines in society, while the largest rural-to-urban migration in history has blurred many of the old ones. . Uprooted and without nearby relatives to help arrange meetings with potential partners, these migrants are often lost in the swell of the big city. Demographic changes, too, are creating complications. Not only are many more Chinese women postponing marriage to pursue careers, but China’s gender gap — 118 boys are born for every 100 girls — has become one of the world’s widest, fueled in large part by the government’s restrictive one-child policy. By the end of this decade, Chinese researchers estimate, the country will have a surplus of 24 million unmarried men.^-^
Blind Date Guidebook for Communist Party Members
“The “Blind Date Guidebook for Communist Party Members” was posted by Nanchang Municipal Government on its verified Weibo social media platform in January 2017. Pei Li wrote in the Wall Street Journal’s China Real Time:“One question asks what Communist Party cadres should do if their parents set up an arranged date against their will. The answer might seem a bit vague, reading in part: “Youngsters should honestly inform parents of life plans to ease their anxiety, while parents should respect the kids’ choice and refrain from putting more mental strain on the younger ones.”[Source: Pei Li, China Real Time, Wall Street Journal, January 25, 2017]
“Another question: Can party members date foreigners? The answer: Yes in most cases, except for members of the Chinese armed forces on active duty. What about disclosing to your date that you are a member of the Communist Party? The answer here is an unqualified yes. “Revealing your identity is part of being honest in a relationship,’’ the government advised. “What’s more, it will help you make a good impression.”
“The guide says it’s OK to date someone who has multiple real estate properties and cars, but cautioned party members to think twice about giving extravagant gifts to a dating partner. “Excessive extravagance will convince the society and the masses (you are) no longer a real Communist Party member,” the government admonished. That same point has been made by President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012. And should an arranged date lead to matrimony, the guide also has a few words of advice.
Mass Dating in Shanghai
In May 2012, Bloomberg reported: “Zhang Peijuan, 58, scans the thousands of young men and women gathered in Shanghai’s Expo Park, looking for an eligible bachelor. “He should have a college degree, be about 1.75 meters tall, and property is a must,” says the curly-haired, retired researcher, who is shopping for a husband for her daughter and carries three photos of the 28-year-old in her handbag. “Young people these days work too hard. When I see someone I think my daughter may like, I approach him for his contact.” [Source: Bloomberg News, May 31, 2012]
Zhang was among 38,000 singles and concerned parents at Shanghai’s largest matchmaking event, as the city seeks to revive a birth rate that has collapsed to almost half the level in Japan. China’s richest city, leading financial center and largest port will see marriage registrations fall 17 percent this year, according to official estimates. ‘shanghai is at the frontier of these broad social changes and this is what is happening across urban China,” said Wang Feng, Beijing-based director for the Brookings-Tsinghua Center for Public Policy. “We will see it spread.”
In Shanghai the number of couples tying the knot in the first four months of the year fell 10 percent to 41,282, according to the Shanghai Civil Affairs Bureau. Registrations for 2012 are forecast to fall to 120,000 pairs. Better education has given more women the desire to choose their own partner, said Juemin Zhou, director of the Shanghai Matchmaking Trade Association, the main organizer of the event. “In the past, women were matchmade by their parents,” said Zhou. “Then, it didn’t matter how old you were, or if your partner was blind in one eye, you still had to get married. Now, if you don’t find someone suitable, you just don’t settle.”
About 2,000 couples were successfully matched at the 2011 mass dating event, according to Zhou. In 2012, parents studied profiles of single men and women in dozens of matchmaking booths around the park, one decorated with pink feather boas. A typical poster read: 1.67 meter female working in a research field, born in 1983, looking for 1.77 meter male born after 1977. To improve visibility in the throng, one father holds up a badminton racket with his daughter’s details on a piece of paper fastened to the top, and a profile of her ideal mate below.
Many in the crowd are from other parts of China, a reflection of how Shanghai and other urban centers are making up for the decline in births. While Shanghai’s population has risen 38 percent to 23 million in the decade to 2010, the number of migrants has almost tripled to about 9 million, accounting for most of the increase, according to the last national census.
Dating Services in China
In an effort to find mates for the surplus population of bachelors, the government has established matchmaking services in cooperation with women's federations, trade unions and other organizations. As part of the arrangement women are allowed to go through all the files of male candidates while male are only allowed to go through files selected for them. An introduction is made if a couple thinks they might be compatible.
Many dating services allow customers to flip through binders with photographs and descriptions of possible mates. Computer dating first appeared in Beijing in 1989. The ultimate dating service in Shanghai is one that unites rich men with assets of at least $250,000 with a group of beautiful, intelligent women on a cruise of the Huangpu River in China, with participants paying $3,600 each
Traditional marriage brokers and government-sponsored computer dating services complain they have too few women. "Of the young people who come into this office at least 70 percent are men," a social worker at a dating service told New York Times. "The girls are very happy with this service because they can set their standards very high for a prospective husband — intelligence, education, money — and then have a good chance of finding a man who meets their standards."
Even with the Internet dating services remain popular. Brook Larmer wrote in the New York Times: "Intense competition, along with mistrust of potential mates’ online claims, has spurred a growing number of singles — rich and poor — to turn to more hands-on matchmaking services. Today, matchmaking has warped into a commercial free-for-all in which marriage is often viewed as an opportunity to leap up the social ladder or to proclaim one’s arrival at the top. Single men have a hard time making the list if they don’t own a house or an apartment, which in cities like Beijing are extremely expensive. And despite the gender imbalance, Chinese women face intense pressure to be married before the age of 28, lest they be rejected and stigmatized as “leftover women.” [Source: Brook Larmer, New York Times, March 19, 2013 ^-^
College Course in China On Relationships and Break Ups
Mei Jia and Guo Shuhan wrote in the China Daily, “Xiao Wei, a senior student of Peking University, will never forget the two depressing months he spent getting dragged out for beer and long conversations night after night by a roommate who simply could not come to terms with his breakup. "I was startled to see how an energetic and positive individual like him had suddenly turned into this depressed person, lingering in bed till noon, doing nothing all day and hanging out till late at night," he says, "But I could do little to help other than listen to his rants." [Source: Mei Jia and Guo Shuhan, China Daily, May 10, 2011]
“It is to help such people that the Beijing Municipal Commission of Education is considering running compulsory courses in universities to teach college students how to deal with affairs of the heart. In early April, the committee issued new university guidelines for mental health education, including relationship issues. Aimed at preventing psychological problems from turning into tragedies, the courses are designed to address common problems such as breakups and same-sex love. Originally intended as an optional course, it is now considered a compulsory one.”
“The move has triggered wide debate but most students, teachers and researchers are in agreement about the need for such education. Xia Cuicui, a teacher with the Psychological Consulting Center of Beijing Normal University, says around 15 percent of the 250 students who turn to the counselors every year, seek help with relationship problems. Xia says the real number of troubled students could be much higher as a number of students hesitate to approach the counselors, grappling with their pain alone, with disastrous consequences in some cases. "Most of the students magnify their problems when frustrated in love," Xia says. "They then lose the confidence to strike a balance in their lives."
On the Internet there is a Chinese website for asexual singles. The site, “Marriage for Asexuals” (www.wx920.com ), has attracted several "Some students are also troubled by a lack of courage to express their love and are unclear about what they want in a partner, Xia says. She recalls the case of an academically gifted girl who, despite a host of pursuers, chose an average boy. She told Xia she did a lot for him, even helping him with school work, but the boy broke up with her a year later. "I really don't understand why I'm dumped," the girl told Xia during a consultation, saying she felt humiliated. Xia advised the girl to take setbacks in love in stride, and as a normal part of maturing. The teacher, who has been running the optional course, Intimate Relationship and Self-growth, for four years, believes guiding people through relationships is crucial to building their positive self-image.”
“Wang Hongqi, veteran researcher of women studies at Capital Normal University (CNU), agrees and says since university students are at the threshold of forming relationships, this is the right time for such "love education". Wang believes the emotional problems faced by today's youngsters have to be seen in the larger context of a society in transition, pointing to changing attitudes in the choice of a spouse in recent decades. The overriding emphasis is on the position one occupies in society and the wealth one possesses.”
“Many young people lack a value system to guide their choices, she says. The way out is to define "a set of up-to-date values for the 21st century", she adds. As director of China Research Base on Women Culture under CNU, she believes having campus forums on issues of love and marriage can help this process. At one such forum held on April 16, writer Cui Manli, speaking to some 100 CNU students, said they should not assess themselves based on others' value systems. A random survey of 92 post-graduate students conducted that day showed that 43.8 percent would agree to a blind date, premarital sex, "naked" marriages (where both partners start their marital life from scratch) and "blitz" marriages (where couples get married soon after their first meeting).”
“Li Tonggui, a psychology teacher at Peking University, says relationship problems are often a result of different perceptions of love as shaped by one's education, friends and social experiences. He says the ultimate goal is to teach young adults about how to establish and maintain healthy personal relationships with everyone, and not just between lovers. The Peking University student Xiao Wei, one of Li's students, hopes the proposed course will help strengthen traditional values. "There is too much emphasis on the material aspects at present," he says. But Wang Shiyi, a senior at Beijing Foreign Studies University, fears the course may not be of much practical help.”
Dating Television in China
One of the most popular television shows in China in the 2000s was a matchmaking program called “We Meet Tonight”, which was sort of a cross between the “Dating Game” and a talent show. "We receive very few applications from young women who are willing to appear as contestants," the host of the show told the New York Times. "The men are much more bold about agreeing to appear. And they are bold because they have to be." Viewers were encouraged to write in for a date with contestants. "Maybe a man who appears on the show will get 30 letters," the host said. "But a woman will get over 50, sometimes 60. Sometime many more. Our record holder is a 24-year-old woman who got more than 500 letters." The show’s host claims he has set up several hundred marriages.
On a new show in 2017 in which parents were involved in the dating process, Karoline Kan wrote in New York Times’s Sinosphere: “You are a young Chinese man whose father tells you the most important skill his future daughter-in-law must have is caring for her home and family. Your mother rejects a 40-year-old woman as your potential mate because she may be too old to bear children. This is not prerevolutionary China, but a new TV dating show. Since “Chinese Dating” made its debut in late December, it has drawn viewers and generated lively discussions on China’s social networks. A Weibo page for “Chinese Dating” has been visited 177 million times, and the first three episodes had more than 200 million views online. [Source: Karoline Kan, Sinosphere, New York Times, February 16, 2017]
“Dating shows are not new in China. The top-rated “If You Are the One” turned several contestants into celebrities through their provocative statements, such as “I’d rather cry in a BMW than laugh on a bicycle.” What’s different about “Chinese Dating” is that it gives parents power over their children’s choices, a power many viewers say reflects Chinese society today. “The presence of the parents, who are the decision makers in many young people’s marriages, and their blunt opinions contribute to the show’s appeal,” said Zhou Xiaopeng, a relationships counselor on the dating website Baihe. “People like it because that’s the reality.”
“Ms. Zhou said the weekly show evoked China’s tradition of arranged marriages, in which family elders hired matchmakers to find spouses for their children. “Zhang Yashu, a 25-year-old woman from Shenyang, the capital of the northeastern province of Liaoning, who appeared on the show in January, said none of her previous boyfriends had satisfied her mother. Ms. Zhang’s parents had introduced her to several men, but none of the meetings sparked romance. Fortunately, she found someone she liked on the show and, her parents liked him, too.
“The show’s hostess is one of China’s most popular entertainment personalities: Jin Xing, a transgender woman. If that challenges Confucian traditions, the show’s format hews more closely to them. The basic format lines up several young men or women against five sets of parents. The parents’ children are in another room, where they can watch the proceedings through a monitor and communicate with their parents by phone. Only candidates approved by the parents are allowed to meet their children. For male candidates, parents’ biggest concern appears to be their finances. For women, it helps to be young, pretty and innocent seeming. In one episode, when a potential groom asked the parents how many relationships their daughters had had, all the parents said their daughters either had never dated or had never brought a man home. “She has high standards,” one mother said proudly. “She’s basically a blank page.”
“In an interview with the Jiefang Daily newspaper, the show’s director, Yao Yao, said she was struck by how anxious the parents on the show were about their children’s marriages. “Inviting parents here, getting their approval, is a way of avoiding many unnecessary problems,” she said. “There’s no question that family and parents are important in a marriage. Romance and marriage are two different things.”
Internet Dating in China
Rachel Dewoskin, Foreign Babes author
Brook Larmer wrote in the New York Times,“Without traditional family or social networks, many men and women have taken their searches online, where thousands of dating and marriage Web sites have sprung up .These sites cater mainly to China’s millions of white-collar workers. As of 2006, 14 million Chinese used Internet dating sites, compared to 16 million in the United States and 10 million in India. At that time Baihe.com was China’s largest matchmaking site. Large American Internet dating sites like Match.com and eHarmony were eyeing the Chinese market as avenues of growth. But there are many challenges especially if one wants to make money. Of the 14 million people that used dating services in 2006 only 500,000 or so pay any fees and total revenues earned from all the dating service was only around $24 million. Dating services that charged fees generally did not last long. Most made their money from online advertising or ticket sales to events such as speed-dating mixers that charge $13 for admission.
In the early 2010s, Rachel Au-Yong wrote in The Straits Times, “For many young singles in China, last Saturday's Chinese Valentine's Day was an urgent reminder for them to get hitched quickly. That in turn prompted more of them to turn to online matchmakers for help. No longer is the face of such clients only that of a 40-year-old bachelor or spinster; the average age of clients is now much lower. In fact, those under 25 form a sizeable chunk of the singles market in China.” Jiayuan - one of the country's largest online matchmaking firms - is no exception. It has close to 19 million active users under the age of 25, or 39.5 per cent of its entire client database. Others, like Xiaoyuan Love - literally, 'Love on Campus' - gear their matchmaking services specifically to under-graduates and recent graduates.Eager to avoid becoming one of the country's sheng nan sheng nu, or "left-over men and women", many are looking for partners while they are still young. [Source: Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, August 8, 2011]
The Internet helps make the search a little easier for both sexes, matchmakers say. "The young are dependent on the Internet now - whether it's because they're busy, or shy, it's only natural they go online to find their partner," said Jiayuan spokesman Liu Jing. Ms Liu Chaoqiong, spokesman for dating site Baihe, agreed. "In the past, people could rely on their hometown and friends," she said. "But with populations moving all the time, people can rely only on themselves. And that's how young people connect - through the Internet." Those who baulk at their parents' anxious interference prefer the anonymity and protection online dating offers. "As long as I sign up with (an online dating service), I can check on my own time if there are people I think would match me," said student Li Xuanwei, 24. "If I like them, it's a bonus, and if I don't, my parents can't blame me for not trying."
As of November 2012, 40 million messages had been sent on the Momo dating service which began operating in 2012. “Both men and women tend to look 45 degrees upwards when searching for a partner,” Gong Haiyan, co-chief executive officer of China’s largest online dating agency, Jiayuan.com (DATE), told Bloomberg. “Everyone thinks he deserves someone better than he actually is.” When Gong founded the website nine years ago, female customers listed owning a house as one of the nice-to-haves. Now it’s almost the main criteria, she said. Jiayuan.com had 62 million members in 2012. [Source: Bloomberg News, May 31, 2012]
“The first thing they look for is if you have a decent job, what is your salary like, if you have an apartment,” said Hansen Huang, 34, from Anhui province, who has worked in Shanghai’s information technology industry for 12 years. “Women are looking for a partner who can provide so they can live relatively comfortably.” With a friendly smile, checked shirt and glasses, Huang came to the fair with a friend “to give myself a chance,” he said with a chuckle. As he talked about the kind of girl he wanted — 24 to 28 years old and 1.6 to 1.7 meters tall — two sets of parents came up to speak to him.
Sim Chi Yin wrote in The Straits Times, “Advertising executive Wang Xin, 29, on the other hand, is equally jaded about her job but puts her energy into finding a husband - by dating assembly-line style. She spends hours every night 'mechanically' checking two match-making websites "like a stockbroker checking stock prices", she said. She exchanges e-mail or messages on social networking sites with the men she might have some luck with. Wang has dated - and broken up with - three men in the past eight months. "I feel very trapped in my boring job of six years, but I keep thinking I have to first find someone to marry and then move on in my career, so I keep trying," she said. She does not quite see herself as a 'plasticine' person, however. "I feel stuck in life. And I feel confused, trapped. But I can't find the motivation to do something about it," she said. "I want to change my life, but I don't know the way out." [Source: Sim Chi Yin, The Straits Times, September 13, 2010]
Popular Chinese Dating Apps
Red Sorghum film According to Sampi.com: Momo is, by far, the most popular Chinese dating app and by the number of users this mobile app is only second to WeChat. In the last couple of years Momo has been trying hard to improve its past seedy reputation re-positioning itself more of an interest based social app rather than purely a hook up service. It has added some shopping elements, games, groups etc. Those changes also made it harder to navigate – it is sort of all over the place nowadays. Nevertheless, when it comes to Chinese dating apps, Momo is the first one that comes to mind of most singles in China. Unfortunately, it is only available in Chinese – the English version was discontinued 3 years ago, although the company promises to launch an international version in the future.[Source: Sampi.com]
“After Momo, Tantan is the second most popular Chinese dating app. It doesn’t have a great deal of features focusing on just one mission – being a purely a location based hook up app. In terms of design, Tantan is a shameless Tinder rip-off taking advantage of its famous trademark feature – left or right swipe. Two users that “liked” each other can start a chat and there is a daily limit on how many profiles can be viewed. Similar to Tinder, more features can be unlocked with premium membership which is how the app makes money. Although Tantan is almost exact copy of Tinder (it also can be used in English), the western original has only itself to blame for not making it in China. By linking itself to Facebook as the only way to create an account, it has locked itself out of Chinese market from the start.
“Baihe takes looking for a date onto a whole new level. It targets people who are serious about finding the right match and are not there just looking for a booty call. In fact, users’ info in Baihe look more like job resumes rather than typical dating profiles. All users must use real names and have to pass verification to ensure there are no fakes. They are also encouraged to list assets like housing and cars with the proof that they really own them. Educational credentials such as diplomas and certificates as well as credit score are also common profile features. Dating is a serious business on Baihe and this attitude is what sets it apart from other Chinese dating apps.
“QingChiFan literally means “invitation to a meal” which is already self-explanatory name for this Chinese dating app. The idea is that getting to know each other over a meal is the most natural form of dating. Typically, guys would be the ones offering dinner invitations and it is up to a girl to accept it. Of course, the opposite is also possible although much less common. User can also choose to extend invitation to a group as well as set the time frame within which the offer is valid: only for today, tomorrow or within a week. The “inviter” can narrow down the criteria for invitees based on age, profession and even zodiac sign. QingChiFan seems to be a great concept with a lot of potential and, for a change, without a direct equivalent in the West as far as we know.
Recently, Tencent has launched Maohu, a new video-centered dating app. Users are matched based on gender (only heterosexual matching is allowed), location, interests and dating preferences. Once matched, users can only communicate via video in 5 minutes “dating sessions” while wearing a “mask”. Mask is removed for male users after 5 minutes while females can wear it indefinetly. Once the mask is removed, the beauty filters are applied automatically. The app can be considered using a “slow dating” approach – only 3 conversations per day are allowed. “Only video” dating app is a fresh idea in the market but with the popularity of live streaming, it seems to be catching on.
Tencent is determined to establish itself as the top player in mobile dating market with another app called Qingliao that is being marketed as “high quality socializing”. In essence, this is another Tinder clone – users are matched if they like each other, the only difference is that instead of left or right swipes users tap a “heart” or a “cross”. Tencent puts an emphasis on verifying members which can be done by linking to user’s verified WeChat account or sumitting photo ID. Qingliao also limits the total number of profiles users can view within 18 hours period: 15 profiles for men and 22 for women. Most likely, paid members will be able to increase that limit but this option was not yet available when we reviewed it.
WeChat isn’t typically considered a dating app, although it is often used as one. The popular “Search nearby” feature allows looking for profiles within a short distance filtered out by gender preference. Users have to enable the feature first before they can be found, which means that everyone who shows up in search results is making him or her visible on purpose. Moreover, no matter what dating app one uses, once the match is found, sooner or later, they would move to WeChat anyway – it’s just easier and everyone has it anyway. So, although WeChat isn’t a dating app, it can rightly be considered to be a part of the overall dating ecosystem in China.
Chinese Women Pay for Virtual Boyfriends
In 2019, Sijia Li and Helen Roxburgh of AFP wrote: Chinese teen Robin spends hours online chatting to her man, who always has a sympathetic ear for her problems — as long as she's willing to pay him. The 19-year-old pre-medical student has spent more than 1,000 yuan ($150) speaking to "virtual boyfriends". These aren't seedy sex-chat lines but men who charge for friendly and flirty online communication, from wake-up calls to lengthy text exchanges and video conversations. "If someone is willing to keep me company and chat, I'm pretty willing to spend money," said Robin, who didn't want to give her real name. [Source: Sijia Li and Helen Roxburgh, AFP, December 6, 2019]
“The option for intimacy on-demand has gained popularity among China's middle-income young women, who are often focused on careers with no immediate plans to marry and start a family. Shops selling virtual friends and partners can be found on Chinese messaging app WeChat or on an e-commerce site like Taobao. Several virtual boyfriends told AFP, that most of their customers are single women in their twenties with disposable income.
“By day, 22-year-old Zhuansun Xu is a foreign exchange trader in Beijing. By night, he chats with female clients who pay him to be their "boyfriend", something he has done for the past year. Girls come to Zhuansun with different needs — — some want friendly advice, while others have more romantic requests. "While we're interacting, I tell myself: I really am her boyfriend, so how can I treat her well?" he told AFP, . "But after we're done, I'll stop thinking this way."
“Prices start from a few yuan for half an hour of texting, to a few thousand yuan to keep a companion on retainer for phone calls throughout a month. "People have figured out how to commodify affection," said Chris K.K. Tan, an associate professor at Nanjing University who has researched the phenomenon. "This is a new mode of womanhood that is unprecedented in China," Tan said.
“Lisa, a 28-year-old executive in Shanghai, has hired virtual boyfriends to act out romantic scenarios through text messaging. "Of course, there were feelings of love, in letting myself feel like I was being loved," she said, preferring not to use her real name. "Because I was just buying a service, I don't feel any guilt towards real people."
“Although they are materially better off, the lives of many young urban women are "isolating", says Tan. Most have spent their teenage years studying for the country's rigorous university entrance exams, at the cost of developing relationships outside of school. Buying virtual boyfriends "is their chance to experiment with love and relationships," he says. For Robin and Lisa, virtual companions are appealing because the relationship was convenient. "If I have serious psychological stress, this could make some people think I'm being fussy," said Robin. "But because I'm giving (the virtual companions) money, they have to reassure me."
Chinese Men Pay Female Escorts to Sit with Them While They Play Video Games
In 2015, Ben Gilbert wrote in Business Insider: .In China, video games are an activity often relegated to internet cafes. Players pay by the hour, and some spend many hours at a time focused on a PC — sitting in a room with dozens of other people, yet isolated in focus on the game they're playing. Unsurprisingly, it can get mighty lonely, despite being surrounded by fellow players. “From that loneliness, some Chinese escorts are cashing in. As Chuang Shu-chung reports at the China Times, female escorts are charging lonely game players "between 20-100 yuan (US$3.20-$16)" per hour for the pleasure of their company. [Source: Ben Gilbert, Business Insider, April 22, 2015]
“This isn't anything lurid or sexual; it's an opportunity for China's paid companion industry to expand into the wildly popular world of internet cafe game culture. Women — often college students and moonlighting office workers — offer companionship, and sometimes offer educational services in the game being played. These services are most often solicited by workers living in coastal regions with more financially lucrative jobs, the China Times reports.
“The concept of escorts is nothing new to video game culture in China; similar concepts exist in South Korea and Japan, where PC gaming cafes thrive. In Tokyo's video game-centric Akihabara district, for instance, maid and escort cafes sit alongside massive arcades. In Seoul, PC "bangs" (pronounced "bah-ng") are quite popular, largely focused on the country's game of choice, "StarCraft."
Chinese Online Break Up Service and Asexual Web Sites
Leo Lewis wrote in The Times of London, “For the equivalent of about $30 per break-up, a new breed of website will hit a soon-to-be ex with the bad news and save the timid customer the anguish of doing it themselves. A very basic package will see the dumping conducted - with practised sensitivity and sympathy - over the phone, e-mail or via instant messaging services.Those who opt for the more expensive platinum service will have their dirty work done in person, with the break-up agent arriving at the scene with small gifts to ease the cruel shock of shattered romance.” [Source: Leo Lewis, Times of London, September 8, 2011]
One company insists before the contract is carried out that the client is prepared to cover any medical costs that arise from a "shoot the messenger" response from the brokenhearted victim. For those customers determined to steer a more conciliatory tack, some of the internet companies offer the services of a proxy groveller: someone to undertake the perfect, schmoozing apology on behalf of those too nervous to do it in person.
China's break-up proxies tout their wares on Taobao, the country's sprawling e-commerce platform. Their rise coincides with a creeping crisis in the state of many Chinese relationships as the country's urban population soars and young people are wrenched through the trials of economic migration.
A website for asexuals had thousand users after it was launched in 2005. About 60 percent of the members were people who could not have sex. Most of the rest were gay people in search of opposite sex partners so they can put up a good front for family members. There is also a site for MBAs — married but available. A popular site for elderly singles is the Mandarin Duck Garden. A 71-year-old man who uses this site told the China Daily, “My standard for a wife is high. besides good looks, she should be under 60 and no less than 166 centimeters in height. What’s more, she should be good at dancing.”
Image Sources: 1) 1930s pictures, Night Revels, University of Washington; 2) Posters, Landsberger Posters http://www.iisg.nl/~landsberger/; Wiki Commons, Amazon
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Last updated September 2021