“I’ve been coming for two months, but it is all in vain,” says a woman at the wedding market that takes over part of People’s Park in Shanghai every weekend afternoon.
Crowds mill around scanning fluttering posters that advertise the ages, heights, weights, education and salary of thousands of young men and women looking to find love. Oddly enough, almost none have photographs but the strangest thing to foreign eyes is that most of the people here, including the woman lamenting her lack of success, are actually parents. She wants a wife for her 35-year-old son and has arranged two meetings with single women but he didn’t like either of them. “He works hard,” says the mother. “He just doesn’t have enough time. Young people are just too busy nowadays.”
Few things illustrate the speed of societal and economic change in China like this Shanghai market. The new generation have grown up in a modern city, taking advantage of the opportunities in the new China. Their parents, in contrast, spent their working years in a very different world, and often do not understand the values and aspirations of their offspring.
Traditional Chinese values dictate that children provide and care for their parents in their old age. Parents seeing that their 20-something child – China’s one-child policy means it is usually only one – has not yet married and bought an apartment start to worry about the future and take matters into their own hands. It is not purely selfish. They are also worrying about who would look after their children in old age if they have no children of their own.
However, ask young people what they think of being featured in the market and their first reaction is embarrassment.
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