China's Love Market: Traditions of Arranged Marriage and the Old Faith in Communism Are Merging with Consumer Choice. This Has Brought Romantic Freedom-Which Comes with Its Own Problems

By Gu, Xiao Jia | New Statesman (1996), June 12, 2006 | Go to article overview

China's Love Market: Traditions of Arranged Marriage and the Old Faith in Communism Are Merging with Consumer Choice. This Has Brought Romantic Freedom-Which Comes with Its Own Problems


Gu, Xiao Jia, New Statesman (1996)


Each Sunday afternoon in Beijing, about 300 people gather in Dr Sun Yat-sen Park, next to Tiananmen Square. Most are in their fifties and sixties. To Chinese eyes, their behaviour seems odd. They are certainly not here for a spot of t'ai chi, nor are they about to take part in a subversive demonstration. Instead they watch each other, shyly yet purposefully. Suddenly a booming voice breaks the awkward silence: "What have you got?" Its source is a large, grey-haired woman, approaching a quiet couple.

"A girl. And you?"

"Boy. 35. Five foot ten. Graduate. IT manager. And yours? Can I see the picture?" The grey-haired woman is brisk and practised. She has clearly been here before.

"Er ... here. Our daughter is 29." The couple hesitantly take out a photo, looking uncomfortable, as if they are having second thoughts. "She has a degree, too. She's a teacher. Do you have a photo of your son?"

"I left it at home today, but just look at me and you'll get an idea." The woman gives a hearty laugh as a small crowd begins to circle. "To tell the truth, my son is fat."

"Oh well, our daughter isn't exactly thin," the wife replies modestly.

Dr Sun Yat-sen Park is named after the founding father of modern China, and it stands on the site where the imperial family worshipped their ancestors, some 600 years ago. Today, it is the venue of China's first "love market", a meeting point between China's tradition of arranged marriage and the irresistible rise of consumer choice, even in the area of personal relationships. Here, parents come to exchange pictures and brief biographies of their children of marriageable age in the hope of finding the perfect partner for each, with the right qualifications, income and, almost as important, a compatible animal sign.

"My son is a dragon. Is your daughter a rabbit? No?" The grey-haired woman shifts her eyes away from the couple to search the crowd around her. "Has anyone got a rabbit? I'm looking for a rabbit. Rabbit and dragon are a good match!"

Historically, the western concept of "romantic love" was alien to Chinese culture: free love was taboo and marriage was an expression of filial duty. In Mao's China, love for any person or thing other than the Party was denounced as bourgeois sentiment. Today, the empire of love is expanding, and the only penalties lovers suffer are those they inflict on each other. Yet the rise of love, which appears an exciting aspect of modernity to many young Chinese, is also bound up with the perils of the market: it feeds off the insecurity that is an inextricable part of China's transformation.

Diamond knights

The pressures of the "love game" are heightened, in China, by demography. Across the country there are more young men than women--one of many malign consequences of the "one-child" policy--but the concerned parents attending the "love market" know that, in the cities, eligible young men are at a premium. The Chinese have a term for men with the perfect package of availability and affluence: these "diamond bachelors" are quickly snapped up, unless they fiercely resist the loss of their precious independence. In big cities, the local women also have to compete against small-town girls who are keen to "upgrade" by acquiring a prosperous urban husband. In a society where "The winner takes it all" is the motto of the day, and where the young are still expected to conform by marrying, parents feel compelled to enter the race for love, even though their children are frequently dismayed by their activities.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

This conflict between the generations is another consequence of the one-child policy. China's young adults grew up in the ruins of the old world while the new world was still struggling to be born. They lack the support of siblings and peer group, while their parents, who survived the harsh psychological landscape of the past half-century, often fail to comprehend their emotional needs.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

China's Love Market: Traditions of Arranged Marriage and the Old Faith in Communism Are Merging with Consumer Choice. This Has Brought Romantic Freedom-Which Comes with Its Own Problems
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.