At Chinese New Year, Matchmaking Becomes Mercenary

February 14, 2011 Updated: October 1, 2015

Locals browse through singles information at a 'lover's finding,' or matchmaking event for Valentines Day in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, in 2007. (AFP/Getty Images)
Locals browse through singles information at a 'lover's finding,' or matchmaking event for Valentines Day in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, in 2007. (AFP/Getty Images)
Hundreds of millions of Chinese look forward to the New Year celebrations, when families reunite in their hometowns for days of feasting and revelry. But some dread it.

Young people who reach their late 20s or 30s without finding a partner are called “leftovers,” and are often looked down upon. For them, Chinese New Year is another round of scrutiny by prying family members over why they are still single.

A report titled “How The ‘Leftovers’ Celebrate the New Year With Their Families” was released by Chinese website Sina, in the love and marriage section. It indicated that over 90 percent of the singles interviewed have been asked marriage-related questions by family members. Among them, 42 percent have been “constantly harangued” with indelicate inquiries into their personal lives.

Stand-Ins for Rent

Some singles, rather than endure the pressure, have chosen to rent a boyfriend or girlfriend to bring home to the family.

A recent Internet post seeking a rental boyfriend said, “I am totally disappointed with love. I do not want to be in a relationship. But I have no choice: my parents gave me an ultimatum. I have to rent a boyfriend. The one selected must be over 1.75 meters (5 feet 7 inches) in height, have a good demeanor, and can talk to parents, family, and friends with ease. He will be reasonably compensated.”

Some posts for stand-ins have a clear price tag. One man’s post says, “Rental for myself and my car is 300 yuan (approximately US$46) per day. Additional expenses such as gas, gifts to family and kids, and room and board must be paid by the other party.”

Aside from the money, some posts say that they are also in it for the fun. One man wrote, “I’m not just into the money. I also want to go and visit different places. It’s been a while since I was invited to people’s homes for a free meal. I prefer if the girl’s family has homemade sausages.”

Matchmaking Frenzy

Some singles who dared to confront their overbearing parents found themselves caught up in a matchmaking frenzy when they returned home.

According to Xiamen Daily, a Ms. Chen Na (an alias) published her New Year matchmaking diary on the Internet. Chen, who is nearing 30, wrote that she dreads ever going on another matchmaking date, after having been on five of them that her parents set up for her within the course of the three days she was home for the Chinese New Year. She said that her holiday had almost turned into matchmaking “working” dates.

Mr. Zhang Weiwei (an alias) is 29 and has a job in Shanghai. He was on four matchmaking dates arranged by his parents, who were extremely anxious to find him a nice woman.

He told Today Morning Express that he was forced to dedicate three of his Chinese New Year holiday days for matchmaking. He had had enough by the fourth day and simply had to leave. “I was exhausted. It’s more exhausting than working through the night.”

Love a Rare Commodity

The rise in the GDP, accelerating inflation, and prevailing social norms indicate that real love is hard to come by for the young. The price tag for love and marriage has also skyrocketed. Many Chinese women, in particular, are unabashed about their mercenary ambitions.

The 2010 Investigation Report on Courtship and Marriage in China shows 40 percent of females prefer to marry a “civil servant,” that is, a government employee who enjoys guaranteed job security and lucrative fringe benefits.

The Red Book on Value Concepts of Female College Students in Guangzhou City published in 2010 shows that 59.2 percent of female college students prefer to marry offspring of the wealthy, reasoning that it will spare them years of hard work.

According to a Feb. 7 report by Voice of America (VOA), official statistics show that the 2010 divorce rate has increased by 14.5 percent over 2009; the rate has been increasing year on year for the last three decades.

Zhou Xiaozheng, a professor of Sociology at Renmin University in China told VOA that the temptation of money is one of the main reasons for the increase in the divorce rate.

“The environment we are in is only suitable for making money,” Hong Huang, CEO of China Interactive Media Group, was quoted as saying by the Guangdong-based New Weekly Magazine. “It does not even provide acceptable living conditions, not to mention finding love.”