Shanghai Marriage Market – Shanghai, China - Atlas Obscura

Shanghai Marriage Market

A son-and-daughter meat market, hawked by mom and dad. 


Residents of China’s largest city face a conundrum in finding love and marriage.

An increase in the busy schedules of young adults, a discrepancy between male and female populations created by China’s one-child policy, and the social pressure to marry before one is thirty puts a tricky timestamp on young Shanghainese. Many of them just don’t have time to deal with it.

But their parents do.

Started in 1996, Shanghai’s so-called Marriage Market allows parents to advertise their lovelorn children in low-tech, ink-and-paper dating profiles. Posting their children’s educational statistics, work history, age and other demographics, parents try to match their children with partners worthy of them. Of course, parents are picky in choosing mates for their children, who are certainly imbued with supernatural greatness. As a result, parents often post too-demanding achievements, including exorbitant earnings, and exceptional good looks. Needless to say, not everybody finds dates.

The Marriage Market hearkens back to a more traditional time when parents arranged their children’s marriages. At the Market, like in traditional Chinese dating cultures, parents often meet each other before the dating couple does. In quickly modernizing China, traditions are often discarded.

Nothing is more indicative of this trend than the younger generation’s views about marriage. Children are often uncomfortable with their parents meddling in their love affairs, but they usually don’t need to worry about their parents’ success. Although the market has become hugely popular–drawing more than 1000 people each weekend day– most parents have to return, month after month, year after year.

These parents’ concerns aren’t without merit, however. In a society where singleness after thirty is hugely stigmatized, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences estimates that more than 24 million Chinese men will be single in 2020. Perhaps the Marriage Market gives moms and pops some agency in saving their sons–and in a few cases, daughters– from this fate.

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