Love Markets in a Changing China

In China, women are often still seen as a commodity, a product that begins to lose its value after they turn 24, the average age to get married. “Whenever I talk to my mother, she gets mad at me because I still don’t have a boyfriend “, says Dream, a 28-year-old girl from Hubei. Women her age are known by the term “Sheng Nu”, literally “leftover women”. Victims of social pressures, some turn to educational services, such as the classes on “How to find a boyfriend” given by the Weime Club. Out of this social climate, a multimillion-dollar industry has emerged that exploits the fears and loneliness of a generation.

Diamond Love, a matchmaking agency in Shanghai, specializes in the extremely rich clients. “Each search can cost between 10,000 yuan (1,500 dollars) and 1 million yuan (157 thousand dollars), the price depends on the duration and the number of cities where we search,” says Xu Tian Li, the CEO of the company. The search begins with a team of “love hunters” that scour the streets for suitable candidates. “Out of one hundred women, we select 10 and our client chooses one,” he says.

Although there is a big gender imbalance in Chinese society, with experts estimating that 30 million men will never find a wife, in the big cities, women are the ones who face the most pressure for being single. At weekends in People’s Park in Shanghai, hundreds of eager parents meet at the “Marriage Market” as it is known among locals, pasting ads to umbrellas, trading contact information, hoping to find a match for their children. For some older single women, this market is their last resort for finding that special someone.