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Shanghai Pathways Blog

Understand ​China​ ​From the Local ​Perspect​ive

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October 2012

The Unmarried Crisis in China

At the age of 28, right after my one month holiday break in Europe, I got two interesting books from my friend Amanda, one is “I Know How You Become the Leftover”, the other one is “How to Make Anyone Fall in Love with You”.

The most fantastic thing is that my friend carefully made notes in these books and highlighted the important instructions. Let’s try to imagine my facial expression at that moment when she handed me these books with excitement. If you know me well, you could tell that I laughed really hard.

“You got to be kidding, does these books really work?” I asked with amusement after going through her notes quickly and thinking it is going to be a nice business if I try to write one similar book as well.

Amanda and I has very different personality which almost feels like the Yin and Yang’s. With the fact that we have known each other for more than 10 years, our difference in life style only made some conversation more interesting and fun. She has witnessed me getting all sorts of rewards at university and some achievements in business, I have been closely updated with all of her dating stories and studies of different men.

In China, beginning at 25, women must “fight” and “hunt” for a partner, so they will not end up alone. By 28, it implies the heat is really on, telling women “they must triumph.” Between 31 and 35, these women are called “advanced leftovers,” and by 35, a single woman is the “ultimate” leftover. Because people talk and the neighbors ask, parents feel social intimidation and start helping their beloved single child. It is easy to sense the pressures my friend has right now, Amanda is older than me, almost 30, surrounded by married woman at work and her parents are much more traditional than mine.

Now with these two books sitting quietly at my desk, I wanted to share more insights with all of you about the biggest crisis in China – it is not the economic slowing down, not the island dispute between China and Japan, it is the unmarried woman and man in big cities.

According to a study from the University of Kent, in ten years China will have approximately 24 million unmarried Chinese men who cannot find wives. That’s more than the current female populations of Taiwan and South Korea combined.

In big cities like Shanghai, there seems to be much more single woman than single man, woman from the country side are coming into the city to full in the need at the growing service industry. And as you might notice, Chinese women have become quite a strong power to be reckoned during the past 10 years. According to Forbes magazine, 11 of the 20 richest self-made women in the world are Chinese. In fact, there is even a phrase for their sudden rise: yin sheng, yang shuai, which means the female (yin) is on the up, while the male (yang) is on the way down.

However, single Chinese women who are older than 30, are viewed for being too picky or too modern and cosmopolitan, or are pitied for being overlooked, and called “leftover ladies” (shengnü). They can also be described as 3S lady – Single, Seventies, Stuck, or the SAS lady – Single, Attractive, Successful.

By now, you might wonder why these women are becoming the leftover ladies while there are so many single man who can’t find a wife? It has something to do with the ABCD rule in Chinese culture, and here is the secret behind everything:

A type means the best in the market, then it follows with B, C, D types.

The ABCD rule goes like that:

A man looking for B woman

B man looking for C woman

C man looking for D woman

When you have A woman and D man, they are pretty hard to match, right?

China also has a convention of men marrying slightly younger women and women marrying slightly older men. A widely publicised survey in 2010 by the government-backed All China Women’s Federation showed that that 92 percent of men questioned believed that a woman should be married before the age of 27.

As beauty is perceived to decrease with age, women’s marriage “shelf-life” is thus shorter than men’s. Therefore a 30 years old man is more likely to date a 22 years old woman who just finished university than his smart and clever female co-worker. It is also an every man’s dream to find a “Bai Fu Mei”(White – Chinese man prefer whiter skin, Rich and Beautiful).

Every Saturday and Sunday, at the Shanghai marriage market, parents, with or without their children’s consent, arrange meetings, dates and potential matches for their kids. Some children, often too busy working to devote time to meeting a soul mate, accept their parents’ help. But its not easy even for a parent, and many also employ matchmakers to help with their search. But according to the local matchmakers, every 1 single male follows every 5 single females.

The history of the market started in 1996, by a small group of elderly people(less than 20 people) trying to help their kids, later on it was reported by the local media. Now by 2012, it is the largest one in China, with more than 1000 people attending in a day. Hundreds of worrying parents gather up, regardless of the weather, clutching single sheets of paper that present their children in simple phrases — age, height, education, job, salary, whether they ever studied abroad and whether they own their own apartment. Chinese parents believed that it is better to set up date offline than online. Over the internet, everyone is richer, taller and better looking. Over here, at least you can meet their parents face to face.

While everything seems to be so material based by the parents view towards relationship, known as “Love is a luxury, not a necessity”, and many are hoping to marry a “Gao Shuai Fu”(Tall, Handsome and Rich), or looking for the “5 Cs”(career, cash, car, Credit Cards and Condominium) and it is no secret that some women in China are gold-diggers and use marriage as a means to acquire wealth, however “shengnu” are generally educated, well-to-do females who support themselves and have less of a need than their mothers and grandmothers did to enter a marriage for economic reasons. Therefore the majority of “Shengnu” are still hanging in there as they don’t want to compromise their hope in finding the true love or at least a bit of chemistry. They no longer views marriage as just being about securing a future through money, a car, and a house. And disagree with the idea of marriage just for the sake of it, even if it means facing pressures from their parents and endless reminders that nobody will want them after 30.

So does Shanghai marriage market work at all? It’s wildly known that it is busier than a wet market, but the success rate is worse than a job fair. But a friend told me a true story.

A 29 years old lady does not have boy friend, and since she is approaching the expiration date, 30 in Chinese standard, her father worries a lot.

So on a Saturday, he went all the way to the marriage market, it took him 2 hours by bus because they live far from the city area. By the time he arrived there, the market almost finished. He rushed – almost run into the center, but accidentally he knocked a woman down.

Feeling sorry and embarrassed, he apologized to her and then they had a chat. It turns out that she had a son who is also 29 years old. So they agreed to let them meet.

Guess what? After 3 months, their son and daughter are happily married. More amazingly, one works as an accountant, another is a banker.

Well, I think we just need a bit of luck in life, right?

As modern Chinese women, there are no more foot-binding custom to keep them from achieve their dreams in life. They are encouraged to pursue education and develop their careers, and be self-sufficient and independent. At the same time, they also desire to follow the traditional path of marriage and family.

For better or for worse, Chinese women are on her own terms now.

A Day with Janny

Sometimes I wondering what does it feel like to spend a day with me for people travel from other countries, what sort of experience do I bring to them, etc. Sometimes I wish to get into other people’s mind and see what will they understand from the prespective which I gave to them during a tour.
This is a post from Brian Krueger, he is an Internet entrepreneur, author, lecturer and business leader on the subject of entry level job search, especially for college students and recent graduates. Brian was most recently Vice President, Global Talent Acquisition for Amazon.com. before departing to become Co-Founder and CEO of Mobile Recruiting Ventures. He previously worked for IBM and Computer Sciences Corporation. 
In 2011, Brian and his wife Kristin spent a day walking around Shanghai with me, and they will return to Shanghai in 2013. I can’t wait to show them more of Shanghai.  They have a very nice blog for their world cruise.
Following is their story of the Shanghai trip in March 2011.
When we woke at 6a, we were already tied up alongside the dock.  I went out looking for a city view or possibly a peek at a sunrise, but we’re pretty boxed in here at the port and it’s still pretty foggy.  Here is the best pic I could get from port side of the ship (we are tied up starboard side):
This pic is of the Yangtze River with the Pudong (new Shanghai) skyline in the background.  Just to put size and scale into perspective, most of those skyscrapers in the background are 40-60 stories and the tower is the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, one of the world’s largest TV towers.  Behind those two boats going further upriver are scores more stretching as far as the eye can see up the Yangtze River.  I was talking to one of the ship’s officers and he said that we arrived so early to get on the other side of the convoy, which he said will continue in one direction for 6 hours, then the boats going in the other direction will go for six hours.  Most of the boats are carrying coal, like the boat in the foreground of the pic above.  Shanghai is the world’s busiest container port.  There is a building with “Cosco” on the top of it right outside our balcony, not sure if that is global headquarters for Cosco, but we see Cosco ships all the time in Puget Sound back home.
Shanghai has a total population of 23 million, so about 3x the size of New York City.  It is the world’s largest city proper in the world (some other cities are larger in their metropolitan area).
It’s going to be a pretty warm day today, although this is a high chance of rain.  Forecast high is 62 and low is 51, which is warmer than normal.  We’ve had a string of good weather throughout this trip.  Yesterday was rainy, but we were at sea, so we were snuggled up inside with plenty of indoor activities going on.  Our port days have all been warmer than the normal average and very dry.  We’ll see if today keeps the record going, in spite of the forecast.
We did a Bible study and video sermon this morning from John Elliott entitled “Freedom from Slavery” then did some walking around Shanghai later in the day.

Janny Chyn was our local walking tour guide for the day.  She gave us a good overview of the city in several different areas.  We went first to Yu Garden.  Here is a gate as we came near (but not yet to) Yu Garden:

These people were doing a form of tai chi that looked kina like our Zumba class in the morning:

This is the more traditional tai chi, being done on the sidewalk with scooters racing by:
They were lined up along the sidewalk, about 10 or so people, all doing tai chi:
Another traditional Chinese building on our way to Yu Garden:
Look at the people in the foreground of the picture with their dogs in the basket of their bikes.  Janny said that this is one of the ways people take their dogs out for a walk in China.
This is a local dumpling maker.  How would you like that job, filling up the dumpling containers?
Lots of the dogs we saw in Shanghai were dressed in a variety of outfits.  I like how this one had both a top and pants:
This is at the entry to Yu Garden, these flowers floating on the water:
Inside Yu Garden, one of the traditional buildings facing the garden.  Note also that the trees are blossoming behind Krissie:
Note the lentil in the doorway above.  Janny said that the Chinese are very superstitious and they build things to keep the evil spirits from entering.  So the bridge to enter is in a Z configuration, because evil spirit can only walk straight and they cannot jump (hence the door lentil).  There is a mirror in the house to keep them away, since if they see their own reflection, they will be frightened and run away.

I liked how this stone entryway framed the garden behind:

You can see more of Yu Garden here.  And note that throughout the day you will see what looks like a “mist” in the background of the pics.  That is actually mist and it lasted the entire day:
There were dragons in several areas of the garden, this wall was topped with one:
There are elaborate lanterns and ceiling decorations in the buildings:
Still in Yu Garden, very picturesque:
This is on the top of one of the buildings, note the warriors and the dragon:
Two dragons facing each other over a gate:
There was a nice koi pond in Yu Garden as well:
Note the stone behind Krissie—that is a very rare and valuable stone, so it was made the centerpiece of what the owner of the garden would face from the nearby building:
Another tree in early bloom:
Look closely at this poodle.  It is wearing shoes:
Do you know what this is in the pic below?
We guessed cable box, Internet connection, phone connection, electrical box, all wrong.  It is a milk delivery container.  One key for the milkman to open it, another key for the local owner.

These children were walking down the local street:

Note that they all wear pants with a flap that allow them to both have their diaper changed easily as a baby and to go to the bathroom as a toddler.

Do you know what this guy is carrying that looks like a big flower pot?

Yes, it is a pot, but not for flowers.  It is a chamber pot.  He had just emptied it and is returning home.

This guy is cleaning out his chamber pot after emptying it:

We then went to Xia Hai Temple where Janny showed us how they lit the incense…
…then bowed at each position in each direction:
This is the entrance to the first temple:
Buddhism in China is a combination of several influences, including Taoism, Confucianism, and Shinto.  Lots of Buddha statues:
Afterward we walked through a market area where they were cooking local delicacies:
And selling live chickens  If you look closely, you will see the remains of chickens in the red tub below:
They kill and de-feather the chicken right there at the shop.
This guy was selling a variety of beans as we made our way to the Jewish Ghetto:
There is a mix of different modes of transportation including bicycles, scooters, strollers and walking, all mixed on the same streets:
This is the interior courtyard of the Jewish Ghetto.  Many Jews relocated here between 1933 and 1939, although only one Jewish family stayed in 1949 when the Communists took over:
There is a park in the Jewish Ghetto where the kids were out playing:
The three boys on the right were fighting over the green ball:
These two men were playing a form of Chinese chess:
This is a hot pot restaurant, where you buy food on a stick, then cook it in a hot pot:
We had lunch at Shanghai Min Restaurant:
Shanghai food uses more soy sauce, is sweeter and uses more oil than typical Chinese food.  We had chicken soup, beef tenderloin wok style with peppers, asparagus and Shanghai style fried rice.  It was the highlight of the day for Krissie (mine was cricket wrestling and marriage market, coming up soon).  The lunch was wonderful, the dessert (sticky rice) was awful—yuck!
Even though I didn’t get a picture of it, several times during the day we saw people walking around in just their PJs.  Janny said it’s more comfortable for them to walk around in their pajamas.
Then we went to the cricket and bird market.  Outside they were selling cans for storing your cricket, small ones for normal crickets and large ones for fighter crickets:
Do you know what these are for?
The trays at the front are food dishes and water dishes for your cricket.  The grey and orange pentagon pots in the back are “cricket taxis” for moving them from one place to the other.  Top right are brushes, which are used to tickle the crickets to get them to fight.
There were all sorts of birds for sale in the market, cage after cage after cage:
This is the different type of bird food for sale, made right there on the premises:
Or you could buy a little worm to feed to your bird:
This is cricket food, sold in small packages:
Here are the fighting crickets for sale.  No kidding.  They have cricket fights (looks more like cricket wrestling) and then bet on the matches.  The Chinese like to bet on just about anything, including cricket wrestling.  Janny said this guy was probably there all day examining the crickets to decide which one to buy as his fighter:
He would take out a cricket and put it into this small container, then tickle it with one of the brushes you see on the right.  If the cricket showed its teeth (I didn’t know that a cricket has teeth?), that is a good sign that it will be a good fighter.
This is a cricket match on TV, the one on the right is about to attack the one on the left:
Yes, this is two crickets in a duel to the death (or until one of them breaks a leg), then the match is over:
You could just buy a “normal” cricket to make a cricket noise that you could carry around in your pocket.  Or several crickets to give you a peaceful sound to put you to sleep.  But a fighting cricket would cost anywhere from $1 to over $1,000.
Krissie in front of the more expensive birds.  If they sing and/or talk, that commands a higher price:
Krissie in front of the Shanghai Museum at People’s Square:
Then we went to the Marriage Market:
Parents come to the Marriage Market to make matches for their children.  It’s more than just a few parents coming together to try to matchmake their kids, they are very organized about it, including putting up personal ads about each guy or girl:
Note the pic in the one that is top left.  It’s rare to see a pic.  But you will see age, what type of job they have, how much money they make, where they live, what kind of car they drive, etc.
I had to act like I was taking this pic of Krissie and Janny to get the actual pic I wanted of the people behind them.  Most of the ads are placed on an open umbrella:
This guy was very popular:
When Janny read the ad, she found out that the guy’s son is 28 years old, earns 180,000 RMB/year (about $30K/year) and she said he was a hot commodity.
Janny is 28 and said that when you are over 30 and single in China, you are viewed as being “expired.”  She said that the A guys go for the B girls, the B guys go for the C girls, the C guys go for the D girls, so the D guys and the A girls are left without.  She’s an A girl, so if you know of an A guy in Shanghai who isn’t intimidated by an A girl who has a good education and a great job, contact Janny.  If you need a good tour guide in Shanghai, she’s great.
We rode a subway over to the French Concession.  When we first got on, we were squished in like sardines.  But then we switched to another subway after a few stops and it wasn’t as crowded.  Note the girl and the little boy in this pic working the crowd for money (the girl is singing, the little boy is begging):
We went into a part of the French Concession that used to be narrow back alleys, but is now converted to retail shops and restaurants:
Nice place for young people to hang out:
We ended our day on The Bund, with a view of Pudong on the right of the pic and our ship (very faint) in the middle left of the pic (not the one in the middle of the river, further back).  It’s still very hazy, but we haven’t had any rain:
Janny also took us to the Fairmont Peace Hotel, which has some wonderful art deco design:
Then we walked from The Bund back to our ship (also visible in the background of this pic, but again very hazy):
We ate dinner on the port side of the ship, where we could see the Pudong (new Shanghai) skyline when a brightly colored ship went by:

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