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.