Online Dating Sites Come to Life: The Shanghai Marriage Market

Story by Emily Horne  |  Video by Katy Brown  |  Photo Gallery

According to a study by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, there will be more than 24 million single Chinese men in 2020.

Now more than ever, Americans partake in services offered by online dating sites such as or However, parents in Shanghai are taking to the streets to find their children a potential spouse. The Shanghai Marriage Market is open and ready for business for about two hours every Saturday and Sunday. Parents, their 20-something children, and matchmakers fill the tents in hopes of finding love.

The Shanghai Marriage Market

The Marriage Market is viewed as a way for the older Chinese generation to keep tradition in their children’s love lives, though the culture is ever changing. Video by Katy Brown.

Searching for a son-in-law

Mr. Chen Liande visits Shanghai’s Marriage Market every week and has done so for the past two years. He is on the quest to find a suitable partner for his daughter.

“I’m looking for a guy who is suitable for her,” Chen said “I mean not the best of all, but most suitable.”

At first his daughter was not accepting of the actions her father was taking. But now, Chen says she is more accepting of the idea of the Marriage Market.

So far, Chen has not been successful in his search. But to help him find a suitable partner, he created an advertisement for his daughter listing information about her. The ad includes her age, height, occupation and educational background. Although he did not include her picture with the ad, Chen is willing to show it to interested parents.

When Chen finds a potential partner for his daughter, he plans to follow Chinese traditional dating culture.

“According to Chinese traditional culture, the first step of matchmaking is to establish contact between the parents on both sides,” Chen said, “If the parents of both sides agree to contact, then they will allow their children to go further.

Less optimistic

As for Mr. Wang, he visited the Shanghai Marriage Market for the first time hoping to find a potential partner for his nephew. Although his nephew does not know he is acting on his behalf, Wang made his way through the market and searched through the personal ads for preferred requirements.

“I’m looking for a girl who should [hold] a master degree or above, well at least a bachelor degree,” Wang said, “She should also be of good personality and kind to others.”

He also had more specific requirements of potential partners, such as a height of at least 5 foot 4 inches to match his nephew’s height of 5 foot 8 inches.

The Shanghai marriage market takes place in People’s Park each week on Saturday and Sunday.

But Wang does not think all the searching and advertising will help his nephew in the end.

“I believe that it’s quite impossible, just like an illusion, to find a life partner here,” Wang said.

Wang also said he believes the past and present views of marriage differ. The differences create misunderstandings between the parents and their children – hence the disapproval from many of the children advertised at the Marriage Market. He believes the past qualifications for a wife were diligence and the willingness to suffer the burden of life. Wang says now those qualifications are elegance and a decent career path.

Her future is in the ads

Walking the aisles of personal ads, Wu Limin searched for her future husband.  And as she looked, some parents, who were looking for a partner for their son, approached Limin.

“I talked to some parents,” Limin said, “they just asked for my information and I told them what kind of standards my ideal [partner] should [have].”

Those standards for Limin’s potential future partner are typical for any Chinese woman. Limin is looking for someone born in 1980, holds a bachelor degree, a stable career, and also, he must have an apartment in Shanghai. If she finds someone who meets those standards, Limin has a plan of action.

“For I will note down the phone number,” Limin said, “then search some information about the phone number online.”

After obtaining some information, Limin will call the man. In fact, she found one potential partner and gave him a call. But after the conversation, Limin said his personality was less than desirable.

So far, she has had no luck finding a partner. Then again, this is only her first time at the Marriage Market.

“I will come back,” Limin said, “I believe this [act of matchmaking] is a good way.” However, Limin also said if this does not work out for her, she may have to look to dating television programs for assistance.

An American point of view

“I’ve never seen anything like this in my life,” said Jeremy Dela Cruz, student at Ramapo College of New Jersey.

The Shanghai Marriage Market

Jeremy Dela Cruz, a student at Ramapo College of New Jersey, made a stop at the Shanghai Marriage Market with his classmates. Hear what he had to say about the market.

Dela Cruz was on a school trip with his classmates when his instructor decided to surprise the students with a trip to the Marriage Market. On the way to the park, Dela Cruz asked his instructor how the Chinese court, which led to the instructor spilling the beans on the surprise. She explained to Dela Cruz and his classmates the act of matchmaking at the Marriage Market.

“I guess it’s a better way of,” Dela Cruz said.

He viewed the Marriage Market as a way for the older Chinese generation to keep tradition in their children’s love lives while the culture is ever changing. While he said the market might seem like an arranged set up, he believes this method will succeed for both the parents and the children.

“I think it could work,” Dela Cruz said, “[they are] trying their best to help their kid out.”

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Category: Family and Traditions