Older women in China are commonly referred to as damas, a term that evokes images of large groups of women dancing in public areas to loud music. But Lin does not meet that stereotype. On average, Lin spends at least 10 hours a day counselling her fans, sifting through their information kept in neatly handwritten notes as well as writing private messages while pairing them up. She regularly dyes her short hair black and her favourite outfit includes a green sweater and a pearl necklace, a gift from her son. Matchmaking and the dying Chinese art of managing expectations.
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Her livecasts receive up to viewers at any given minute. Although she is not doing it for the money, her fans occasionally tip her with virtual gifts that pop up as heart-shaped icons on her live-streaming screen. Numerous live-streaming matchmakers have emerged on Kuaishou, a live-streaming platform, since Lin came to fame, but she said many ask for cash even without successful matches.
Lin is also critical of conventional matchmaking businesses that do not operate on the internet.
China’s Love-Hate Relationship With Traditional Matchmaking
In her neighbouring counties, professional matchmakers, mostly elderly men, can charge single men yuan merely for introducing a woman to them. If the match is successful, the matchmaker can earn 10, yuan.
Even divorced women were expecting their next husband to own a car, house and have a nice job, she said, but many men did not meet such standards, making their search for love difficult. Sleepless in Hong Kong: Not all matches go smoothly. Lin still regrets a match she made between a man and a woman living in Hebei, who broke up after living together for three months. Lin met the man seven times as the couple dated. Almost universally that is left to the groom's side.
China’s free online matchmaker who has brought love to over 200 couples
But we may speculate that as time pressure increases, convention can give way to practicality, and the family of an undesirable girl, may be reduced to taking more direct action before their daughter becomes entirely unmarriageable by passing beyond the appropriate age. Even poverty, which can delay marriage when there is a choice, must cease to be an excuse as the child gets to the end of the "window.
Kulp itemizes three distinct ways in which the initial steps could be taken:.
Kulp does not distinguish the circumstances of these three kinds of cases. It is tempting to suspect that when matchmakers approached the family on their own initiative when children were young, while in the second and third situations the children were most likely reaching the end or at least passing the optimum point of marriageable age, and the parents felt an obligation to take action on their behalf. Conversely, very early betrothals appear to be associated with particularly obvious or desirable matches, which both sides may desire to "tie up" before the opportunity slips away e.
When the match is especially suitable, it takes little subtly to be a matchmaker, for all parties are enthusiastic from the beginning. In his study of Kao Yao, for example, Osgood found that some very early betrothals between preferred cousins were so obvious that use of an intermediary became superfluous. It seems likely then, that in general easier matches, those occurring near the middle of the window of opportunity or toward the beginning of it, should be the ones most likely to be handled by friends and relations of the family, while professional matchmakers would be called in for the "hard" cases, cases typically falling toward the end of the "window of opportunity" or after it has effectively closed.
As marriage moved later and later, it not only became more difficult to arrange, but apparently grew less and less respectable, and matches were made at great distances, presumably in part because of the shame involved, the matches being treated somewhat as were cases of concubinage and daughter-in-law adoption or the recruitment of prostitutes.
These were the men whose families couldn't afford wives for them when they were younger, and who were not desirable husbands. The girls sought were married as private individuals effectively bought by their husbands, and nobody apparently established effective or usable social ties with their affines, if they even knew who they were Johnston Nearly a century later this practice apparently continues as part of a growing trade in women and occasionally men that is only beginning to be studied Gates It has proven difficult to confirm this in the questionnaire data I have collected so far.
All respondents were asked to identify their relationship with their matchmaker. Blocking together parents, family, and relatives as most intimate, colleagues and fellow students as having the most useful social networks for the purposes, and friends and acquaintances as the most distant group, one gets three classes of matchmakers.
These can be compared with men and women above or below the mean marriage age for their sex and location. But the small numbers in both samples prevent the results from coming up to a satisfactory level of statistical significance. Rarely, to hear them tell it, did they arrange marriages for handsome, happy, intelligent youngsters with charming and wealthy families. Such matches happen easily at the hands of friends and relatives who easily see the potential such people offer to be desirable mates. Instead the matchmakers of my interviews speak of seeking mates for the dull, the damaged, and the delinquent.
Their most typical example was a person well past normative marriage age, and indeed some of them seemed almost to specialize in such cases. The minimum legal age of marriage for women in mainland China today is 20, and for men Mean age at marriage in our survey is The law requires that marriages be initiated by the bride and groom and entered into of their free will and mutual consent.
The window of opportunity to find a mate probably opens a little before the minimum age, although active courtship is by no means encouraged. It closes gradually toward the high 20s, when most potential mates are already "taken. To some extent, "older" unmarried people are a special problem in mainland China because of the disruptions that Communist political life has periodically imposed upon the social scene.
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The return of urban youths who had been "sent up to the country" during the Cultural Revolution, for example, brought many who had not married on a normal schedule. Indeed, it was in response to such cases that several matchmaking associations were founded in the early s, when the pressures of the Cultural Revolution were at last ended, and its costs were still much in evidence. It is useful to turn briefly to some specific matchmakers as examples.
She began matchmaking in and in the eight years between that time and our interview had introduced something over sixty couples. Official encouragement led to her conducting a survey of all unmarried people 28 or more years old in the work unit. Initially she recruited work-unit matchmakers to operate in teams of two to try to find matches for all these "old" employees. The program was sufficiently successful that other individuals and work units also approached her for advice or assistance.
She was active in matchmaking in these groups, due, she told me, to the wide social network they created for her. Upon her retirement in she was a founding member of the Union Matchmakers' Association.
Another founder of the organization had been head of a union of department store workers, where she had been an active matchmaker. Union office-holding background seems pervasive in this particular association. Although the Union Matchmakers' Association was formally founded only in , Mrs. That, anyway, was how she phrased it. It is easier to suspect that the disruptions of the Japanese occupation, of the civil war, and of the early Communist period had made marriage difficult, demographically, financially, and ideologically, and that these women and no doubt many men had simply passed beyond the "window of opportunity" and could no longer easily find mates.
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Normative retirement age was fifty, and at retirement the still active women of this age cohort were seen as particularly lonesome and tragic. In they undertook to expand this to all textile workers 25 or over who were still unmarried. They set up committees at the level of the individual company or so employees and work group 10 or more employees.
In they took on the general problem of finding mates for people normally regarded as unmarriageable. These included particularly three categories: In this last category they this time targeted especially elderly men too timid or introverted to arrange things for themselves. Since she was limiting her attention to employed industrial workers, it is possible that few of them were among her clients.
As we shall see below, disabled people do make use of matchmakers, exactly as we might expect they should. Perhaps in part because of the scale of their efforts and in part because of their association with the system of established labor organizations, they were quite successful. The papers reported on their efforts, and they had requests from outsiders for spouses and from other trade unions e. When the Association itself was founded in , it was classed by the government as a "mass organization," which for practical purposes means that it has a good deal of autonomy but little financial support.
At the time of our interview in , the organization included about formally associated matchmakers. It was divided into 55 sub-units of various kinds. At the top there is a small steering committee. The organization seeks to confront matchmaking problems collectively. For example the fact that women marry slightly younger than men means that the depressed birth rate produced by the early years of the cultural revolution made for a shortage first of girls as the boys born in the early s came to marriageable age, then predictably of boys as the post-CR "baby boomers" become marriageable girls-first.
The use of female infanticide or sex-linked abortion to skew the sex ratio after the adoption of the one-child policy has of course begun to produce far more complex results, which the matchmakers we interviewed have not yet had to confront. We interviewed some suburban matchmakers who had founded their own small association, affiliated with Mrs.
The Importance of Networks. She spent her working career in the new Women's Association. In , when she was serving as head of the association and had a particularly large social circle of acquaintances, she happened to arrange a marriage between two cadres. This worked out well enough that it launched her career as a matchmaker. After her retirement she continued to use her connections to facilitate more matches, particularly among Communist cadres.
The important thing in matching them, she stressed, was social class: The lack of cadre status was to Mrs. Mates must be of "matching doors and facing households," after all. One matchmaker who operated largely outside of the organizational world just described was Mrs.