Machmaking in Shanghai: The Marriage Market

Shanghai People’s Park Marriage Market is a weekly event that takes place Saturdays and Sundays.

You’ll walk past rows of colorful umbrellas with papers in plastic covers, papers that are advertisements for the unmarried kids of the parents who spend their day here.

Someone told us not all are parents, part of the umbrella exhibitors are paid matchmakers and professional matchmakers even have own stands here. What should one think of this?

Shanghai Marriage Market at People’s Park takes place every weekend

Arranged marriages are illegal in China, have been since the 1950’s (marriage arrangements became the norm during the Ming dynasty), but it doesn’t seem to bother the distressed parents and grandparents who have nightmares of their children becoming ”leftovers” as they will be called eventually if they remain single past certain age. The parents feel the need to interfere, make sure their children meet the social and economical standards they themselves value.

The generational gap between the traditions and preferences of the elderly and the younger generations seems to be deep.

In the urban Shanghai the younger generations have more options than any generations before. You can pick the things you want: education, career, money, globe trotting, finding love and/or pure pleasure. Making decisions on wanting upbringing or remaining kid free.


Matchmaking is serious stuff, the papers are advertisement for kids that parents want to marry.

Parental and social pressure to get married and have kids is universal, but how strong the pressure is, certainly has a lot to do of the culture you were born into. Many cultures have such a strong tradition for arranged marriages that it will not be an easy job to give the choice to the individuals.

The dreamy, romantic, Instagrammable wedding is far from the deal all marriages originally have been about: the financial deal, an arrangement. Even real currency between countries back in the days. First marriage, love may follow.


Shanghai Marriage Market parents are afraid their kids become “leftovers” if they don’t marry by certain age

When walking past these People’s Park umbrellas, exhibiting children as sort of trade items, you still can not help thinking of the obvious need for finding that special someone – where ever you were born at.

Think of the international TV-format that introduces couples at the altar. Think of the matchmaking services. Even in countries like Finland many guys feel they will never find a wife here and join some machmaking communities. Women as well, trust the power of dating services that offer help at finding that special someone.

Matchmaking within families is not dead even in the most developed and secular countries where individuals in theory can make their own choices. It is no secret certain families with history, status and/or money try their best at introducing the young ones to each other from early on. To keep the tradition and wealth within certain circles. We believe this happens everywhere.


We try to understand these parents who gather to the People’s Park, but we understand more their kids who these days maybe have the possibility to choose. Not opening the doors and windows for the young generations is definitely not helping now. Not wanting to get married does not mean not being able to find genuine, true love. Not longing for a companion doesn’t mean you can’t be happy.

What do you think of love and marriage? Arranged marriages? Freedom to choose?

Check out this YouTube video:
Chinese female artist Yingguang Guo created an art project a couple of years back. She visited People’s Park several times within a two year period pretending she is looking for a companion. The reality of match making was pretty harsh, but at the end the artist had gained a deeper understanding of this social phenomenon and even the parents gathering at the park.

One thought on “Machmaking in Shanghai: The Marriage Market

  1. This marriage market in Shanghai is an interesting phenomenon. In China you are expected to get married before you are 25 or your chances diminish. And then your parents and grandparent get desperate enough to go park to “trade” their (grand)children marriage. But in the end it is still the child who decide.
    Thanks for interesting post and blog!

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