Shanghai's Alternative To

by Elizabeth Nolan Brown

When most people refer to "the marriage market," they mean it figuratively. But the Shanghai marriage market is a literal, physical space where both women and men — or their families — solicit spouses via personal ads listing things like age, height, income, zodiac symbol and hometown. Mothers and fathers of single Chinese adults come every Saturday and Sunday to peruse the potential matches, which are advertised on posters pinned to fences and trees, according to CNN.

Shanghai is among the largest cities in China, making it seem like an odd place for such an antiquated setup. But urban China is filled with single, professional women. While there are 34 million more men than women in China (and publications like Vice and Marie Claire have reported a shortage of marriageable women due to implications of China's one-child policy), matchmakers said the Shanghai marriage market attracts around three times as many women looking for partners as men. "Chinese men tend to 'marry down' both in terms of age and educational level," CNN noted. They're also more likely to live in rural villages.

Many of the women and men featured on marriage market ads don't realize they're being advertised. "Children find it embarrassing to be advertised here, it's a loss of face," Jiang Jin, 38, told Al Jazeera in an interview earlier this year. "It's the parents who arranged this market. They're the ones who come here.”

A five-month advertisement costs about $3.20 — making it much cheaper than, at least. For a registration fee of $16, parents can pick up unlimited phone numbers from matchmakers. That's right: Parents are buying and selling their children's phone numbers to one another without their kids' knowledge. And people say American helicopter parents are bad.

Image: Pop-up Bride/Facebook