PEOPLE'S PARK, SHANGHAI
In Shanghai, People’s Park is more than just a serene spot to play chess and walk fluffy inner-city pups, it’s also the hottest place to find a date. Each weekend this lush, green park in the centre of the city turns into a live-action Tinder scene. A place to go from one eligible bachelor/ette to the next, except it’s mum and dad who are doing the swiping.
When we arrive it's just after lunch, and the market is in full swing. The crowd is thick with oldies chatting up other oldies, singing praises of their sons and daughters while sussing out potential matches. Posters are stuck on resting umbrellas advertising their children’s age, height, university degree, job. You know, all the essentials in finding true love.
The market began in 1996, born mostly out of parental anxieties that their kids won’t find a mate. Thanks to China’s 40-year-long one-child policy, the country’s birth-rate has seen a hugely distorted gender balance due to the traditional preference to have a son over a daughter. With not enough girls around, the Chinese Government predict by 2020 there will be more than 30 million unmarried men in China. Combine this with social pressure to have your children married with kids before the age of thirty (unmarried women are known as sheng nu – leftovers), and it’s clear there’s no time for fate and romance to play a part.
With a knowledge of China’s dating scene gleaned only from the amazing television series If You Are The One, I wasn’t aware just how much urgency there is within the typical Chinese family to get married. Unlike my occasional parental harassment for grandchildren, this is more about preserving the family line and parents playing their role in society. “It's an ancient tradition in China for parents to find a wife or husband for their children," our friend Evelyn, a Shanghai local. "Lots of parents still think it's their responsibility."
Despite the crowd of options here in the park, it doesn’t seem the match rate is very strong; posters are faded and weathered, like they've been waiting here for plenty of weekends. “I don’t think it’s very successful,” says Evelyn. “It’s the parents who make the choice, it’s not really what the children want."
While the scene feels a little crazy, it also seems like it’s more of a social gathering for these Shanghainese folk, who, Evelyn tells us, are mostly retired and probably a little bored. It’s a place to regularly meet up, have a cup of tea and compare notes – as well as proudly show off every photo of their beloved offspring. Something parents the world over will admit to; that's love.
Words: Eloise Basuki
Photography: Leigh Griffiths
All words and images are under copyright © 2019 strangertalk.co