Two years after volunteering for the Sister Guo's Matchmaking Center in Dalian of northeast China's Liaoning Province, 59-year-old Zhao Wu wonders if what she does really helps people.
In her experience, many people consider marriage as a way to turn around their fortunes. She believes they attach too much importance on their financial situation, age, and looks, rather than mutual feelings. A survey conducted by China News Service recently confirmed her feelings, showing that 60 percent of people hope to change their destiny by walking down the aisle.
According to Guo Lianrong, the founder of the matchmaking center, people come to the matchmaking center with three high expectations.
The first type, mostly laid-off women and migrant workers, want to improve their financial situation through marriage. Guo said they are most prone to be victims of traps.
She recalled a man in his thirties who came knocking on her door. The young man wanted his better half to be a "local girl who must have a house and a stable job. "
"Then I inquired more details about him," she says. "He told me his family was impoverished and that's why he is not married yet. He took all his savings with him to Dalian to look for a job. But then he decided to find a spouse before work," said Guo.
She said it's obvious the migrant worker wanted to change his social status and living conditions by tying the knot, which is not a good point to start a marriage. "So I told him it's really hard for him to find a girl in the city. Rather than wasting money in the matchmaking center, you'd better go find a job first." Upon hearing Guo's advice, the migrant worker repeatedly thanked her before leaving.
Three months later, the man returned, explaining he learned how to do electric welding and wanted to get married now. Guo had to persuade him against his plan. "Even you have job now, your monthly salary could hardly exceed 1,000 yuan (US$114). The thing for you to do is go back home and marry someone you know well." Guo also advised him not to believe in matchmaking agencies that "guarantee you to walk on the red wedding carpet within two months."
Zhao describes the second group as having very specific and harsh requirements for their future spouse, represented by 30- to 40-year-old single men.
According to the go-between in Sister Guo's, a 36-year-old sailor once came to seek a wife, but she had to be a teacher, and whose animal zodiac sign was one of the four compatible with his.
"There are always people coming here with weird requirements regarding zodiac animals, birthdays, careers, limiting their choices to an almost impossible scope," said Zhao.
The third group are wealthy divorced men who want to have much younger spouses.
Not long ago, a 72-year-old man made a trip to the matchmaking center, looking for a wife. "He said he had divorced his original spouse, but their children did not know that, but what was more surprising were his requirements for his potential partner," remembers Zhao. The old man wanted a local woman under 40, who is also beautiful, gentle.
"When I said it is next to impossible to find a woman like this, he could not understand why. Instead, he told me that he had a house and some savings."
So Zhao had to explain that a 30-year age gap could lead to differences in character and interests, which could lead to an unstable marriage, but the man was still very optimistic about his chances. He cited the example of Yang Zhenning, (Nobel Prize laureate Chen Ning Yang) who is 82, and yet he found a 28-year-old wife. "Why is it not possible for me to find a 40-year-old?"
According to Wang Yuchu at China Youth Daily, the survey results showing that 60 percent people want to change their destiny via marriage reflects the sad state of people's livelihoods and the excessive importance given to guanxi, or social networks.
Wang said despite working hard, many people were still unable to carve out a better life, and so they resorted to marriage as an alternative solution. Wang gave an example of migrant workers, and said it's very disheartening to see people consider marriage as the winning ticket to a better life.
On the other hand, Wang added, "China is still a society where relationships means opportunities and jobs, so some people want to build a favorable social network, and one natural way to do it is through marriage." Wang also noted the excessive importance given to relationships also means society needs a better rule of law.
(China Daily May 10, 2007)