A growing number of Chinese youngsters are finding love on the Internet through an online meeting place known as Bulletin Board System, or BBS, where youngsters can voice their views on various subjects.
Li Mei met her boyfriend Liu Wei in a chat room called "Pie Love" set up by the well-known Shuimu Tsinghua BBS (SMTH), which is run by students from prestigious Tsinghua University in Beijing, and four months later they are engaged.
"BBS is a bridge for our romance," said Li Mei, who was one of the hundreds of girls who replied to Liu Wei's dating advert.
"If you leave a message and a picture on Pie Love, it is very likely to top the BBS headlines," said a female Tsinghua graduate Yang Fang.
SMTH has around six million readers per day and a top 10 topic will probably have more readers than the headlines of the New York Times, she added.
A female undergraduate at elite Beijing University, surnamed Cai, once left a message on SMTH to look for a boyfriend and received an unexpected flurry of replies from more than 100 boys.
"I did it just out of curiosity," she explained, adding that she met some of them, but did not find a match."
Unlike Cai, Ma Sisi is much luckier. She found a boyfriend a year ago by leaving a note on SMTH and now has placed an advert on behalf of her brother.
"Like many computer science students, my brother is a web junkie and always on the Internet. BBS is a good way for someone who spends ten hours a day with his computer to look for his true love," Ma said.
However, according to a administrator of Pie Love, hoax adverts are often placed.
"If we discover someone breaking the rules, we will ban him or her from writing and leaving messages on BBS," said the administrator, adding that the system also has a blacklist of unwelcome user names at the bottom of the web page.
According to the latest statistics, China now has 111 million Internet users, of which a large proportion is young people, and the number is expected to jump by at least 15 percent annually until 2010.
Sociologists recognize the Internet as a good way for the youth to expand their social circle and ease social pressure.
"We don't have to worry too much about the effects of web romance. I believe the young people will gradually understand the real meaning of true love with more social practice and interactions in daily life", said a researcher, surnamed Wang, with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
(Xinhua News Agency May 11, 2006)