Every weekend, the parents of Shanghai’s unmarried population gather to find potential partners for their adult children. Lining the walkways of Shanghai’s People’s Square, they post their offspring’s details on open umbrellas —height, weight, education, and occupation— hoping to attract the parents of other singles. Once a potential match has been found, the marriage negotiations begin. 

Chinese matchmaking traditions go back generations. Prior to the 1950s, parents would choose prospective partners for their children based on matching by socioeconomic class. This practice, known as “matching windows and doors” (门当户对 méndānghùduì), still exists to this day, albeit in a much-diminished form.

Online dating is changing this, and with it, Chinese society. From Tinder-like Tantan (探探) to Momo (陌陌), to marriage-focussed Baihe (百合网), tech companies are taking advantage of increasingly independent young adults. And the country’s demographics.

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Chris Udemans

Christopher Udemans is a Shanghai-based data and graphics reporter. He covers Chinese artificial intelligence, mobility, and cybersecurity. You can contact him at chrisudemans [at] technode [dot] com.