Part 1: The parent’s role during the search for a life partner
In parallel to parents (and supervisors) young Chinese of course also like to take the initiative – driven by the societal-cultural pressure including that of their parents. They also want to quickly and early on, find a partner for life who meets their own and also their parents’ requirements. A less goal oriented “trying out” with flirts and ONS (One Night Stands) or temporary relationships does appear in bigger cities and with increased frequency, but in general it is seen as a waste of time and not very pragmatic.
The method that is still seen as the most secure and most popular is to look for a partner among former schoolmates, for this is where mutual trust is highest. After all, the school time gave the opportunity to watch and get to know each other in many situations over a long period of time. It was a time when money and status did not yet play an important role. Blind-date recommendations by former and trustworthy schoolmates are also a good option.
May be even more than in the rest of the world the Internet and Apps have fully taken control over modern life in China and support the partner search accordingly. For example, there is the App TanTan (in English: Chat) which allows you to swipe the picture of a potential partner of the other gender either to the left (not attractive) or to the right (could be taken into consideration). Where both man and woman have swiped the picture of the other one to the right, the app allows mutual chat with each other. This means that mainly the outer appearance of a person decides ‘top’ or ‘flop’ and therefore, manipulating the photos is common, especially amongst women. They use photo editing apps. Mostly these apps create oversized big eyes (a beauty ideal in China) as well as make the face appear slimmer and the skin look younger. Of course, the app also allows you to filter potential candidates by age. However, this also leads to a highly reduced reliability with regards to age declaration and as a result often does not really correspond with the actual looks of that person.
Especially among women this app as well as other dating apps has a questionable reputation, as it also is a place for many already married men to look for extramarital relationships. At the same time this is also the same reason why many young and attractive Chinese women hang around here as they hope to become a so called “Xiao San” (small three) for these men. In other words, they are looking to find a ‘Sugar Daddy’. The expression “Xiao San” refers to the fact that these young women often unofficially become part of the family. The wife often knows about her husband’s additional relationship with a younger woman and tolerates it quietly as she believes not to have any other choice. For many Chinese men with a certain status the “Xiao San” is part of normality and among each other they openly talk about them. These young attractive women often do not limit themselves to only one but often even engage in more than one such sugar daddy relationships at the same time. So, in their twenties they can already earn a fortune. This can result in the absurd situation that when they eventually marry due to society and parent pressure between 25 and 30 years they already have more money in their bank account than their husbands can ever make in their entire life.
The root of this societal trend in modern China goes back to the Dynastic times when rich men naturally had concubines who themselves used this as a way to get access to higher social classes.
Since Chinese tend to be quite pragmatic and romantics often plays a rather subordinate role, speed dating has arrived in China. It works similar to the concept in most Western countries: An equal number of for example 10 men and 10 women get together and then they talk for 5 minutes at tables. After each 5-min session they rotate so that each woman and man has the opportunity to speak with each other for 5 minutes. Afterwards, men as well as women give feedback about with whom they would appreciate talking a bit longer. In case those positive feedbacks match with each other they will get another opportunity to speak as a couple for a longer period and exchange contact details.
Speed dating was originally invented in a Jewish quarter in New York 25 years ago with the intention to increase the efficiency of finding a partner without sacrificing the precious Saturday night with someone who turns out to be not the right one after only the first 5 minutes. However, in the original version it was also the intention to avoid any kind of filtering by financial aspects. It was taboo to talk about the three following things: Car, profession and neighbourhood.
However, in China this taboo was turned around in order to increase effectiveness: So Chinese men participating in such speed dating events have to wear a label at their breast stating what car they drive, how much money they make and where they own property.
In China, men can also be categorized with the help of numbers: 1 stands for loyal (one heart), 2 stands for education (at least two languages), 3 stands for apartment (floor, walls and roof), 4 stands for car (four wheels). As a result, a Chinese woman finding a 1-2-3-4 man can consider herself very lucky.