“A woman’s virtue lies in her lack of knowledge”, goes an old Chinese saying. Such is still a common traditional view held among elderly people who gather in a so called “marriage market” or “blind date corner”, where advertisements posted on walls or trees for women include whether they are good at cooking, and describing their appearance.
While these ads do also include basic information about their children, such as age, hometown, education level, monthly salary and so on, it is mandatory for adverts for males to include whether they have a house or a car.
Today however, a lot of young people are saying “no” to this analogy of picking vegetables in the food market, whereby every person is just manifest in that casually written on a scrap of paper.
35-year-old, Guo Yingguang, last year undertook a photography project in Shanghai People’s Park for her master degree, whereby she wrote her own advertisement for finding a date and hid a camera to film the reaction of every person to walk by. The first question always asked was, “How old are you”; upon discovering she was a “left over lady”, a disappointing facial expression immediately caught on their faces.
Some parents also passed down their judgement upon Guo, that her high education (a degree) and a well-paid job could be a big pressure for a man; “She is too good for the average man”, commented an elderly man.
Guo thought she was prepared for all of this before she set out, but found she was still frustrated by such constant judgement. She first questioned herself, “Why am I so devalued because of my age?” However, with her project almost complete, she found people’s anxious faces to be more understandable.
Back here in Nanjing, there is also a blind date corner by Xuanwu Lake. Here, not only old people, but also some of their children go advertising, on behalf of a divorced parent or those who live in widowhood. For the elderly, it has become a weekly routine; they have found a new way to meet and socialise.
The aim of Guo’s project was not to refuse marriage itself, but to reject traditional standard by which happiness is often measured. “I just want to be myself as much as I can and live they way I like”, said Guo. She represents the younger generation in China who increasingly choose the life they want. Although it is still hard to fight against the main stream, it’s on its way.