Matchmaking in Shanghai: the Marriage market

Have you ever heard of something called marriage market? When I read about it in the guides for Shanghai, I was simply amazed. I thought it would be just at a small corner of the People’s square, several old people quietly talking to each other, so I didn’t pay much attention to it and didn’t search for detailed information about it. But apparently I was wrong. I definitely didn’t expect what I saw.

We arrived to Shanghai by train on a Saturday morning and headed to the People’s square. Obviously, the sheer size of the buildings, streets, the number of people is dumbfounding. Walking around the square, we stumbled upon the rows of colorful umbrellas with papers on them. First, we had no idea what it was about. Then we saw the papers, although in Chinese, you could see the numbers, like 81, 165, etc.

People were checking the signs thoroughly and stopping and talking to each other.  Some young people were smiling, while looking at the papers on umbrellas, that made us even more interested to understand what was going on.

I am not sure how long passed before we realized that we were seeing the marriage market. Having heard about this definitely didn’t prepare me for this 😊 This actually is a very lively “market”. You find older people – parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles trying to make a match for their daughters and sons… who may or may not even be willing to be the objects of this.

Surprisingly, this tradition started only in 2004 and happens every weekend (I guess not in too bad weather), from morning till late afternoon. We were here on a Saturday at about 11am and it was all very lively.


People exchange phone numbers, arrange meetings, look for matches. The papers on the umbrellas or on sidewalk include bios of the people of “marriageable age”, their age, height and weight, profession and income. But you rarely see any young people here and if you do, they are either tourists or the curious, who seem to be amazed by all of this.

Some of the people standing at the umbrellas pointed at us and then started talking to us. Not speaking any Chinese, we obviously didn’t understand anything. We hurried along in fear that they might wanna make matches for us 😊

Visited 50 countries and counting, Lived in 3 cities and collected a lot of useful information to help fellow travel junkies out there.

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