Matchmaking in chinese culture

Matchmaking in chinese culture

Over the holiday, single men and women across the country would be returning home to visit relatives—only to find themselves interrogated relentlessly about marriage prospects. For some, the pressure would be unbearable. Gong was in office attire: The young men and women before her were joining a staff of nearly five hundred. Your customers, she told them, will be virtually indistinguishable from yourselves: For one thing, the top ranks of Chinese technology are dominated by men.

Finding love in ancient China

Content created: Here follows the text of a conference paper in which I summarized my research related to the tradition of marriage brokering in China, both in the past, and up to the time of the conference. Insofar as possible, the text here is configured like the original conference paper. Footnotes, for purposes of web page presentation, are inserted into the text shortly after the point of citation. Chinese characters are returned to simplified form red , since the research was largely conducted in mainland China.

However for names of people or places in Taiwan, they are also provided in traditional form blue. Tone marks have been restored for all Chinese words, although omitted by the original editors as incompatible with the Academia Sinica style sheet. Footnote 1: One morning he arrived looking pale and agitated. My assistant had completed high school and had finished his army service, and it was clear enough that the next significant event in his life should be marriage.

Accordingly a matchmaker had been hired to begin the search for his wife. And, of course, his mother bought the pig. Thus have young men and women been married in China for more than two millennia that we know about, and probably far longer than that if we but had the historical records to check. This paper is about that process, and in particular about the people who take the responsibility for finding suitable matches.

Reference will be made to all of these sources in the course of our discussion. Footnote 2: The research on which this paper is based began in the context of a directed reading course with Julie ROELOF, an undergraduate student, in which she and I jointly read and discussed some of the English ethnographic literature on Chinese matchmaking tried to develop some general statements about it. Her role in getting me launched on this topic is warmly acknowledged.

Despite my obvious indebtedness to them, names of individual matchmakers interviewed have here been abridged or changed to render them unidentifiable. I am most grateful to these collaborators for their expert assistance and their willingness to collaborate across the Pacific. The present work also makes use of materials I collected in earlier periods of fieldwork in Taiwan, beginning in , and on some interviews, formal and informal, made during the course of travel in northern and central China in connection with other research.

It is well to begin the discussion by referring to the Confucian canon, for it is here that we find references to matchmakers that are both early and influential. The Book of Songs, for example, one of the oldest sources in the canon, includes the comment, "How does one find a wife? Without a matchmaker one does not. Footnote 3: One of the most widely quoted phrases about matchmaking derives from a passage in the book of Mencius.

Mencius answers that as a matter of the propriety one must wait to be selected for service, without exhibiting unseemly eagerness. He makes this point by means of a homey comparison:. Footnote 4: Translation revised from Legge's The Chinese Classics v. Mencius' casual reference to matchmaking is used to help his listener understand that it is normal and decent to prefer decorum over immediate gratification of desire: In the area of matchmaking, Mencius apparently assumes that his listeners take this to be self-evident.

The expression itself is perhaps also informative, for it also stresses that the authority in a marriage choice rests with parents; the role of the matchmaker is as a source of information and advice, not authority. Footnote 5: If, from the earliest period for which we have records, matchmakers have been regarded as a normal and necessary part of marriage, then it is not surprising that they should have acquired a legal position.

By Tang times the law specified that a marriage was not legal without a matchmaker G. Who were these matchmakers? It is difficult to generalize across time, space, and social class, and great variation was apparently always possible. In dynastic times a matchmaker might be a friend or relative of the bride or groom or might be a professional or semi-professional entrepreneur who made it his or her business to find mates for a fee.

Moreover there seems always to have been a continuous gradient between amateur and professional matchmaking, with most marriages apparently falling towards the amateur end of the gradient. Footnote 6: As Arthur Wolf has reminded us in a series of publications, marriage in China takes many forms. Among my Taiwan survey respondents, it appears that only one involved a minor marriage.

The stereotype is a harsh one. The professional matchmaker is the object of proverbs, tales, and theatrical performances. Nearly always female, she is represented as a tireless but unscrupulous professional, who spends each day collecting information about possibly marriageable children. Because she lives on her tips, she is eager to clinch a match as soon as possible, and her greed often leads to matches being made with more concern about getting the job done quickly than about how good a match really is.

Bittersweet jokes often turn on deceptions practiced by lying matchmakers who mate scarcely marriageable children to gullible but perfectly marriageable ones in order to get a quick commission or because of a bribe by the family of the undesirable mate. Footnote 7: There is little direct evidence for the reality of the stereotype. But, like the stereotype of the cruel landlord, the greedy money lender, or the medical mountebank, the unscrupulous matchmaker is a stock figure unlikely to be dislodged from the popular imagination.

The matchmaker's job had two parts: While mate selection dominates the stereotype, and is of greatest interest to a social scientist, negotiation is no mean art. In fact, most of the rites have to do with engagement and its negotiations, that is, with matters that were the business of the matchmaker. Footnote 8: The Canonical six rites and three documents include: Rite 1: Rite 2: Rite 3: A bad divination may still be used as the pretext to break off the negotiations.

Rite 4: A marriage arrangement is essentially finalized by this act. Rite 5: It must be agreed upon by both families. Normally the groom's family proposed two dates about a fortnight apart, and the bride's family selected one. The critical issue here, although never overtly mentioned, was to avoid the bride's menstrual period, since a marriage established with a menstruating bride was regarded as profoundly infelicitous.

Vannicelli Because the negotiations potentially included agreements over the transfer of considerable wealth, tact and finesse were clearly necessary for successfully mediating the concerns of all the parties involved. Footnote 9: Although it was usual for both introduction and negotiation to be undertaken by the same person, that was not necessarily the case. It was not at all uncommon and is even commoner today for two families or two marriageable people to be introduced by one person and for the formal negotiations of the marriage to be overseen by someone else.

A young person with wide social contacts among unmarried youths might propose a candidate, for example, but lack the experience to mediate the premarital negotiations, which would be turned over to someone more effective at this. Indeed, we shall see that today some couples fall in love, dispensing with the introducer altogether, but engage a matchmaker purely to pursue the complex negotiations involved. I have the impression that, in general, professional matchmakers normally combined the roles, while friends and relatives may more often have divided them.

This may still be the case, although the introducer role has perhaps become more casual. Thus analytically we should distinguish the introducer from the negotiator, although in this paper I shall put exclusive emphasis upon the introduction function, since I have collected more data on this. In purest and most stereotypic form, a traditional Chinese matchmaker arranged a marriage between a girl and a boy in two families of roughly equal social status.

The underlying logic is differently explained by different informants, but always recognizes the universal discomfiture of persons of one social class linked in kinship to those of another. The Canon is perhaps more rigid than were most parents in insisting that the tie was between families, not between individuals, but either way, traditionally the welfare of the married couple was considered to be best served by relying on the wisdom of their parents in making the decisions.

In particular, initial "love" was ideally at best a minor consideration in most matches, and was sometimes even regarded as a source of undesirable distortion in the process of mate selection or marital adjustment. Today, of course, love, or anyway the term "love," dominates engagement and marriage. And contemporary social scientists contrast "love marriage" with "arranged marriage" or "blind marriage.

Theoretically, we can imagine several slightly different axes of variation between love marriage and blind marriage. In theory a potential match:. These need not distribute identically. For example, a marriage can be arranged by others 1b but with a person whom one knows 3a and likes 5a , or can be arranged by oneself 1a with an unknown mate 3b, the proverbial "mail-order bride". A mate chosen by others 4b can be liked 5a or disliked 5b. A match arranged by oneself 1a can receive the endorsement of happy parents 2b.

One can arrange 1a or agree to marry a disliked mate 5b because the social costs of remaining unmarried are unbearable. Further, each of these polar distinctions is in fact a gradient. The "others" who arrange a match 1 can be more or less intimate acquaintances, or more or less trusted. The potential mate 3 can range from an utter stranger to a person known since childhood, and can be enthusiastically desired, considered acceptable, or the cause of anxiety or rejection 5.

And importantly, a marriage can be less extreme on one gradient than on another. Parental approval, for example, is hardly likely to be withheld merely because a potential spouse is known or loved. Thus studies which contrast "love marriage" and "arranged" marriage often confound a good deal of variation in the reality of the situation. The match was arranged, but she had veto power over it, at least for a while. The groom was known, but not very well. Footnote Thus Blood , for example, writing of marriage in Japan, found it useful to distinguish among three types of marriage initiation:

Traditional Chinese marriage (Chinese: 婚姻; pinyin: hūnyīn), as opposed to marriage in Within Chinese culture, romantic love and monogamy was the norm for most citizens . The marriage was arranged by two matchmakers, Zhang and Li. China's institutional matchmaking tradition stretches back more than 2, years, to the first imperial marriage broker in the late Zhou dynasty.

It will only foster the underground black market to trade personal data. The couple met in March through Jiayuan. She has previously interned for Sixth Tone and Shanghai Daily.

Larisa Epatko Larisa Epatko. The parents chat with each other about the attributes they — or rather, their children — are looking for in a mate.

One of longest traditions of matchmaking is in Jewish communities in Eastern Europe and Russia, with the height of this tradition occurring in the Middle Ages. There, a professional matchmaker, known as a shadkhan plural shadkanim , had an extremely important profession because of the relative isolation of the small communities and the fact that courtship was actually frowned upon. Search this site.

The Love Business

The extent to which these customs will be observed will vary between areas within Greater China and between Chinese communities throughout the world. Some traditions may no longer be observed apart from in small pockets of very traditionalist Chinese. Marriage customs and preparation In a culture where the perpetuation of family ancestral lineage and the family as a social institution are central, marriage is an important institution and has many intricate customs associated with it. Arranged marriages, where the marriage match is arranged by the parents or relatives of the bride and groom were once common in Chinese society but are now rare and viewed as old-fashioned. However, once the couple have chosen each other, the arrangements are usually taken over by the parents or older relatives , thus observing traditional customs and superstitions.

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Traditionally, families had more say in regard to a marriage than the man and woman who were getting married. In the old days, young men and women that liked one another were not allowed to meet freely together. Young people who put their wishes for a mate above the wishes of their parents were considered immoral. The goal of matchmakers ever since has usually been to pair families of equal stature for the greater social good. Marriages have traditionally been regarded as unions between families with matches being made by elders who met to discuss the character of potential mates and decide whether or not a they should get married. Marriages that are arranged to varying degrees are still common and traditional considerations still plays a part in deciding who marries whom. Rich men could have as many wives as they could afford. Many marriages were worked out when the bride and groom were still children.

Ever since ancient times, there has been a popular saying in China that the three most delightful moments in one's life come with success in the imperial examination, marriage and the birth of a son.

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Compared with western cultures, China has traditionally had a vastly different value system toward marriages and family. But over the past 30 years, these customs have been upended. By looking at the development of Chinese television dating shows, we can see how love and marriage changed from a ritualized system mired in the past to the liberated, western-style version we see today. Marriage matchmaking has always been an important cultural practice in China. Marriage was viewed as a contract between two households, and it was for the purpose of procreation, not love. Thought to contribute to peace and stability, it was the dominant custom into the latter half of the 20th century. However, even in the wake of political change and globalization, many families still held the traditional Chinese belief that women, unlike men, belonged in the home, and that their parents had the final say over whom they could marry. Certain traditions still ruled. The style of the show followed a linear pattern. Male candidates introduced themselves and their family background, listed their criteria for a spouse, and answered a few questions from the host. It was essentially a singles ad broadcast before audience members, who, if interested, could contact the candidate for a date.

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As an integral part of the traditional Chinese culture, the ancient marriage customs have a long history of over 5, years, which have changed over time due to different social ethics and aesthetic standards from one dynasty to another, however, they also have their own unique characteristics and rituals which have been carried forward to the present and still exert a far-reaching influence on later generations. The ancient Chinese marriage customs have gone through five stages over 5, years: In the primitive society, the ancestors of the Chinese people lived in groups and had no fixed spouses, and they had sexual relationships indiscriminately with one another. Owing to their weak gender awareness, they didn't felt ashamed and weren't bound by customs and etiquettes. As the first marriage taboo in Chinese history, consanguineous marriage emerged during the middle Neolithic Age, which banned a parent-offspring marriage but allowed the marriage of people of the same generation such as the brother and sister of a family. As the second marriage taboo in Chinese history, exogamous marriage emerged in the middle and late Neolithic Age, which strictly banned the marriage between blood brothers and sisters, and it only allowed marriage among different social groups.

But the Chinese young people now have "ever growing needs" and one of those needs is the need to avoid this kind of arranged marriage and choose their own partner. Happiness cannot be found through formulaic descriptions on A4 paper, occasionally laminated. At matchmaking corners in parks, parents usually display a resume of their child, listing education, birth date, salary, job, housing and any details that might "help" their child. Permanent residence or a house in a major city, overseas education or a car are seen as selling points and parents of such well-endowed candidates are much pickier. Guo Yingguang, 35, has been filming a matchmaking corner in a park in Shanghai for two years.

Millionaires look for potential brides as if selecting winners of a beauty pageant. Igor Demchenkov Shutterstock. At first glance, you may be forgiven for mistaking a blind date as a beauty pageant. Indeed, it is more like a cross between job interviews and beauty contests than a romantic setup. Most importantly, male participants are all vetted millionaires who are willing to pay a small fortune just for a chance to find their Miss Right.

Content created: Here follows the text of a conference paper in which I summarized my research related to the tradition of marriage brokering in China, both in the past, and up to the time of the conference. Insofar as possible, the text here is configured like the original conference paper. Footnotes, for purposes of web page presentation, are inserted into the text shortly after the point of citation. Chinese characters are returned to simplified form red , since the research was largely conducted in mainland China. However for names of people or places in Taiwan, they are also provided in traditional form blue.

Traditional Chinese marriage Chinese: Within Chinese culture , romantic love and monogamy was the norm for most citizens. Wedding rituals and customs often varied by region because of China's extensive and rich history and because of the numerous different cultures and ethno-linguistic groups that have been subsumed into modern Chinese culture. This implies that the wedding ceremony is performed in the evening, which is deemed as a time of fortune. In Confucian thought, marriage is of grave significance both to families and to society as well as being important for the cultivation of virtue.

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