In contrast to online dating in the United States and Europe — where people turn to the internet to increase choice — Evan Osnos writes in The New Yorker this week about how Chinese netizens use dating sites to narrow their choices.
“I once watched a twenty-three-year-old woman search for dates in Beijing, where there are four hundred thousand male users,” the chief engineer from Chinese dating site Jiayuan told Osnos. “She narrowed it down by blood type and height and zodiac sign and everything else until, at last, she had a pool of eighty-three men.”
Jiayuan asks people to define their looks and character. For looks, you can be asked to define your face as oval as a “duck’s egg” or narrow like a sunflower seed.
The character qualities which men can use to describe themselves are:
1. A filial son
2. A cool guy
4. A penny-pinching family man
5. Honest and straightforward
6. A perceptive man
7. A career-driven man
8. Wise and farsighted
9. An unsightly man
10. A humorous man
11. A travel lover
12. A solitary shut-in man
17. A handsome devil
18. Steady, staid, sedate.
As with so much of business in China, a key aspect of online dating involves ensuring authenticity.
Jiayuan has a system allowing people to verify their biographies with copies of pay stubs, government I.D.s, divorce filings, and housing certificates. You get extra stars beside your name based on the number of documents you send.
Some great details on bachelors without assets:
“According to a poll reported last year by Xinhua, the state news service, although only ten per cent of men on Jiayuan own a home, nearly seventy per cent of women said they wouldn’t marry a man without one. James Farrer, a sociologist at Sophia University, in Tokyo, who studies Chinese dating habits, calls this phenomenon “a bubble in the marriage market.” New Chinese terms have cropped up: a man without a house, a car, and a nest egg is a “triple without.” If he gets married, it’s a “naked wedding.”,” Osnos writes
A comparative look at European vs Chinese love stories:
“Love stories didn’t become popular in China until the twentieth century, after European novels inspired a genre called “butterfly romance,” in which the lovers all “weep a great deal,” according to Haiyan Lee, at Stanford.
In China, it seemed, love rarely ended well. While European protagonists occasionally found happiness, Chinese lovers succumbed to forces beyond their control: meddling parents, disease, a miscommunication.
The love stories were categorised so that readers knew which doom to expect: Tragic Love, Bitter Love, Miserable Love, Wronged Love, and Chaste Love. A sixth genre, Joyous Love, was not as successful. (In the mid-nineties, the researchers Fred Rothbaum and Billy Yuk-Piu Tsang analyzed the lyrics of eighty Chinese and American pop songs, and found that Chinese songs conveyed more “negative expectations” and “suffering,” a sense that, if destiny did not help a relationship, “it cannot be salvaged,” Osnos writes.
Turns out that not everyone Osnos spoke to is interested in the psychoanalysis or authenticity. One Chinese banker uses a single criterion on Jiayuan — height — to filter through to seeing only fashion models.