Just The Facts

China’s Age-Old Matchmaking Traditions

What is the history behind marriage matchmaking in China and where is it headed?

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Takeaways


  • The emergence of social mobility between classes in China has turned marriage matchmaking into a free-for-all.

1. China’s institutional matchmaking tradition stretches back more than 2,000 years, to the first imperial marriage broker in the late Zhou dynasty.

2. The goal of matchmakers ever since has usually been to pair families of equal stature for the greater social good.

3. Today, matchmaking in China has turned into a commercial free for all.

4. Marriage is often viewed as an opportunity to leap up the social ladder — or to proclaim one’s arrival at the top.

5. Match-making “mixer” events can have entrance fees of $15,000 and top match-makers can earn bonuses of twice that for successful pairings.

6. Three years ago, an eligible bachelor paid $1.5 million to matchmakers for a successful 12-city hunt for the perfect bride.

7. Powerful and wealthy unmarried women sometimes also pay hefty fees to find matches that won’t diminish their existing status.

8. While dowries remain common in rural China, urban families of the bride now expect the groom’s family to find a pricey apartment.

From The Price of Marriage in China by Brook Larmer (New York Times)

 

 

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