The family is the bedrock of Chinese society. It does not favour learning through experience. The parenting model is solidly interventionist. That is, possibly, at its strongest around choice of marriage partner.
The exhibition visually questions whether things are changing, looking at differing matchmaking processes. What the exhibition cannot show is that you more often hear the word "love" and term "love match" in recent years.
In China parents are mostly heavily involved in the marriage plans of their children. Marriages are between families. As children approach 30 years of age, parents become more interventionist, 30 being seen as something of a "sell by" date. Bride price reduces dramatically at this point. Early marriage means lock-in at peak value.
Nobody wants to become daling qingnian, an aged youth, an unmarried person of either gender, aged 28 to 35.
All this strongly relates with Chinese views on childbirth. It also relates strongly with interventionist concepts of grandparenting, which is seen as a major part of retirement.
Parents apply ever more pressure to their children, but they also pro-actively seek out potential partners. This takes the form of actively canvassing among friends and relatives, but can also involve canvassing, displaying advertisements, reviewing advertisements and beginning negotiations at regular matchmaking events, such as that pictured, which takes place each Sunday in Dalian Labour Park. It's very unusual to see the children themselves at these events.
Companies and labour unions are also concerned about the relationship welfare of employees. Sometimes companies that have many women employees join with companies that have many male employees in order to promote matchmaking events together. Labour unions have, also, become involved; and the second part of the exhibition shows a speedating event a union held in May 2012 in Dalian.
Note that does not mean speedating in the Western tradition of pairs sitting together for face to face discussion of limited duration. In the sense applied at the Dalian event, it was just receiving information, with the ability, by applying a sticker to an information sheet, to show interest and give information. Any personal contact will be by telephone – shown in the exhibition – or QQ (Chinese social networking site), though people could agree over the phone to meet up on the day.
To help actual meetings along there were various games and fun activities. There was also a talent show.
Assuredly, the Dalian event looked fun. Young people enjoyed themselves. It all appeared very liberating. But don’t forget the veto that parents can and will exercise over young peoples’ choices; and those of the not so young. Having married, parents may insist on a divorce.
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