What It's Like to Be Single on Valentine's Day in China

For the young and unmarried, the holiday becomes a frenzy of matchmaking.
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People hoping to find prospective mates for their children look at profile boards of candidates during a matchmaking event. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

In China, love is hard to find. A confluence of cultural mores, economic factors, and demographics is obstructing many people's search for their other half. That message that was driven home even more yesterday (Aug. 13), China's Valentine's Day or Qixi, as droves of singles attended matchmaking events or waited from responses to personal ads posted around cities.

A long-time cultural preference for boys plus the one-child policy for urban couples have given the country a surplus of men. Male suitors need to own a home, and sometimes a host of other items before being taken seriously, a difficult prerequisite given China's sky-high real estate prices. Women, though, aren't spoiled for choice. They're pressured to find a husband before the age of 30, after which their chances drop dramatically. (Many of those who are hitched say their marriages are less-than ideal.)

But the pressure to marry and carry on the family line is strong. And so is caring for one's elderly parents, of whom there are more and more for anyone born after 1979, when the one-child policy took effect.

Here's what Qixi and the days before it looked like for China's singles:

Parents hold up a sign listing their single daughter's age, height, weight, and phone number. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Women in Shanghai attend a matchmaking event. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

A man gets a woman's contact information by snapping a photo of her QR code. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

A woman at a matchmaking event near Shanghai. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

A woman waits backstage before the taping of a dating show, "Meet you on Saturday," in Shanghai. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Participants of the dating show "Meet you on Saturday." (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

A wall of profiles of men and women looking for partners. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Lily Kuo is a reporter at Quartz covering emerging markets.

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