Sometimes, mother and father know best
"Compared to unreliable matchmaking agencies that sometimes cheat you out of money, I prefer coming here because I can meet with other parents face-to-face, talk about their children and exchange ideas."
A FATHER SURNAMED LI
Fifty-five-year-old Aunt Wang got up at 6 am on a recent Saturday and, after dressing in carefully selected attire, she set off for the Wansong Academy of Classical Learning.
The journey on Bus K 102 took almost an hour. When Wang arrived at this scenic spot, she found a number of parents her age had already arrived.
Wang is among the more than 1,500 parents - mostly local and area residents -who come every Saturday morning to look for partners for their children. These children have reached an age at which, by traditional standards, they should already have started a family.
Looking for a potential husband for her 28-year-old daughter, who works in a bank, Wang quickly began mingling with other parents. They huddled in the park, chatting and, of course, exchanging information and photographs of their children.
Among the parents at the meeting, the most frequently heard words are: "How old is he or she? What does he or she do? What's his or her hobby?"
After these warm-up questions, parents who are satisfied dig deeper to ask about financial status, schooling and family background.
Parents can be seen busily taking notes, indicating that someone has passed the parents' first round of approval.
Usually, men or women clutching a red card identify themselves as the parents of an available daughter, while those with a blue card indicate that their son is waiting for someone.
"I talk to parents, check out the potential candidates and then try to arrange a meeting for my daughter," said Wang, who has visited the park almost every Saturday since last summer, when the special meetings were launched.
Wang said she had found some eligible men and arranged blind dates for her daughter. However, none of them got far with her daughter.
"My daughter said the chemistry wasn't right," said Wang, adding that she would come here until her daughter is settled down.
Even with such a large number of candidates, finding "the one" is by no means easy.
One middle-aged woman who identified herself only as Zhang complained that it was very difficult to find a suitable mate for her 34-year-old unmarried daughter, a manager of a real estate company.
Zhang said her daughter has a postgraduate degree, good appearance and a good job and has high expectations for a potential partner's educational background, income, and more.
Parents of a son with attractive credentials such as suitable age, high salary and possession of an apartment or car will be surrounded by crowds of young women's parents, said Zhang.
Even if Zhang tried to swim through the crowds and had the courage to ask, she would often be declined as men's parents tend to prefer a younger daughter-in-law.
Zhang said her daughter does not want to find just anybody to marry, she hopes to find someone compatible with her, both morally and spiritually.
"My daughter would rather remain single than tie the knot with someone who fails to meet her requirements," said Zhang. "The older you get, the harder it is. She's not worried, but I am. My daughter doesn't know I'm doing this."
There is also a designated location in the Wansong Academy of Classical Learning where parents can display information about their children.
"Compared to unreliable matchmaking agencies that sometimes cheat you out of money, I prefer coming here because I can meet with other parents face-to-face, talk about their children and exchange ideas," said a father, surnamed Li, a retired government official with carefully combed hair.
He said he has received approval from his son to attend the event and he has introduced three girls to his son, believing his "future daughter-in-law is out there, waiting to be found."
Traditionally, Chinese parents think helping their children to start a family is their ultimate goal in life, while getting married and having children is a duty children are expected to fulfill.
In the old days, parents would have the right to pick a bride for their son, but today young people may pursue a potential spouse of their own choosing.
Some children present little opposition to their parents' enthusiasm for the meetings.
"My parents can arrange dates for me, but the decision is made by myself. I do not care if I meet my 'Mr Right' by myself or if he is introduced by my parents or friends," said a 26-year-old woman in Hangzhou, who declined to be named.
However, some did not appreciate their parents' good intentions.
"It's ridiculous! Parents should not ever step into their children's love affairs, it's really none of their business," said one 28-year-old woman office worker.
So far, the event has helped dozens of couples tie the knot through parental matchmaking, according to Chen Jiannong, an official from the academy.
"The event is different from arranged marriages, in which parents force their children to marry. Parents are advisers or consultants while young people have the freedom to find their partner and make the final decision," said Chen.
"We are providing a platform for parents to exchange information so that they can pass it on to their sons and daughters," Chen said.