Conceptions of Love

Von Fabian Weiß

Finding one's better half can be a tricky business in modern China. With hectic work schedules,
nagging parents and a growing gender imbalance resulting from the social effects of China’s
one-child policy, it is not easy for the proclaimed 180 million singles to find a match. In addition,
China’s fast growing economy not only helped to winkle millions of people out of poverty, but
also created new struggles for bringing them together. Real estate prices have sky-rocket
in bigger cities and paying off a place to stay for a family seems to be a lifetime project.
A psychological shift towards a growing importance on material values is also visible and
dating in modern China is mostly lacking all sense of romance, fun and flirtation. It is more
about ‘speaking business’. “Where do you plan to live? What is your salary? Do you own an
apartment?” are common questions and many youngsters publish their monthly income and
housing situation on one of the dozen dating websites without batting an eyelid.

While China is adapting quickly to new forms of online dating and matchmaking, it seems that
the country is still hold captive by traditional ways of behaviour in terms of choosing a partner.
During the dynasties, marriages have been seen as a union between two families decided by
the parents. Demand for free love has been present since the 20th century, but Western ideas
like dating don’t seem to fit into the Chinese society. Women rarely tend to make the first step
and men behave clumsily when approaching potential partner by themselves. But many parents
are more than happy to help and advertise their children in one of the numerous marriage
markets, even without their consent.

Not only few are lost in their search for love. Lost in a gap between traditional, family-oriented
and modern, romantic depictions of relationships. Lost in a disharmony between growing
acceptance towards different sexual orientations and tight expectations for the family's only
descendants. But individual solutions for these issues also keep up with the speed of change.
Young couples without money get together in ‘naked marriages’, where traditional requests
of financial stability and a certain income as a necessity to get married are left aside. Not only
few gays and lesbians still abide by the families’ will to get married, but have found a way to
lure them in with staged ‘fake marriages’ between the two homosexual groups to gain personal
freedom. Conceptions of love vary widely in modern China. And every single one can tell a lot
about the nations psyche.

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