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What being single on Chinese Valentine’s Day looks like

Obsession
China's Transition
Obsession
China's Transition

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 spoilt 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 the policy was implemented in 1980, when the one-child policy took effect.

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

The parents of a person who is looking for a spouse, display a sign with their child's personal profile in People's Square in downtown Shanghai August 11, 2013. As couples celebrate the "Qixi" festival on Tuesday, the Chinese equivalent of Valentine's Day, millions of women face stark choices in a society where traditional ideas about matrimonial hierarchy run up against huge economic and social changes sweeping the world's most populous country. There are plenty of men to go round among China's nearly 1.4 billion people but social status can conspire against single professional women, sometimes making it difficult to find a partner.  Picture taken August 11, 2013. REUTERS/Carlos Barria (CHINA - Tags: SOCIETY)

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Parents hold up a sign listing their single daughter’s age, height, weight, and phone number. (Reuters/Carlos Barria)
Women sit and talk as they wait to meet men during a matchmaking event in Shanghai May 18, 2013. As couples celebrate the "Qixi" festival on Tuesday, the Chinese equivalent of Valentine's Day, millions of women face stark choices in a society where traditional ideas about matrimonial hierarchy run up against huge economic and social changes sweeping the world's most populous country. There are plenty of men to go round among China's nearly 1.4 billion people but social status can conspire against single professional women, sometimes making it difficult to find a partner.  Picture taken May 18, 2013. REUTERS/Carlos Barria (CHINA - Tags: SOCIETY)

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Women in Shanghai attend a matchmaking event. (Reuters/Carlos Barria)
A man uses his phone to scan a QR code sticker, which is used to share personal information, during a matchmaking event in Jinshan beach, south of Shanghai July 20, 2013. As couples celebrate the "Qixi" festival on Tuesday, the Chinese equivalent of Valentine's Day, millions of women face stark choices in a society where traditional ideas about matrimonial hierarchy run up against huge economic and social changes sweeping the world's most populous country. There are plenty of men to go round among China's nearly 1.4 billion people but social status can conspire against single professional women, sometimes making it difficult to find a partner.  Picture taken July 20, 2013. REUTERS/Carlos Barria (CHINA - Tags: SOCIETY)

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A man gets a woman’s contact information by snapping a photo of her QR code. (Reuters/Carlos Barria)
A woman holds a sign during a matchmaking event in Jinshan beach, south of Shanghai July 20, 2013. As couples celebrate the "Qixi" festival on Tuesday, the Chinese equivalent of Valentine's Day, millions of women face stark choices in a society where traditional ideas about matrimonial hierarchy run up against huge economic and social changes sweeping the world's most populous country. There are plenty of men to go round among China's nearly 1.4 billion people but social status can conspire against single professional women, sometimes making it difficult to find a partner.  Picture taken July 20, 2013. REUTERS/Carlos Barria (CHINA - Tags: SOCIETY)

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A woman at a matchmaking event near Shanghai. (Reuters/Carlos Barria)
27-year-old Hang Cheng waits backstage during the recording of an episode of "Meet you on Saturday", a matchmaking television programme, at a local television station in Shanghai July 28, 2013. As couples celebrate the "Qixi" festival on Tuesday, the Chinese equivalent of Valentine's Day, millions of women face stark choices in a society where traditional ideas about matrimonial hierarchy run up against huge economic and social changes sweeping the world's most populous country. There are plenty of men to go round among China's nearly 1.4 billion people but social status can conspire against single professional women, sometimes making it difficult to find a partner.  Picture taken July 28, 2013. REUTERS/Carlos Barria (CHINA - Tags: SOCIETY)

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A woman waits backstage before the taping of a dating show, “Meet you on Saturday,” in Shanghai. (Carlos Barria)
25-year-old Liu Tingting introduces herself during the recording of an episode of "Meet you on Saturday", a matchmaking television programme, at a local television station in Shanghai July 28, 2013. As couples celebrate the "Qixi" festival on Tuesday, the Chinese equivalent of Valentine's Day, millions of women face stark choices in a society where traditional ideas about matrimonial hierarchy run up against huge economic and social changes sweeping the world's most populous country. There are plenty of men to go round among China's nearly 1.4 billion people but social status can conspire against single professional women, sometimes making it difficult to find a partner.  Picture taken July 28, 2013. REUTERS/Carlos Barria (CHINA - Tags: SOCIETY)

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Participants of the dating show “Meet you on Saturday.”
A wall of profiles of men and women looking for partners. (Reuters/Carlos Barria)
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