by Xinhua writers Cheng Lu, Sun Wenji and Jiang Chenrong
BEIJING, Feb. 14 (Xinhua) -- In the past, emperors went to the Temple of Heaven in Beijing to pray for bumper harvests. Nowadays, concerned parents go there to seek divine help on finding a partner for their unwed children.
On a biting cold Friday morning in early February, one concerned mother bent down to place a handwritten advert on the path in a corner of Tiantan (Temple of Heaven) Park.
Her advert, which is about seeking a wife for her 45-year-old son, is among hundreds of pieces of paper placed on the grey, stone path. Many of them were written by hand.
At the matchmaking corner, parents swap phone numbers and make date arrangements.
Parents have been coming to this area of Tiantan for over a decade, and it is a scene reproduced in many parts of the country.
"Man, 45, state-owned enterprise employee, Renmin University graduate, seeks woman born in Beijing (should not be fat). Apartment-owner preferred," reads the advert.
An elderly woman showed some interest.
"Where is your daughter from?" the mother who just placed the advert inquired.
"Weihai," the other one answered. Weihai is a small coastal city in east China's Shandong Province.
"We want a Beijing girl," said the poker-faced mother.
"Young Beijing native" is the top attribute for her prospective daughter-in-law.
"I believe that two families of similar backgrounds can get along well with each other. Also, most Beijing women have an apartment," she said, after having advertized her son in the park on-and-off for almost four years.
She has successfully found several girlfriends for her son, but the relationships did not last long.
In a culture that places great value on family, Chinese parents are often deeply involved in their children's marriages.
China had around 180 million single adults of marriageable age in 2013. According to data released by the Ministry of Civil Affairs, marriages declined in 2015, dropping 6.3 percent from 2014.
The decline and delay of marriage has alarmed Chinese parents, who fear their family lineage will be broken or no one will look after their unmarried children when they pass away.
"I don't believe in online dating or matchmaking TV shows. The matchmaking corner in parks is created by ourselves and is more reliable. At least we can see the parents first. Through them, we know whether their children are good or not," said the mother, who asked not to be identified by her real name.
Although the odds for a successful match do not look good, "coming to the park is better than waiting at home," said a mother surnamed Chen, who was looking for a potential suitor for her well-educated daughter.
"One of my daughter's classmates found his Miss Right through this matchmaking corner, so she encouraged me to come here," Chen said.
INTO MARRIAGE, WITH LOVE
But not all unwed children support such involvement into their relationships.
Miss Cao, an investment firm employee, wants to focus on her career and does not see marriage or motherhood in her immediate future.
"I feel like I would lose face if my parents had to find me a partner," said Cao, 30, who lied to her mother about her relationship status.
"I do feel embarrassed being a single woman. But I don't want to compromise just to get married," Cao said.
In the past, people like Cao's parents had lower expectations about marriage. Many of them would be happy with a bed, a dining table, a wardrobe and a thermos. Nowadays, singles want their partner to have an apartment, a car, and similar life values.
"But if I fell head over heels in love, I would give up all these material requirements in an instant," she said.
Her view was echoed by Zhang Shasha, relationship expert with zhenai.com, a matchmaking website that claims to have 100 million members.
"Matchmaking corners emerge because Chinese parents think their children will gain happiness through marriage. Their good intentions should be respected," Zhang said.
Yin Xiaojun, associate researcher with Shaanxi Provincial Academy of Social Sciences, said that the soaring cost of marriage, career and life pressure, limited social circle and changing attitudes mean that more people are choosing to stay single.
"We choose to be single because we want to get married for love. It is not because we are not good enough," said Cao.