In a corner of a park in Metro Vancouver, the hunt for marital bliss is on.
Groups of middle-aged and elderly Chinese pass around their smartphones or photos plucked from wallets, smiling and nodding their greetings before getting down to business.
Do you have a daughter or a son? How old are they? Where did they go to university? Where do they work? And perhaps most importantly — why are they still single?
Central Park in Burnaby, has become a matchmaking corner for parents, replicating a phenomenon seen in some cities in China.
On the weekend before Valentine’s Day, there were 20 to 30 parents mingling. Organizer Terry Wang says in summer, there are more than 100.
The park is where magic happens, says Wang, “if you come here believing in the power of love.”
Wang said in a Mandarin interview that he has been running the “off-line dating site” since last summer. He said it gained in popularity among Chinese parents over the past few months and had a high rate of matchmaking success.
“Some parents are frequent visitors of the matchmaking corner and then one day they stop showing up and later they invite me to their children’s weddings,” laughed Wang. He said he finds the process “blissful and rewarding.”
Wang said the corner grew from an online discussion group among more than 300 Chinese immigrants who were either looking for a match for their children or for themselves.
“Many Chinese parents and their children feel their social circle is a bit small and they hope to connect with more like-minded people in Metro Vancouver. The corner serves as a bridge,” said Wang.
Meet-ups also take place on Sundays and Thursdays at a shopping mall in Richmond, south of Vancouver.
Wang said he had a personal interest in organizing the gatherings. His daughter is about to turn 26 and he visits the Burnaby corner weekly in the hope of finding her a husband.
“I am not too worried, but now it’s time for her to start dating,” he said.
Wang said the idea for the matchmaking corner came from an experience in the province of Henan, in central China, where he came across a “dating market” with parents introducing their children to each other.
Yue Qian, an associate professor of sociology at the University of British Columbia, said it was the first time she had heard of a matchmaking corner in Canada. But she said she wasn’t surprised since similar sites are popular in some cities in China, including Shanghai and Beijing.
At a well-known matchmaking corner in Shanghai’s People’s Park, Chinese parents gather and display placards listing their children’s attributes in the hope of finding a good match.
“In my research, many Chinese immigrants in Vancouver found the place to be isolated and difficult to even find a friend,” said Qian.
Compared with western society, which values “individuality,” Qian said Chinese or Asian culture can be more “family-oriented” and under such settings, getting married or not isn’t just an issue for the children but also their parents.
“Some of the studies suggest that for children who haven’t got married at a certain age, their parents in China are more likely to have depression and low mental health,” said Qian.
She added that stigma also exists around children who haven’t married by a certain age.
However, Qian said she thinks parents should sometimes step back and let their children take control of their relationships.
“They need to respect the children’s decisions rather than imposing (their) will on their children.”
Wang agreed, saying falling in love is a personal thing. What parents can do is introduce potential candidates.
“For parents who come to the matchmaking corner, they have gained support from their children and what parents can do is build the bridge, but their children will decide whether they want to cross it or not.”
Wang, a self-employed businessman who writes romantic poetry as a hobby, said he thinks love is the purest thing on earth.
“What is love? It touches everyone, no matter whether you are rich or poor. Many successful people conquer the world easily with money, power, and respect in hand. But they might not be able to find true love,” said Wang.
“Love has no boundary, please join us if you believe in love.”
—Nono Shen, The Canadian Press