In the olden days, the Chinese had little freedom. Their parents made decisions in most areas of their lives including marriage. Sometimes, the youngsters’ parents would go to the extent of hiring matchmakers. These matchmakers were usually old women who knew a lot of families in town. They would get different youngsters’ Bazi and see whether they’d match with her clients’. Bazi, or Four Pillars of Destiny, is a system that uses the year, month, date, and time of birth of an individual to predict his fate. It’s somewhat similar to horoscope wherein you check your Zodiac sign and your love interest’s to learn about your compatibility. If the matchmaking led to marriage, the families of the newlyweds would give the matchmaker a hong bao*. A skilled matchmaker can make quite a profit. 
Matchmaking can be a perfect way of getting a spouse for extremely shy boys, but there are downsides too. Since matchmakers make money only from successful match-ups, some of them will try everything to get the couple married. They will sometimes get an attractive girl, for example, and trick the bachelor’s family into believing about her impressive background. Shortly after their marriage, the family will find out that the girl has been a widow or that she is infertile.

A hong bao* is a red envelope containing money. It is usually given to family and friends during special occasions such as Chinese New Year, birthdays, and weddings.


The Modern Matchmaking

Things have changed nowadays. The Chinese can now enjoy the freedom of choosing their spouses.  However, life is getting much more complicated. The cost of living is becoming higher. We have to keep up with the demands of life, so we work harder for longer hours and we spend less time with our family and friends. Sometimes, our social circles are limited only to our co-workers whom we spend most of our time with, thus, our chances of meeting a prospective spouse are becoming slimmer. Some people are lucky. They’ve found their spouses among their friends or colleagues. The rest, however, are not fortunate enough. Yet, thanks to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, busy people can find their future darling on the internet within the comforts of their home (or office). In Mainland China where such sites have been blocked, people use RenRen and Sina Weibo, the Chinese counterparts for Facebook and Twitter, respectively. Therefore, Mainlanders can benefit from these sites as well.
Despite these changes, matchmakers still exist, but the bachelor or the maiden can now actively participate in the process. If the other party is not desirable for them, they have the right to decline. Many Chinese are still a little bit old-fashioned and don’t want to rely on the internet to find their future spouses. They still seek the old and trusted method – matchmaking. Even in the Philippines, I’ve seen such matchmakers. If you have an old acquaintance who keeps on glancing at your young adult children with a smile on her face (or at you if you’re still young and single), they are possibly matchmakers. It can be quite awkward to deal with these matchmakers, especially when you’re not looking for a spouse yet. If it makes you really uncomfortable, you can tell the matchmaker that you’re already in a serious relationship or that you’re already married.

Who are the Matchmakers?


Everyone can be a matchmaker. Some do it for fun; others regard it as serious business. My mom and her friend had recently played cupid. A man in his 40’s had asked for these ladies’ help. The woman they wanted to set up with him was about 10 years his junior. My mom had hoped for things to work out. I overheard her talking nonstop with her friend about the matchmaking. Unfortunately for the guy, the woman declined even before meeting him. My mom and her friend’s hong bao had evaporated into thin air. 

Young people can be matchmakers, too. Friends of singles can find potential partners for their lonely friends among their friends. They don’t use Bazi. They choose based on their friend’s preferences. Money is not involved. They do it with a pure intention of helping their single friends. 

Some People Don't Believe in Matchmaking

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In the past, a marriage resulted from matchmaking was very common. Now, it is rare and slightly frowned upon by some youths. There are a few reasons why:

Some youths don’t want to get married yet. They love the freedom of singlehood. 
They believe in fate. They consider matchmaking an unnatural way to gain a spouse.
They don’t want to appear desperate. They feel that asking for a matchmaker’s help make them appear unwanted and ugly.

My Belief

A hit Korean movie My Sassy Girl had tackled a bit about this subject. The leading lady had lost her boyfriend, and the deceased boyfriend’s mother wanted to introduce her nephew to the girl. The meeting didn’t happen as she got drunk and had met a guy named Gyun-woo at the train station.  They’d become a couple, but had broken up even though they loved each other. A few years later, the girl went to the date she’d postponed years ago, only to find out that the guy she was being set up with was Gyun-woo after all.
Why did I mention this movie? Because this is what I believe in. I believe that whether or not a couple will end up being together depends on them, but destiny still plays a major part in their lives. Sometimes, you just have no idea how you ended up with someone. It just happens.

Final Words

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I think matchmaking is a helpful way for people to find a spouse. In matchmaking, parents of both parties actively participate. I believe it is much better than the social networking sites where parents are not involved at all. Matchmaking is for people who want serious relationships, not just flings. There are successful and happy marriages resulted from matchmaking. Having said that, I personally don’t want to meet my spouse through matchmakers (at least not the ones that you hire). Call me idealistic, but aside from the reasons I’ve stated above, I think it is more romantic to marry someone you’ve met accidentally, not someone you’ve been arranged to meet.  I believe that meeting the guy of my dreams through destiny, falling in love with him without the pressures of matchmakers or friends, and tying the knot because he loves me (not because he’s getting older), is a match made in heaven.

© Rainy Kua 2014. All Rights Reserved.