Sheng nu – China's leftover women, single and unmarried in their late trenties and beyond


Chinese Society  Updated:Fri, Aug 2, 2013 09:51 AM   By Waifong Chau


Leftover women,Sheng nu


Sheng nu (剩女, shèngnǚ) or leftover women refer to those Chinese women who remain unmarried in their late twenties and beyond. In this article we explain why there are increasing number of leftover women in China where gender imbalance in favour of boys continues to worsen.

China is expected to have 30 million bachelors by 2020 thanks to one-child policy and persistent imbalanced sex ratio of newborns in favour of boys. But that does not mean all Chinese girls will easily find a man to marry.

Chinese women have been facing mounting social pressure because they would be categorised into leftovers (Sheng Nu) if they remain unmarried at the age of 27. State statistics show that one in 5 women remains single at the age of 25-29. In Chinese society, it would be a shame to a family if their daughters could not get married in their late twenties. After young ladies graduate from colleges and universities, their parents are competent to find right boyfriends for them by using their social connections (relatives and friends).

‘I am 29 and my mother worries a lot. She has pushed me around to a date and motivates all my relatives and friends to find a boyfriend for me’ said Joyce Zhang, 29, an accounting manager in a commercial bank in Nanjing, graduated from City University in London three years ago.

2011 Chinese Martial Status Statistics show that over 80 percent Chinese women say no to young men without any property who wish to become their groom-to-be and they consider young men with 4000yuan monthly income to stand a chance to become their boyfriends.

In China, love is not sole content of the marriages; many have been made up with careful consideration of boys and girls’ social statute such as their jobs, financial capability, academic and family background. Money has become one of top issues for many young ladies considering who they choose to become their groom-to-be. In Chinese philosophy, success of marriage is based on sufficient financial establishment.

According to Chinese tradition, young ladies should marry up, in other words, they should find a man which is better than themselves in terms of academic and family background, financial capability and career prosperity. Poor social welfare in China, high unemployment rate of fresh college graduates dash younger generations’ hopes of their lives. Many young ladies pursue a better life by marring with a rich man. Many so-called golden-collar ladies are picky about potential suitor and are less likely to find a right dream-half for themselves.

Dating corners have been prevailing in many public parks around the country these years especially in big cities such as Shanghai and Beijing. To many Westerners’ surprise, Chinese dating corners have been dominated by young people’s parents, not themselves. In Shanghai Renming Park, large numbers of middle-aged Chinese gather on Saturdays and Sundays with a poster written with detailed information of their child and requirement of groom-to-be or bride-to-be. They exchange information and contact with each other in order to find a right half for their child. Some even have brought their property ownership certificate to prove that they are well off. They do so in order to seal the deal quickly and increase their chances to find a right half for their child.

Millions of Chinese leftover women lead a very stressful life but have also cultivated a new business opportunity. Renting a boyfriend to bring home has become one of solutions for many single ladies. Over 300 boyfriends renting businesses are advertised in Taobo. During Chinese New Year, many leftover women have to rent a boyfriend to bring home in order to avoid endless questions about why they are not dating. If young ladies remain single in their late twenties, rumours that they are not dating would fuel speculation that they are abnormal and might have some unknown physical and mental problems. The parents even don’t bring their unmarried daughters to social events because they consider them to lose face. The social pressure has been pushing young ladies to rent a boyfriend to bring home in order to silence this criticism. is one of China’s biggest dating websites with 50millions registered members which has attempted to find Mr and Mrs Right for the youth. Thousands of dating websites have provided platforms for young people to meet each other.

With rapid economic expansion these years, many well qualified young ladies are easily to get a well-paid job and they are financially independent. They more concern their self value and devote themselves to pursuing their own career success and lives prosperity. They are labelled as three highs (well qualified, high paid and embarrassed age-over 27).

Also, with a rise at the cost of living in big cities, large numbers of young ladies have made an honest living under great pressure. They are as busy as a bee and don’t have time to meet friends.

State-run media has fuelled heated debate about picky, educated, urban and successful ‘Seng Nu’. Many new TV series have also featured stories about them such as ‘Li Chuntian’s Spring’ (李春天的春天) and ‘Leftover Women’s Golden Time’ (剩女的黄金时代). Also, many provincial TV stations have been hosting matchmaking shows to find a Mr right for many professional and successful leftover women.

Do TV matchmaking shows and dating websites provide a right solution to thousands of Chinese leftovers? Only time will tell.

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