Artist's self record of a Chinese marriage market Favorite 

Practitioner: 

Date: 

Aug 1 2015

Location: 

Shanghai, China

A photography project on China's marriage market has recently reignited the debate about marriage in China, and the phenomenon of women deemed too old to marry, or "leftover women" in the country.

In a series of photographs called "The Happiness of Obedience," 34-year-old artist Guo Yingguang captures scenes of elderly parents as they gather at the famous blind date corner in Shanghai People's Park, trying to find matches for their children.

A photography project on China's marriage market has recently reignited the debate about marriage in China, and the phenomenon of women deemed too old to marry, or "leftover women" in the country.

In a series of photographs called "The Happiness of Obedience," 34-year-old artist Guo Yingguang captures scenes of elderly parents as they gather at the famous blind date corner in Shanghai People's Park, trying to find matches for their children.

The project started in 2015, when Guo was studying photography at the University of the Arts London. She was 31-year-old then, an age often labeled as “leftover women” in China.

Pretending to be one of the “single ladies” who was “advertising” herself, she used a hidden camera to capture the reactions of various questioners.

Though she had prepared herself to the possibly unfriendly question, she was still shocked at what those parents said.

When asked by a woman how old she was, Guo answered that she was born in 1983. All she got was “Oh, you are very brave” from the woman, suggesting Guo’s age made her not competitive enough in the marriage market.

She found what the single most important question for parents at the market was the question of age. Nothing else seemed to matter including education levels, her financial state or questions about her character.

Apart from age, Guo found that many parents were at the park trying to set up their children behind their backs. They flocked to the park every weekend and brought nothing but biographies of their children, which were usually stuck on umbrellas, lining the ground along the pathways.

After more than 10 visits to the park, Guo decided she had enough footage for her collection. But after going through the film, she realized she had neglected something – most parents in her pictures were unhappy and anxious.

Seeing this, she realized that at the end of the day, they were still parents who were concerned about their children – they might just have their own ways of trying to mitigate their own anxieties.

Released on Saturday, Guo's video has received tens of thousands of views on Chinese social media sites.

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