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Parental Match-making Blossoms in a Beijing Park

The resume of the Chinese soldier is immaculate -- backed by sturdy cardboard it shows in neat, printed script his age , qualifications and even his height.

Next to it, propped up against one of the ancient trees in Beijing's Zhongshan Park, are two photographs, one showing the 28-year-old bachelor proudly donning his military uniform.

A few yards away, his smartly dressed father watches as dozens of other parents amble past and take a look at the soldier's photos and data.

After matching the details against their own checklist, most shake their head and walk past, although some approach him for more information.

Each Sunday, this scene is repeated in various versions hundreds of times throughout beautiful Zhongshan Park, just 150 metres (yards) from the historic Forbidden City.

It is a unique form of match-making in modern China, where desperate fathers and mothers struggle to find compatible spouses for their overworked and overqualified children, a kind of parental speed-dating.

Despite their desire for a potential match, these proud parents are rigorous in their search for someone they think will be good enough for their children.

Matchmaking rules in China generally mean that a wife must be younger, less educated, have a lower salary and be shorter in stature than her husband. Parents match Chinese birth years, zodiac signs, even accents.

Throw in the attractiveness of having the right "hukou" -- an identification document that allows Chinese permanent residency in certain cities -- and parents find themselves entwined in a raft of criteria for their children.

The vast majority of advertisements in the Beijing park are for women nearing or just passing 30 years old, many of whom have good qualifications and well-paid jobs -- definite hurdles in finding potential husbands.

-- Parents come in secret to find their children a p erfect match --

One weary father has been coming to the park for seven months searching for a match for his 35-year-old daughter.

"My daughter has a very good education, she has a doctorate but now she has graduated it is hard to find the right boy at the right age," he explains.

Then he reverts to his quiet salesman pitch: "My daughter is a very good teacher, she has been abroad."

The grumbles of mothers of daughters rang throughout a recent Sunday summer afternoon.

"My daughter is very timid. There is no time and no chance to meet young people," said one mother. Another chipped in: "Girls should not be judged on beauty, they should have careers."

The Beijing scene is repeated in cities and parks across China, according to E.T. Hu, executive producer on a film called "The Park" which follows the testy relationship of a father and daughter through the parental matchmaking phenomenon set southwestern Yunnan province.

"The parents care about their children very, very much in China and it is a tradition that they will help them find a spouse, this is just a modern version of it," she said.

"Parents are also a little shy, but they feel they need to do this. They are worried about their children getting older and not finding a boyfriend or a girlfriend."

The shyness and discomfort are obvious. As soon as any Westerner approaches, many cover up their CVs and hide their photos. And while some were open about the minutiae of their children's lives, none would give their names.

Their shyness is also provoked by the horror that would greet them if their children knew they were being peddled in a park.

"My daughter is very busy and she doesn't know I am here. If I told my daughter about it she would be very angry," said one mother, before explaining her simple plan if she does find a potential husband.

"I will j ust say, 'I have found this man'. I will not tell her where I found him."


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