Finding the unique and bizarre has become a kind of side quest during my travels. My general philosophy has been, If it looks different and interesting, I must know more! This sort of side mantra has served me well. There’s a boat that travels from Northern Thailand to China? Hell yeah, I’ll go. Kunming has a bird market? Sounds kind of interesting, I wouldn’t mind checking that out. Every weekend older parents flock to Green Park and look for future mates for their unmarried children by sharing photos, posting signs and looking through catalogs? Say Whaaaaat?!
No, my friends, I am not making this up. I couldn’t make this up if I wanted to.
When I asked a local here in Kunming about things I should see or do, she told me about the Flower and Bird markets and then described a park within the city. “It’s called Green Park, but it is mostly brown. It’s nice there, you should go.” I was kind of convinced. Then she hit me with the good stuff. “In Kunming, parents of unmarried adult (20s +) children go to Green Park to advertise their child’s availability, characteristics and key qualities.”
My mouth started to water and my feet started to itch. Parents were basically advertising their children in hopes of marrying them off! Within a few minutes we (Joel of Freedonia Post) were headed out of the hostel and towards Green Park. After a several minutes of wandering through the park looking for older people with signs, we had almost given up when we saw swarms of older people and papers hanging from trees from across the lake.
As we approached, my excitement was overflowing. It wasn’t a myth! There, in front of me were crowds of parents wandering around showing photos of their single children, while other parents were taking notes. Notes!
Strung in sections between a couple of trees were what appeared to be lists. As we walked closer I was struck with both delight and confusion. Before my eyes were papers with Chinese characters and numbers. After a few minutes of staring the meanings became a little clearer.
Sex and age groups separate the pages. Each page lists -from what we could decipher- the names, age, height and possibly their income. The last column on the page appears to be a phone number, however part of the number is covered up. There were about 4 different sections along the walkway with lists hanging between two trees. Under each of these areas there was a small worn wooden table manned by a couple of older parents with binders on top. I stood back and watched with fascination as Mothers would pay for a copy of one of the sheets hanging from the trees. I can just imagine that conversation. “Hey honey, I was at the park today and found some guys you might be interested in. His phone number is on this sheet, you should call him!”
Even more amusing than the lists of available mates hanging from the trees were the homemade signs stuck to a barbwire fence across the sidewalk. I’m still flabbergasted by this. It’s like making a sign to announce your yard sale. I would be horrified if I found out that my parents were hanging out in the local park with a sign advertising my eligibility for marriage. But, as horrified as I would be if I were on display, I find it totally interesting to watch Chinese parents do it to there children. Sick, huh!
Oh China, you are so very different from the rest of us. I love the randomness and odd traditions. I’m thankful they are not my traditions though.
If you’re ever in Kunming you need to spend an hour at the Green Park on a Saturday to watch these parents go to work. There is nothing like squeezing through a crowd of older people who are showing photos of their children, buying contact lists and making future mating connections. It’s a side of a dating that you will never see on eHarmony or LavaLife.