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Singles fume over marriage commercial

Updated: 2014-02-14 00:04
By Zhang Yue ( China Daily)

Yan Xiaoxu, 24, from Zhejiang province, never sold anything on Taobao.com before Spring Festival.

Then he sold himself.

In the product introduction section, Yan posted his photo and age, and rented himself out for 400 yuan ($66) per day as a "temporary boyfriend''.

"I got the idea through a friend who wanted to rent a boyfriend for the holiday. Her family kept asking her about her relationship status and she became agitated due to the pressure," he said.

For single people in China, Spring Festival is a bitter-sweet occasion as the focus of their relatives often turns to relationships and marriage, especially at the dinner table.

A survey by China Youth Daily released on Tuesday said that 89 percent of the 7, 932 respondents were asked about their marriage prospects by family members during Spring Festival.

On Jan 23, a man in Zhengzhou, Henan province, posted on his micro blog that he was willing to pay 1 million yuan ($164,900) to rent a girlfriend to take back home for the seven-day holiday.

For some people the situation became even worse when a commercial by www.baihe.com, a leading dating website, was aired on national TV.

The commercial shows a well-educated young woman returning home every year to see her grandmother who asks the same question every year: Have you got married?

Then the grandmother is taken to the hospital where the granddaughter visits her but again the question is asked.

Finally, the granddaughter appears in a wedding dress, holding a man's hand in front of her grandmother.

"Just for the sake of my grandmother, I should get married and stop being picky," the young woman said in the commercial.

The advertisement was repeatedly broadcast during the Lunar New Year holiday on major TV channels, including China Central Television.

The advertisement touched a nerve with many single people and a boycott of the dating website was initiated on Sina Weibo, a popular micro-blogging website, in which more than 280,000 people took part.

"We hate this commercial because it conveys the wrong attitude toward marriage," said a 29-year-old woman in Beijing who identified herself as Han.

"You don't get married to satisfy your family. People get married because they want to spend their lives together.

"We saw the commercial on TV during Spring Festival, and I was watching TV with my extended family, together with my grandmother sitting right next to me," she said.

"When the commercial appeared, all of a sudden I felt the chill in the living room. It totally destroyed our holiday."

Han said that her family had been keeping an open mind to the fact that she has remained single, but are actually anxious, though they seldom discuss it.

"My parents are certainly worried because I am nearly 30 and almost seen as a ‘leftover woman'," she said.

"But I hated it when the commercial aired and an awkward situation arose. The commercial showed the grandma in the hospital, and it seems like she will die unless her granddaughter gets married. How mean is that?"

Zhang Yuan, 27, also watched the commercial.

"The director behind the commercial is definitely not single, and had no idea of the pressure single people face during the holiday.

Zhang, who spent two years studying in the United Kingdom from 2008 to 2010, said that she never thought her single status would become a problem for the family.

"But it is really a problem now," she said. "The irony is though we hate dating websites that convey the wrong attitude toward marriage, it seems that many of us rely on blind dates through such websites. Work occupies much of our time and our social circle is limited.

"And the only thing I don't like about Valentine's Day is that you are noticed because you are single," Zhang said, jokingly.