Pan Wang does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Compared with Western cultures, China has traditionally had a vastly different value system towards marriages and family.
But over the past 30 years, these customs have been upended. In many ways, dating shows became a powerful way to facilitate these changes.
By looking at the development of Chinese television dating shows, we can see how love and marriage changed from a ritualized system mired in the past to the liberated, Western-style version we see today. Marriage matchmaking has always been an important cultural practice in China.
Marriage was viewed as a contract between two households, and it was for the purpose of procreation, not love. Thought to contribute to peace and stability, it was the dominant custom into the latter half of the 20th century.
However, even in the wake of political change and globalization, many families still held the traditional Chinese belief that women, unlike men, belonged in the home, and that their parents had the final say over whom they could marry. Certain traditions still ruled. The style of the show followed a linear pattern.
It was essentially a singles ad broadcast before audience members, who, if interested, could contact the candidate for a date.
Despite all the limitations, the show was a groundbreaking depiction of courtship. It took decisions about love and marriage from the private home to the very public domain of broadcast TV. By the early s, Chinese TV networks found themselves in fierce competition with one another.
Economic liberalization had loosened restrictions for what could appear on the airwaves, but there was now the added pressure of turning a profit. More than ever before, networks needed to produce entertaining shows that attracted audiences. It was during this period that dating shows started to transform, depicting live, on-air matchmaking and dates between single males and females.
I went on a chinese dating show
These new shows were ways for singles to get to know each other in a fun, flirty environment. And for those who had little dating experience, it was a model for courtship; soon, the viewing public was able to reconceptualize ideas of love, relationships and marriage. For example, inonly 1. Bythat had skyrocketed to Meanwhile, divorces in China rose fromcouples in to 3.
Serving the man
There have been some consequences to this shift: as TV became more commercialized, so, too, did love and marriage. By the late s, dating shows needed to continue to evolve in order to compete with other programs.
Strategies dating shows adopted included hiring polished hosts, borrowing set des and show formats from Western reality shows, and incorporating technology to better interact with audience members and TV viewers at home. Some shows started collaborating with online dating websites like baihe.
Others partnered with corporations to boost advertising revenues. Many sponsors sell products we associate with romance and dating, such as cosmetics, clothing, diet drinks and dating website memberships.
Moments from some shows have gone viral, with many emphasizing materialistic values. While a free-market economy and state authoritarianism appear contradictory, the authorities will often intervene to try to strike a balance.
And so love and marriage continue to operate within the wobbly framework of a Chinese state that attempts to simultaneously control and profit from an onslaught of global forces. Edition: Available editions United Kingdom. Pan WangUniversity of Technology Sydney.