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Film of Shanghai Marriage Market by “Leftover Woman” Goes Viral

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Shanghai’s Marriage Market, where elderly residents gather in the hopes of setting up their children or grandchildren with “suitable” spouses by advertising their qualities and then matchmaking – often behind the young peoples’ backs – is back in the spotlight thanks to a project by Yingguang Guo.

Guo, who has taken pictures for Reuters and China Daily and holds an MA in photography from the University of the Arts London, is the subject of a WeChat post from YiTiao that has gone viral in recent days. In it, she is interviewed about a piece she produced over the course of three years entitled “The Happiness of Obedience”. Guo visited the Marriage Market in People’s Square on numerous occasions and used a hidden camera to record the reactions of inquisitors when they realized that she was “advertising” herself over the age of 30.

Perhaps unsurprisingly in a climate where unmarried females aged 30 and above are often branded as “Leftover Women” – a term that Leta Hong Fincher has done some excellent research and writing on – there’s a lot of head shaking and tut-tutting over Guo’s age. There are also some very direct assessments of her attributes.

“If you are a woman, then it’s all about the house. If you’re young, it means you are located in a  good neighbourhood,” says one market visitor. “If you are pretty, it means the house itself is great.”

Guo’s work and her interview have struck a chord – in a similar way to how Japanese cosmetic firm SK-II’s advert, also set in Shanghai’s Marriage Market, touched a huge number of viewers in 2016. The video has been viewed hundreds of thousands of times since YiTiao published their WeChat post on Saturday and received a slew of supportive comments, with users challenging the notion of a “sell by date” for romantic involvement and sharing their own stories of being “Leftover”.

Watch the video from YiTiao with English subtitles below:

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Cover photo: PeiQi Teh / Shutterstock.com

Jake Newby
Jake Newby is a Shanghai-based writer and editor with more than a decade's experience living and working in China. Previously managing editor of Time Out Shanghai, he's also written for publications such as South China Morning Post and the Financial Times.

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