BEIJING (Reuters Life!) - Finding one's better half can be a tricky business in modern-day China, with hectic work schedules, nagging parents and a gender imbalance conspiring to make selecting a partner a nightmare for single men.
According to the recent "2010 China Marriage and Relationship Survey Report," 260 million Chinese are looking for love -- 180 million singles and 80 million concerned parents.
Eager singles swamped matchmaking events held in Beijing during the Chinese New Year holidays, with an estimated 50,000 people attending a week-long event in the capital's Ditan Park, according to organiser Jiayuan.com, a popular matchmaking website with over 40 million registered members.
"I am the third oldest in my family, and everyone has a girlfriend except for me," said 29-year-old insurance worker Chen Nan, who said he felt pressure to step up the search for a wife.
"Whenever there are get-togethers with university classmates and relatives they ask questions like 'Why don't you have a girlfriend' or 'Are you going to have one next year?' So there really is a lot of pressure," he said.
Men and women taking part in the event, mainly white-collar workers in their late 20s and early 30s, flirted and exchanged phone numbers and pieces of paper.
According to Jiayuan.com, over 70 percent of participants were in fact anxious parents hoping to fix up children too busy or shy to meet the opposite sex.
An army of 50-somethings browsed rows of sheets of paper strung up between trees showing singles' personal information, jotting down details.
Some compared details with other parents, held signs up promoting sons and daughters, or organized dates on their behalf.
"My son is very busy with work -- not just busy, but extremely busy. He has to work overtime a lot and doesn't have opportunities to meet girls," said a woman who gave her name as "Mrs. Li" and had a 26-year-old son who was an IT worker.
"I don't know if he is worried, but I am quite worried. That's why when I saw the event, I rushed straight in."
The 30-year-old one-child policy has exacerbated China's gender imbalance, with the latest figures showing that 119 boys are born for every 100 girls.
As a result, more than 24 million bachelors could find themselves without spouses by 2020, according to a report from the Chinese Institute of Social Sciences, which attributed the imbalance to gender-selective abortions as a result of traditional preferences for male children.
For young men feeling the pressure, some help is at hand.
"If You Are the One," a matchmaking TV show which gives men 20 minutes to sell themselves to 24 female guests, has become the most-watched TV program in China's eastern Jiangsu province.
The show was censored by the country's Communist authorities after a female guest said she would rather cry in a BMW than smile on a bicycle, causing a public outcry about promoting materialism among young women.
Though some contestants may end up holding hands at the end of the night, the success rate remains low.
But for those who really need help, there are dating coaches such as Chris Wu, who runs seminars and an online forum with friends to teach single males how to meet and keep women.
In worst-case scenarios, Wu personally teaches them how to pick up a woman on the street.
Wu's business partner demonstrated for a 25-year-old student, who gave his name only as He, by getting a passing woman's number on the first try.
After a couple of embarrassing knockbacks, He managed to get a number too.
"I am very excited, I feel like life is full of surprises," He said. "It's just two ordinary people meeting on the street, but it could turn into a love story."
Additional reporting by Haze Fan;editing by Elaine Lies