SHANGHAI (Reuters) - The odds favored the men as thousands gathered to look for love in Shanghai at the eastern Chinese city's largest-ever matchmaking party, paying for the privilege of searching for their other half.
Census data shows a rise in the percentage of older single women over the last decade, while the percentage of older single men has fallen, according to the China Daily -- which experts said might be due to increasingly choosy women unwilling to settle for men with inferior education and living standards.
Organizers said there were three women for every two men, with 6,000 tickets sold to single woman and 4,000 to men.
"These days, girls are much more self-sufficient and independent," said Zhou Juemin, president of the Shanghai Matchmaking Association, which organized the two-day event at the weekend.
"Also, there's a lot of work pressure in society nowadays, so many girls are busy with their jobs and perhaps tend to consider career advancement above marriage -- so some of them are no longer young."
Long queues of singles waited for their turn for five-minute chats with the opposite sex in the ultimate blind-date event.
"If your standard of living is lower than mine in every aspect, but if we can relate well to each other, I wouldn't mind -- because if we relate well, there would be good chemistry," said 27-year-old Zue Tianwei.
"Then the issues of social order would no longer be a problem. I guess it depends on how strong my feelings are."
Many men, for their part, said they were willing to shrug off traditional thinking that once made marrying a woman of higher educational and living standards unacceptable.
"Regarding girls who have a higher education level or standard of living, I wouldn't mind pursuing them because this is a two-way thing," said Li Jianxun, a 27-year-old native of central China who has lived in Shanghai for two years.
"As long as the feelings are mutual, it is still possible to interact and get to know each other."
Hopefuls from nearby provinces travelled to Shanghai to take part, among them some who had already married and divorced.
A few, bolder than others, held up signs to distinguish themselves from the crowd. One said, "I wanted to fall in love early, but it's already late."
Around 3,000 parents also tagged along, with Organizers allocating a special corner for them to advertise information on their unmarried children. Some kept an eye out for suitable future in-laws.
Qi Xiong, who helped his son by taking pictures to keep track of potential matches, said he still felt that men should not look for wives with higher social status than themselves.
"Generally speaking, if you are a girl and your education level or income is too high, we're more likely to oppose it," he said, noting that a simple university degree was sufficient.
"A huge difference in education levels would make it difficult to communicate. If both parties begin at the same starting line, and want to achieve success in the future, they can work at it together."
Reporting by Reuters TV, Shanghai; editing by Elaine Lies