As a 23-year-old only child from a working-class family from Shanghai, I am in no rush to find a girlfriend. But marriage at a young age in China is considered the norm right now. My parents certainly think it should be. Since I got a job, they’ve now and then asked me euphemistically, “Do you have a direction?” By “direction,” they mean a girlfriend—one with whom I’m in a stable and serious relationship, and can bring home to visit at the Chinese New Year.

My mother didn’t force me to go to the matchup event. She just hinted that I should—every time we talked on the phone. “Nothing wrong with just having a look,” she told me. So here I was, dressed decently, and looking at a huge noticeboard, on which I saw my picture alongside hundreds of others, and below it the words:

Name: Mr. Huang
Education: Master’s degree
Birthdate: March 1992
Yearly salary: …

I’m listed on the wall for buyers.

I had filled in my yearly salary when I’d registered online—it’s a required question, along with those about your height, weight, zodiac sign, and whether you have a property or own a car. But I didn’t expect they would make rows and rows of “wanted” posters for every participant with his or her salary visible to every passer-by.

At Quartz, Zheping Huang navigates the highly competitive sea of red tables in search of wife at the Love and Marriage Expo in Shanghai, China.

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