Mark & Marianne Earthy

Who are China’s Leftover Women?

Who are China’s leftover women?

Modern day Chinese women are being pulled in two directions: by themselves and their parents. While some modern Chinese women love their independence and self-empowerment, their parents may feel differently.

China’s society is still quite Confucian in beliefs and culture: children are taught to show the utmost respect their parents and their parent’s wishes. One common term is “filial piety”, a Confucian belief of obeying the wishes of a parent with the complete obedience, from education to marriage. Traditionally, as a patriarchal school of thought, Confucianism has defined the filial piety of Chinese females to be marriage to a good man. To not marry a man like this, in the view of a traditional perspective, is the worst kind of disobedience a woman can do to her parents.


On one hand, it’s easy to understand the parents: Chinese culture normalizes children living with their parents, even after graduating from college and getting a job. Parents won’t be around forever. After taking care of their daughters, it would be nice to know that their daughter will have someone to take care of them once the parents pass on. Wanting them to marry is just a way of keeping the parents from worrying if their daughters might starve or end up on the streets.

At the same time, it’s not the most understanding or forgiving point of view: some of these women love their independence. Some of these women get told that they’re “leftover” for not being pretty enough. Some women are guilt-ridden for not finding a suitable husband that their parents would approve of. Marriage, for them, should be more than just an institution of convenience, but a loving relationship where her independence may be respected. The clash between the traditional Confucian school of thought and the contemporary Western school of thought is something that is putting these women at odds with their families.

marriage market

However, SK-II, a luxury Korean skincare brand, followed a few of these young women in a short-film titled “Marriage Market Takeover”. Shanghai’s popular Marriage Market is the place to go if you have a leftover daughter: you can find her an appropriate match, according to salary, height, weight, values, assets, and personality.

In the short-film, the leftover women leave personal messages to their parents.

The struggle of these women are the same as the struggles of any modern woman: trying to live her life happily, with independence, while looking for love whenever it comes along. By respecting themselves and their independence, they’ve made the most meaningful relationship in their life already: the relationship they have with themselves.

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