Speaking of tourist attractions in Shanghai, there are a number of names that come to mind, such as the Yu Garden (yuyuan), the Bund, the Oriental Pearl Tower, the Nanjing Road Pedestrian Street, and the Tianzifang. They have been traditional must-sees for tourists from overseas, and in the eyes of many represent the city of Shanghai.
Each of these places, with all due fairness, has its distinct characteristics and well deserves the attention it receives. But there may come a point when you find them just too familiar and too popular with tourists, and what you are looking for is a place where you don't have to rub shoulders with fellow sight-seers, a place where you can engage with the city and its people in a more intimate way. You know the options are somewhere out there, but where?
If you don't know the answers yet, don't worry; some expats in Shanghai have already done their homework and we're ready to share them with you.
Match-making corner at People's Park
The match-making corner at People's Park, a gathering of parents seeking suitable matches for their unmarried adult children, is a truly extraordinary phenomenon.
Will from Britain described his adventure at the corner of marriage market thus: "People packed into every corner, and I felt like I was being swallowed by a wave. All those resumes and advertisements hanging there made me regret that I don't know any Chinese - it would have been very interesting to read them. And all those Chinese parents talking at the tops of their voices made me very curious about what they were saying."
The blonde, blue-eyed Briton, who easily stood out in the crowd, was quickly spotted by parents and became a potential candidate as a husband for their daughters.
"A lady came up to me and handed me the profile of a girl who I suppose was her daughter. I accepted it, you know, out of curiosity, and then before I knew what was happening, parents were rushing at me from all around. Well, it was meant to be me watching them, and now I was the one under scrutiny. I returned the profile and made my escape," Will recounted with amusement.
The "competition for spouses" takes place every Saturday and Sunday in the Park. What many foreign visitors probably find confusing is why the parents are so anxious about marrying off their 30-something children, which is why it is the parents, rather than their sons and daughters, who exchange contact information and make their selections.
Photographer Grace is a foreigner who can speak Chinese and knows China well. She has been to the match-making corner several times to take pictures.
"I know there's a Chinese saying "What great devotion parents have for their child" - something like that - and I see it on the faces of the parents there," says Grace. "Once when I was shooting photos there, it suddenly started to rain. I saw a father who didn't rush for shelter immediately – instead he carefully covered the profile of his child first."
Grace says she hopes to take a series of photos of the parents together with their children in the future.
Destination features: the "Chinese-style" parents; the clamour; all kinds of resumes and advertisements for a spouse; the idea that parents seek spouses for their children collectively.
Preparation: knowing a little Chinese won't do any harm - and maybe a resume if you're single!
Expat's review: "I knew People's Square and People's Park had a unique role in the history of Shanghai. What I see now at the match-making corner there is unlikely to be found anywhere else in the world. It has been a remarkable experience."