One nice thing about a five-thousand year old culture is that there are rules. Many of the men on the online Chinese dating site I belong to - and I'm assuming all of the women - already know the basic Chinese dating rules. But some of the guys may not. I had no idea about what follows when I first arrived in China from America. Instead I assumed that the dating scenarios of our two countries were roughly the same. Boy was I wrong! Given how fundamental these rules are for the endeavor you are embarked upon, it is worth at least one article to make explicit some basic information you need to know going in, since ignorance in this area not only wastes your time but puts you at a competitive disadvantage.
So here it is. When it comes to dating Chinese women, the first (and some would argue the only) rule you need to be aware of is this: Chinese women are expected to marry before exiting their late twenties. Just as there is no parallel in American culture to the obligation the Chinese child feels for taking care of the elderly parent, so there exists nothing remotely close in American dating and marriage culture to the pressure these Chinese women feel with regard to not entering their thirties as unmarried. If you want to get some idea of the sort of stresses we are talking about, think about the forces that brought about the earthquake in Japan, and multiply it by ten. Few Chinese women make it into their thirties unmarried, and those that do soon risk attaining Elephant-man type status.
This married-by-thirty rule serves as a sort of Continental Divide, shaping the dating landscape on either side of it. The practical implications for dating Chinese women are that the women in their early twenties who are on the site are far less likely to be seriously engaged in the process. It is with the mid-to-late twenties that marriage fever breaks out among Chinese women, and the website is replete with beautiful Chinese women in this age group seeking a life partner. The good news is that by virtue of being on an international dating site, these women are at least open to the possibility of hooking up with foreign men. The bad news (at least for the commitment-phobic) is that by virtue of being Chinese women of a certain age, these women are dead serious about marriage (and the closer to 30, the more serious). Warning: Do not wade into this territory if you are looking for a short-term, good-time relationship. These women are going for the whole enchilada (or whatever the Chinese equivalent would be).
After reaching the magic (or, some would say, cursed) age of thirty, things change radically for a Chinese woman. As one correspondent recently put it to me: "it's really hard for women who are above 30 years old to find their Mr. Right, especially for Chinese women, just like me. Sometimes I feel dismal about this." This is also the age group in which the first divorcees will begin to make their appearance. Compared to the U.S. divorce is rare in China, but it is certainly on the rise, fueled by the tendency of Chinese men to acquire a mistress along with their first pay raise. More often than not, divorcees in this age group will likely have a young child at home.
Women over thirty and/or women who are divorced (especially those with young children) have an almost leper-like status in Chinese dating culture. The short-sightedness of Chinese men on this point is, however, great news for Western members of this the Chinese dating website. It means there are a lot of women who from a Western (or at least American) perspective seem desirable, even hot, given the phenomenon of the "cougar" i.e., the hot older women. These are amazing women who have defied cultural expectations. They are looking for someone who can truly appreciate them.
So that's an overview of how things stand. As they said in one of the Indiana Jones movies, "Choose wisely".