Serial blind dates

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This story (referencing Australian ABC News [1/13/22], with video)  has been doing the rounds in the Taiwan media:

"Chinese bachelorette locked in blind date's apartment after Henan's snap lockdown:

Woman says her date's performance under lockdown left much to be desired"

By Liam Gibson, Taiwan News (1/14/22)

This extraordinary report begins thus:

An unmarried Chinese woman surnamed Wang (王) had her blind date dramatically extended by several days after authorities announced an immediate lockdown.

The lockdown was declared on Sunday (Jan. 8) and covered the whole of the Henan provincial capital, Zhengzhou. At the time, Wang was in the city in the middle of a blind date in the apartment of a man she had just met, according to an ABC report, which describes the scene as “possibly the most awkward blind date of all time.”

Wang’s parents believed she was “getting too old” to be a bachelorette and, with the Lunar New Year approaching, flew her back from the southern city of Guangzhou for a whirlwind week of 10 consecutive blind dates. Wang was halfway through meeting this string of potential suitors, when the snap shutdown left her stranded….

The Chinese term these reports translate as "blind date" is xiāngqīn 相親 / 相亲, but I don't think that's quite right, because "blind date" doesn't necessarily imply that you're looking for a mate, which is what xiāngqīn 相親 / 相亲 means, whereas "blind date" just means that you're going on a date with someone whom you never met before and who was set up for you by someone else.

My first thought was that the xiàng 相 may have to do with prognosticating or physiognomizing one's future / potential mate qīn 親 / 亲.

Others weighed in.  N.B.:  Most translations and all Romanizations [Pinyin], including tone marks, for Chinese characters, as well as hyperlinks for terms and titles, have been added by me [VHM].

Yijie Zhang:

I agree that the difference between "xiāngqīn 相親" and "blind date" is very subtle but important. Both of them refer to a set-up by someone else or some dating platforms with a view to developing a romantic relationship between two people who have never seen each other before, thus "xiāngqīn 相親" implies the primary purpose of looking for a mate to get married with and to start a family, to build a new familial relationship between two families, rather than to simply find someone for a date. As a result, "xiāngqīn 相親" indicates the principal intention of to get to know, estimate and evaluate each other's education, job, family, and other information that may be involved in the viability of getting married.

Zihan Guo:

I agree that translating xiāngqīn 相親 as "blind date" can be misleading, precisely because a date (whether blind or not) does not necessarily entail marriage. Xiāngqīn 相親 feels more like a "marriage interview."

I have always wondered what xiāngqīn 相親 means exactly when used to denote such matchmaking activities. Apparently it has some roots in traditional arranged marriage. The encyclopedic Southern Song (1127–1279) bǐjì ("notebook"] Mèngliáng lù 夢梁錄 (Record of Dreams of Glory) has one section on jiàqǔ 嫁娶 ("marriage"), juan ("scroll / fascicle") 20. It describes in detail the meticulous rituals involved in matchmaking and marriage. They find a matchmaker, exchange cǎo tiězi 草帖子 ([horoscope card of the bride and groom] with information on birth date, family history, properties owned, etc.), divine to see if they are an auspicious match, and eventually they arrange for a time and place to meet: 「Liǎng qīn xiāng jiàn, wèi zhī xiāngqīn 兩親相見,謂之相親」("When the two [potential] relatives meet each other, it is called 'xiāngqīn 相親'".)  No one invests in such formalities anymore, but the idea that xiāngqīn 相親 aims at marriage is maintained.

Also, it remains suspicious that one would xiāngqīn 相親 with a stranger in their apartment / house: "At the time, Wang was in the city in the middle of a blind date in the apartment of a man she had just met…"

I am not interested in peeking into people's private lives, but if you are and have time, you might want to see how this news was reported and received in China. It suggests that this woman might have been exploiting the convention of xiāngqīn 相親 to let her xiāngqīn duìxiàng 相親對象 ("prospective mate") pay for her food, entertainment, etc.

Yet, I think your reasoning is also right, given the idea of miànxiàng 面相 (precisely physiognomy – not just physical appearance but with an implication that one's character and fortune can be assumed from it). In your case, xiàng 相 would be a verb, xiàng (to prognosticate / examine), whereas in mine, an adverb, xiāng (mutually). I am sure there are other mentionings of xiāngqīn 相親 in premodern sources that might differ from the one in Mèngliáng lù 夢梁錄 [Record of Dreams of Glory].

Diana Shuheng Zhang:

You’re right! A xiāngqīn 相親 is also usually set up for the person by a mutual family friend (usually from a senior generation). The two sides that did  相親, for people around me, could be the nephew of a girl's mother’s high school bestie, the daughter of the guy’s elementary school teacher’s cousin, etc. So xiāngqīn 相親 is more like the establishing of two family-friendship bonding in the form of two young members from each family. But a blind-date is a totally personal thing for the young people in the English speaking world. There is no familial burden (or basis) behind the blind-date, there’s not a necessary purpose of looking for a marriage (because of the familial set-up for xiāngqīn 相親, those who attended xiāngqīn 相親 would always aim at direct marriage), and there’s no pressure of economic status, age, or appearance anxiety. Xiāngqīn 相親 is usually Chinese young people’s last resort! And those young men and women who are set up by their families would usually be either dàlíng 大齡 (“older age”… I don’t know how to translate this), meaning for men above age 28 and women above 25, or perceived as “hard to marry” because of weight, or lacking money, or something else. So blind-date clearly implies more personal choice and freedom than xiāngqīn 相親, which is set up by an elderly family or family friend because a poor young person is regarded by them as “hard to find a marriage in his/her own capacity”!

Just thought of another thing: to some extent Chinese xiāngqīn 相親 is like Indian arranged marriage, but quite different too. On the one hand, both xiāngqīn 相親 and Indian arranged marriage have senior family members or friends setting up the first meeting for the two young people, and both aim at direct marriage (with a strong conjugal purpose). On the other hand, Chinese xiāngqīn 相親 connotes condescending “worries” from the elderly generation with regard to the specific young person whose xiāngqīn 相親 they set up — at least in the modern, 21st-century urban Chinese context, nobody would set up a xiāngqīn 相親 for a beautiful, tender, slim, and outgoing girl, or a young man whose savings already suffices to purchase real estate property in the city — these young people are believed to have the ability to find their own mate. It is in most cases the common, or introverted, or unsociable individuals that the elderly would set up. These are the “worrisome younger generation” who are perceived as “in need of some external help to have someone else like them”. An exception would be a young female of high educational level: many girls who graduate from famous universities — including the Ivy Leagues — would face a setting up by their family for xiāngqīn 相親. Why so? Because in the Chinese sense, smartness or education is not a criterion for a female to be married. Tenderness, physical beauty, and the willingness to “settle down” (rather than pursuing personal career or cultivating personal abilities) would be what matters. Therefore, having gāo xuélì 高學歷 "(high educational level") or being too smart is seen as “worrisome”, since it may cause the girls to be more “picky” for their men.

In sum, whether pronounced xiàngqīn or xiāngqīn 相親 is not a "blind date".  It is an arranged interview to evaluate a proposed marriage partner


Selected readings


[Thanks to AntC]


  1. KC said,

    January 21, 2022 @ 2:14 pm

    In Cantonese, these are 相睇 (originally 相睼).

  2. KeithB said,

    January 21, 2022 @ 3:04 pm

    OT, but the app the Chinese government is forcing athletes to put on their phones is not only insecure, but has a "censorship keyword list"

  3. Philip Taylor said,

    January 21, 2022 @ 3:13 pm

    My personal reaction is "what is the point of a blind date if one does not forsee marriage as a possible outcome ?". Almost by definition, most blind dates do not ultimately lead to marriage, but I fail to see the point in going on a date, blind or otherwise, if one has already ruled out marriage as a possible outcome.

  4. Not a naive speaker said,

    January 21, 2022 @ 4:52 pm

    To illustrate matchmaking and blind date

    The entry on shadchen in The Joy of Yiddish by Leo Rosten has the following story:

    The shadchen was impressing the young man with the boundless virtues of a female, and ended: "And to look at, she's a regular picture!"

    The yound man could not wait for his blind date.

    But when he accosted the shadchen the next day, his voice was frosty: "Her eyes are crossed, her nose is crooked, and when she smiles one side of her mouth goes down –"

    "Just a minute," interrupted the shadchen. "Is it my fault you don't like Picasso?"

  5. Martin Holterman said,

    January 21, 2022 @ 5:31 pm

    Like Philip Taylor, my impression is that these explanations are coloured by respondents' cultural expectations around dating and marriage, and the assumptions they make about other people's expectations. In the end the conclusion may simply be that xiāngqīn is expected to lead to marriage with higher probability than a blind date.

  6. Andrew Usher said,

    January 21, 2022 @ 6:19 pm

    I agree; the cultural expectations are too complex for me to want to try to discuss; but I note that they may have translated this 'blind date' simply because English has no better equivalent. Translation is not always perfectly one-to-one, and the circumstances cited here may have further suggested the interpretation 'date' rather than something more formal than that.

    Is the use of the word 'bachelorette' here just a headline thing, or are people genuinely using it that way now? For me, it's only the title of a television show (which I have never watched), but even the more traditional male form 'bachelor' is not normally used, to my knowledge, in the context of dating. We say 'single man' or 'woman' most generally; did the editor just think a synonym was required?

    k_over_hbarc at

  7. Thomas Rees said,

    January 21, 2022 @ 8:13 pm

    Google Translate produces "Blind date" for 相亲. The new Apple "Translate" service (right-click the word) gives "See and assess the suitability of a prospective mate or son or daughter-in-law"!

  8. AntC said,

    January 21, 2022 @ 9:02 pm

    @Philip T My personal reaction is "what is the point of a blind date if one does not forsee marriage as a possible outcome ?".

    Good grief! you're out of touch with sexual politics — and I don't mean just a "(eye-roll) that younger generation" thing.

    Because you want to widen your circle of friends, without entailing an intimate relationship; because you want a short-term intimate relationship without entailing anything longer term; because you want a 'fling' out of sheer sexual frustration with the bloody lockdowns closing all the pickup bars.

    For all the reasons Victor's correspondents give as to why 'blind date' is a poor translation for xiāngqīn 相親 / 相亲.

    Note 'blind date' means you haven't physically met the other person yet, but doesn't exclude that you've corresponded on-line. In the case in point, Ms Wang (王)'s encounters were scheduled by her parents in their (and presumably Ms Wang's) home Province — presumably with marriage very much in the mind of the parents.

    My q to Victor when I drew his attention to the article was: why is Ms Wang travelling so far from Guangzhou in these lockdown times? Surely there's plenty of eligible bachelors nearer (her) home!? Indeed probably plenty enough from Henan.

  9. wanda said,

    January 21, 2022 @ 11:37 pm

    I'm just going to +1 on what AntC said. If her parents set this up, it would be a 相親. And yeah, one can definitely go on a "blind date" to look for a partner suitable for a short-term or casual relationship, for example if one is not into long-term relationships, too busy to have a serious relationship, moving away soon, or non-monogamous.

  10. Andreas Johansson said,

    January 24, 2022 @ 5:46 am

    Both Philip Taylor and AntC evidently live on different dating planets than me, but I'll just note that were I'm from it would be pretty normal to go on a date with the intention of finding someone to spend the rest of your life and raise children with without marriage necessarily entering the picture.

  11. Philip Taylor said,

    January 24, 2022 @ 6:17 am

    Well, to the best of my belief I don't live on a dating planet at all (Ant's reference to "pickup bars" made me ask myself [a] whether such places really exist, and [b] if they do, then would I ever consider entering one ?) but that aside then I would agree with Andreas that "it would be pretty normal to go on a date with the intention of finding someone to spend the rest of your life and raise children with without marriage necessarily entering the picture" if one does not believe that marriage qua marriage ("a solemn, public and life-long covenant between a man and a woman, declared and celebrated in the presence of God and before witnesses") is an integral part of a life-long intimate relationship and commitment.

  12. Terpomo said,

    January 24, 2022 @ 9:08 pm

    The concept of xiangqin seems quite similar to the Japanese concept of omiai.

  13. Barbara Phillips Long said,

    January 25, 2022 @ 6:16 pm

    @Andrew Usher —

    I have heard “bachelorette” used in conversation for quite a few years, but mostly in reference to the party for the bride and bridesmaids before a wedding. My impression is that “bachelorette party” arose in parallel to “bachelor party” and subsequently “bachelorette” began to be used independently.

    At a time when terms like aviator and aviatrix or actor and actress are being consolidated into aviator and actor, the increased use of the word bachelorette seems counterintuitive. My hypothesisis that it fills the hole left by the decreased use of spinster, which is seen as pejorative. “Spinster” implies a lack of marriageability that “bachelorette” does not.

  14. Philip Taylor said,

    January 26, 2022 @ 10:49 am

    "At a time when terms like aviator and aviatrix or actor and actress are being consolidated into aviator and actor" — by some. I continue to make the distinction, regarding headlines such as "Actor alleges she was raped by director" as politically correct nonsense. Although not as bad, I suppose, as "Actor alleges they ?was? / ?were? raped by director", which leaves the reader totally unclear as to the sex of the putative victim.

  15. Barbara Phillips Long said,

    January 26, 2022 @ 5:20 pm

    @Philip Taylor —

    The headline could also read “Actor alleges rape by director.” In the headline, the rape allegation is the most important point. The gender of the victim and the perpetrator may be made more clear in the story, but it is not essential in the headline. In different situations, the headline might be “Director alleges rape by actor” or “Director alleges rape by producer.”

    When is knowing and informing others about gender essential and when is it unnecessary?

    When I am being seated in a restaurant, I may be told that my server will be with me shortly. That’s fine. I don’t need to know if my server is male or female or a waiter or a waitress or an associate or whatever. I just want that person to take my order efficiently and deliver the hot food when it is hot and the cold food while it is still cold, keep my water glass from being empty, and present the check promptly. Likewise, when I am on a flight, the information from the captain is helpful, but whether the captain is an aviator or an aviatrix is irrelevant.

    And if a distinction is irrelevant, why preserve it?

    Why not say “Chinese couple on blind date locked in apartment together after snap lockdown in Henan” or “Two Chinese on blind date confined in apartment due to Henan’s snap lockdown” or “Blind date couple forced to cohabit during Henan’s snap lockdown”?

  16. AntC said,

    January 27, 2022 @ 6:23 am

    to the best of my belief I don't live on a dating planet at all

    An inter-planetary news report for you.

  17. Philip Taylor said,

    January 27, 2022 @ 6:24 am

    Whether you 'need' to know that you will be served by a waiter or a waitress is moot, but in the event that said waiter/waitress failed to appear it would certainly help to know whether you should be trying to catch the eye of a male or of a female member of staff.

    As to aviator/aviatrix, the probability of my using the latter to refer to a current airline pilot is strictly zero, but were I discussing (e.g.,) the first solo flight by a woman from London to Australia I would most certainly refer to Amy Johnson as an aviatrix rather than an aviator. I note in passing that while the main Wikipedia entry for her eschews this distinction, the disambiguation entry does not, and that the corresponding entry for Laura Ingalls was renamed from "Laura Ingalls (Aviatrix)" to " Laura Ingalls (Aviator)" in 2004.

    Relevance (or irrelevance) is, I would respectfully suggest, in the eye of the beholder.

  18. Andrew Usher said,

    January 30, 2022 @ 9:10 am

    I would assume that in a restaurant, the person seating you might not even know who it will be, and that that is one motivation for using the term 'server', which still is not the term used in ordinary language.

    I regard both 'aviator' and 'aviatrix' is essentially historical terms; if they were still in regular use I would dislike the gender distinction, as in other cases. For actor/actress: there's agreement that 'actor' in the general term; and, as has often been noted, that occupation fills almost entirely gendered roles, so it _can't_ be ignored.

    In reports of sexual assault I certainly expect to see the gender of the victim (and the alleged perpetrator) mentioned, though perhaps not in the headline, even if no other information about identity is. It's simply obvious that it's a relevant part of the story because the sexes are never (or almost never) interchangeable in those matters! If the story seems to go out of the way not to mention it, and there's no other clue, I assume it's a (male) homosexual offence (because the media would less like to admit it when that way).

    k_over_hbarc at

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