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Understanding Sheng Nu ("Leftover Women"): The Phenomenon of Late Marriage among
Chinese Professional Women

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Over 4,150 reads on ResearchGate and 250 citations on Google Scholar!

Vol 36, Issue 1

In the past few decades, there has been a rise in the number of single, unmarried Chinese professional women, which is known as the sheng nu or “leftover women” phenomenon. Through an interactionist grounded theory method, this study has located the interactional constraints faced by 50 single Chinese professional women that were issued by their male romantic partners and parents. "Discriminatory" and "controlling" gendered constraints issued by the women's male suitors and partners reflected the persistence of the Chinese patriarchal structure, and this was found to be the leading cause of the women being leftover in the marriage market. The four different types of Chinese professional women that were constructed based on their different partner choice strategies not only gave rise to an in-depth and nuanced understanding of the "leftover women" phenomenon in China, but could also be generalized toward understanding the marital choices of single professional women in other patriarchal societies around the world.

Caveats and Criteria: Intercultural Courtships of Shengnü ("Leftover Women") and Western Men
in Urban China

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Vol 10, Issue 3

The "leftover women" phenomenon has attracted much attention in recent years. Many of these single, never-married women have adopted the alternative partner choice strategy of choosing Western men, in the belief that they would be more open-minded about their economic accomplishments than patriarchal Chinese men. In this study of 17 single professional women's intercultural courtship experiences in Shanghai, it was found that they faced many caveats. In reality, it was difficult for them to find equally accomplished Western men who were looking for serious relationships. Those who were high-flying executives were often orientalist or licentious, and those who were unambitious were resented and scorned (by the women). Economic criteria aside, one key criterion that the Western men had to fulfil was to know Chinese in order to communicate with the women's parents. The topic of intercultural courtships brings to light the haigui (overseas returnee) identity of the "leftover women" who straddle the world of a global cosmopolitan professional elite, and the world of a developing Chinese economy where traditional features like filial piety and guanxi (social connections) still endure.

“My Mother Wants Me toJiaru-haomen (Marry Into a Rich
and Powerful Family)!”: Exploring the Pathways to
“Altruistic Individualism” in Chinese Professional Women’s
Filial Strategies of Marital Choice


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Vol 5, Issue 1

In an era of individualization, Chinese individuals often have to face the challenge of balancing their personal choices with their filial obligations. This study sets out to explore the “marital filial strategies” of unmarried Chinese professional women who face parental disapproval in their “marriage timing” and “partner choices.” It was found that the combination of the filial strategies of “deferring” to parents’ matchmaking demands, followed by “negotiation” of one’s partner choice, led to the ideal condition of “altruistic individualism” that “combined personal freedom with engagement with others.” These marital filial strategies could help modern Chinese women and men conduct congenial filial relationships without compromising their own ideals.

Family Relations and Remarriage Post-divorce and Post-widowhood in China
(with Yang Hu)


Vol 39, Issue 8

Analyzing event history data from the 2010 China Family Panel Studies and 13 qualitative interviews, we examine the complex and gendered relationship between family relations and remarriage in China. Distinct roles are played by the presence of pre-school, school-age and adult children in configuring the remarriage of women and men after divorce and after widowhood. The remarriage of widows but not divorcées is positively associated with the presence of parents and siblings respectively. Remarriage is more likely in the presence of large extended families. Whereas single and remarried divorcé(e)s equally provide care to their children, such care provision is less likely among remarried than single widow(er)s. Compared with their single counterparts, remarried divorcé(e)s and particularly widow(er)s are less likely to receive care from their children. We underline the importance of considering the “linked lives” of family members and comparing distinct life-course circumstances in the study of remarriage. 

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