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New ways of entertaining - what can be better than speed dating!

Date: 2007-02-23

Chinese youth don't seem to be too impressed by the ongoing spring festival. Bored of the traditional forms of festivities, they are looking to new ways of entertaining themselves, and what can be better than speed dating!

The country is buzzing with activity as enthusiastic youngsters convert the festival into a matchmaking session with hundreds of parties being organised across the country in an attempt to modernise the celebrations.

In one such venue at the Ditan Park in Beijing, over 2,000 gaily dressed young men and women turned up to join a dating party last Monday.

Dating parties, organised by a private company, have been taking place at this venue everyday since February 17 and will last till February 24. Those single and ready to mingle have to be above 18 years of age and holding at least a college degree..

"I went to the party because I wanted to avoid visiting some old relatives and listen to gossip. But this was my first time at a dating party and I was a little worried. It turned out that I felt comfortable precisely because I was among hundreds of total strangers," Hu Liu, a 29-year-old woman working with a Beijing-based consumer goods company said.

One of the popular dating formats is an eight-minute affair. Daters are divided into three groups and encouraged to play certain games that would facilitate conversation or touching of hands.

The idea is to encourage shy people to break down psychological barriers and mix with strangers, sources said. Entry at dating parties is free or comes at a price depending on the business model adopted by the organising company.

Some companies offer free entry while making their money out of sponsorship from wedding related businesses like marriage halls and wedding gown suppliers.

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