China’s free online matchmaker who has brought love to over 200 couples
Lin Jingfu was an internet novice a year ago, but now has more than 75,000 people following her live-streaming channel introducing couples in rural areas
Lin Jingfu is not your average online live-streaming star in China who dances, sings or even eats in front of the camera in exchange for gifts from followers.
A year ago, 58-year-old Lin would still have considered herself an internet novice. But today, she is known as the “Hebei Rural Dama” who was more than 75,000 followers on her live-streaming account as a non-profit-making matchmaker helping to pair up rural couples.
As of this month, more than 200 couples have found love thanks to Lin’s efforts. Thirty of them have married.
“I’m the kind of person who likes to chat and laugh. I guess my outgoing personality makes me the right person for the job,” Lin said. “I believe in helping others to find love – it should be free of charge.”
Lin was a migrant worker most of her life since the age of 17, travelling across the country from Shanxi and Heilongjiang provinces to Xinjiang.
Two years ago, however, she returned to her hometown of Cangzhou in Hebei province for a more stable lifestyle and to help care for her grandchildren.
“I was bored at home and just wanted to do something for fun. I guess I’m different from other older women because I like trying new things,” she said.
Older women in China are commonly referred to as damas, a term that evokes images of large groups of women dancing in public areas to loud music. But Lin does not meet that stereotype.
On average, Lin spends at least 10 hours a day counselling her fans, sifting through their information kept in neatly handwritten notes as well as writing private messages while pairing them up.
This is on top of the household chores she carries out while caring for her two grandchildren.
“Matchmaking is a joy to me and it’s my principle to do it for free,” she said.
Lin’s livecast usually starts at 6.30am, after she prepare breakfast for her family and cleans the house. She regularly dyes her short hair black and her favourite outfit includes a green sweater and a pearl necklace, a gift from her son.
Her livecasts receive up to 200 viewers at any given minute. Although she is not doing it for the money, her fans occasionally tip her with virtual gifts that pop up as heart-shaped icons on her live-streaming screen. Lin gets about 50 yuan (US$7.90) to 300 yuan a day.
“Nothing makes me happier than to see a couple come on my live-stream to report that they are in love. They don’t need to give me virtual gifts,” Lin said. “All I want is to help people build a comfortable and loving family.”
China’s internet live-streaming industry has come under intense scrutiny in recent months after a string of scandals and mishaps, with the latest incidents including youngsters under 18 stripping online to gain viewers and a daredevil who fell to his death while scaling a high building.
In the business of live-streaming, getting more attention means earning more money from the “tips” given by fans, as well as from advertising and sponsorship revenue.
Numerous live-streaming matchmakers have emerged on Kuaishou, a live-streaming platform, since Lin came to fame, but she said many ask for cash even without successful matches.
Lin is also critical of conventional matchmaking businesses that do not operate on the internet. In her neighbouring counties, professional matchmakers, mostly elderly men, can charge single men 600 yuan merely for introducing a woman to them. If the match is successful, the matchmaker can earn 10,000 yuan.
“Those matchmakers are old and don’t know live streaming. They don’t know me either,” she said.
Lin said that the increasing numbers of people in their 30s getting divorced was “unthinkable” to her generation. Even divorced women were expecting their next husband to own a car, house and have a nice job, she said, but many men did not meet such standards, making their search for love difficult.
Not all matches go smoothly. Lin still regrets a match she made between a man and a woman living in Hebei, who broke up after living together for three months. Lin met the man seven times as the couple dated.
“I feel guilty and called them many times [after they broke up],” Lin said. “I liked the girl and thought the man was nice, but they just didn’t get along because of their different personalities. It’s such a pity.”