30 Left-Over Women – 剩女 (shèng nǚ)

Anonymous 3

simplified Chinese: 剩女; pinyin: shèng nǚ

Left-Over Women


Chinese: 剩 (to be left over) 女 (female)

Left-Over Woman or Shèng nǚ is a Chinese slang term used for women who are still single over 27 years of age and have yet to settle down in marriage in China. In China, women appear more desirable in early adulthood, when their beauty is peaking. Shèng nǚ has a negative connotation behind it because the women are perceived as lonely, desperate, and undesirable. The government in China believes that family values are a critical part of social stability in their society. Thus, the Chinese government forcefully intervened by pressuring unmarried women with aggressive pro-marriage campaigns. Campaigns were a tactic to influence young adult women to get married, therefore it would also merge into Chinese households.

From what I understand, this left-over woman, or Shèng nǚ is seen as the bottom of the barrel of women in China according the its description. As soon as women pass the age of 27 years old, they will be subjected to direct judgment not only from the government but from their families as well.

Below is a video of a “Shèng nǚ” being interviewed by the New York Times:


In the video, the New York Times is interviewing the “Shèng nǚ.” Her body language is on the conservative side and seems to be self-convincing that dating at her age is normal. The interviewer tells the lady that her marketability in the dating world has already passed its prime years. Making the interviewee emotional.

Shèng nǚ in context can be used in situations such as:

“Is that woman eating by herself in this fancy restaurant? She must be a Shèng nǚ.”


“Kate doesn’t ever want to settle down, she’s going to be a Shèng nǚ for the rest of her life.”


“You’re 30 years old and not married? Girl you better hurry! Or you’ll be a Shèng nǚ like your older sister.”


On the other hand, many women in China are using their financial power to break the stigma of being older and single. Unmarried women in China believe they can pass the Shèng nǚ stigma by being financially independent and by being successful, creating a new outlook on non-married women in China. In this case, these women can be referred to as 裸婚 (luǒhūn) or being in a naked marriage. A luǒhūn is a woman who only focuses on financial success rather than a happy marriage. Having the label of a successor also was a big deal in China because those with a higher financial gain are seen as wealthy and powerful.

In my opinion, I believe that this stigma would not last in the West. Americans tend not to spread a negative narrative against age, which is more of an issue in the Eastern part of the world. I can see the Chinese views are about an age restriction because most people want a family, and the older you get the fewer chances you may have. However, I think that bullying an entire population of older women is not a good tactic, it would only cause mental hardship for that type of group.

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Left-Over Women - 剩女 (shèng nǚ) Copyright © 2024 by Anonymous 3 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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