The phrase "Buddha-like youth" has gone viral in Chinese social media, with people using it to refer broadly to the country's post-1990s generation, or more specifically as a joking reference to being single – and happy that way.
The phrase denotes a care-free generation that is content without the trappings of life that their parents valued, and ready to face the world with a Buddha-like detachment. What will be will be, in wealth, employment and love.
The number of single adults in China topped 200 million in 2015, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs. A report released by Alibaba Group last May said that 10 percent of Chinese singletons live alone, rather than with their family or friends.
Meanwhile, respected American sociologist Eric Klinenberg has pointed to a growing number of young Chinese choosing to stay single.
What makes this scenario a bit more stressful, however, is Valentine's Day just around the corner, or even worse, the annual family gatherings that occur during Spring Festival, when young people have to confront parents who tend to value wedlock.
For a moment, let's ponder this:
Why would you choose to be all by yourself?
1. Changing idea of marriage
With Chinese society undergoing rapid change and economic development, it is also getting more tolerant towards different ways of living. The long-held perspective that it is necessary to tie the knot is no longer so prevalent, and the sense of stigma around being single has dissipated. Singlehood has become a valid personal choice.
China's prosperous economy also translates to more and more career opportunities for women as well as men, which makes the idea that marriage is a path to security for females a tired cliché. As women are no longer bound to the traditional role of domesticity, motherhood and fertility, there is the appearance of a broken glass ceiling, which also leads to the increasing number of single females.
2."Gamophobia" led by pressure and life cost
According to 2015 research by of Zhongshan University's Social Science Academy, about 76 percent of marriageable young people remain single due to a fear of marriage, or gamophobia.
There are lots of factors fuelling this phobia.
The long-held tradition that newlyweds should acquire property collides with sizzling house prices, which to some extent deters young people from marriage. Further complicating their marriage prospects is the issue of parenting – no easy task considering the increasing cost of raising a child in China nowadays.
Apart from worries about cost of living and changes after marriage, pressure from work also keeps people single and diverts attention from marriage. Today, many are struggling in a competitive employment market, while others are under pressure from heavy workloads, overtime and frequent business trip.
The hard work not only exhausts young people but also limits their time for social activities, during which so many couples form.
3. Special companion
Singlehood is not tantamount to loneliness or having no companion. Lots of young Chinese have turned to their pets for company, a big driver of China's burgeoning pet industry. A 2016 white paper showed that the number of pet cats and dogs in China had reached 58.1 million and 27.4 million respectively, and that around 67 percent of pet owners remained single.
Not actually having a pet is not necessarily a barrier to finding solace in one. The online phenomenon known as "cloud pets" involves people admiring photos and following updates on other people's pets online, even if they don't have a furry friend themselves.