NANNING, Feb. 28 (Xinhua) -- On stage, girls wearing masks take turns introducing themselves, and off stage, men sitting behind two lines of desks express their interest by turning on a light on their desk.
This is a dating event held at a matchmaking service center in south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. Since opening in 2015, the center and its founder Pang Yufang have seen more than 2,000 people find love.
China has a long tradition of matchmaking. In ancient times, professional matchmakers were part of the pre-marriage ritual. They served as an intermediary between the parents of both families who made the final call.
Nowadays, matchmaking takes a more liberal form but is still prevalent on TV shows and in so-called "matchmaking corners" in big city parks, where parents display their children's personal information like age and income on cardboard signs hoping to find a suitable match.
In Pang's service center, more than 40,000 people have signed up, and some 300 volunteers work to examine and sift through the documents.
Volunteers invite guests they think are suitable for each other to an event, and another 70 to 90 people sit in the audience. Men and women take turns on stage introducing themselves and contact their ideal partner after the event.
"Our events are different from TV shows where only the guests interact, our agency often sees the guests and audience members click with each other," Pang said.
Volunteers at the center are mostly retirees like Pang, who are keen to help young people find love.
"The volunteers often bring people they know to the agency," said Pang. "And unlike online dating, face-to-face communication allows people to get to know each other better."
Pang's non-profit center first started as a personal project of the 53-year-old who served as the Party secretary of a local community in the regional capital Nanning.
Many of her neighbors, especially anxious parents looking for a partner for their children, asked her to help them because of her large network in the community.
"A friend of mine who suffered from a stroke and had difficulty walking came to me one day and asked me to find someone for her daughter," Pang said.
Anxious parents motivated Pang to set up a non-profit matchmaking agency after her retirement in 2015.
"My pension was 1,500 yuan back then, and the rent for our agency was at least 1,800 yuan," Pang said. She used her savings to run the service center and found a part-time job.
As her agency's fame grew, more people came, and they moved to a large venue in early 2018. The monthly expenses rocketed to 8,000 yuan, but Pang still refused business endorsement.
To keep the center going, Pang decided this year to charge new members 40 yuan.
"I want to keep it pure, and don't want our clients to get harassed by calls from businesses," Pang said.
For her, the love she helps new couples find is the best return on her investment. "I love when I receive calls from people telling me they are getting married and invite me to their weddings," Pang said.