HANGZHOU -- Growing up with more diverse values than previous generations and in a more competitive society, many Chinese urban youths are getting married later -- either willingly or reluctantly.
Zhang Sijia, 32, does not see marriage or fatherhood in his immediate future despite pressure from his parents.
"At this stage, the most important thing for me is career development," said Zhang, who works in a state-owned company in Hangzhou, capital of east China's Zhejiang Province.
The latest statistics released by Chinese local civil affairs departments show a growing trend -- a rise in the age of marriage among Chinese urbanites like Zhang.
Last year, the number of newly registered marriages in Hangzhou reached over 65,600. The average age of men and women at first marriage was around 29 and 27, respectively, around a year increase compared with 2014.
The trend is shared in other cities, in particular the developed coastal cities. In east China's Jiangsu Province, the average age of residents at first marriage was postponed to 26 in 2017, an increase for the third consecutive year.
According to China's law, the minimum legal marriage age for men is 22, and for women it is 20.
"Getting married later is a common phenomenon in the world. China is no exception with rising age at first marriage," said Zhang Juwei, a demographer with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
China had around 170 million single adults of marriageable age in 2013, according to a report from Southwest Securities.
The shift is driven by a trend of delaying or opting out of marriage entirely, a rising divorce rate and a profound change in young people's perceptions of remaining single.
Zhang Juwei attributes the rising marriage age to reasons such as spending a longer time in education and the rising cost of living in cities.
"At the same age, our parents may have tied the knot, but we still pursue studies at college," said Qiu Ruimin, a fresh college graduate in her twenties.
She said that she will not put marriage and children on the agenda until she is able to afford an apartment and handle the high cost of raising children in Hangzhou.
Mi Hong, executive director with the Institute for Population and Development Studies at Zhejiang University, says diversified attitudes toward love and marriage is another reason for rising marriage age among urbanites.
"I've got used to being single. I can look after myself well, travel anywhere I want and befriend anybody I like. Marriage becomes not that important," said Yin Yuan, a college teacher.
However, delayed marriage has its negative side. Zhang Juwei pointed out that it means a falling birth rate, a decreasing working population and the speeding of an aging society.
In a culture that places value on family, Chinese parents are often deeply involved in their children's marriage. But many parents are gradually accepting their children's diversified attitudes and lifestyles.
Zhang had to go on blind dates arranged by his parents every weekend before he had the courage to tell them what he thought.
"I told them young people no longer just want someone to marry, they want a relationship based on love," he said. "Finally, they agreed to respect my choice."