BEIJING -- The young woman's advertisement is straight and to the point. She is 27, slender and healthy, and wants to find a college-educated husband who holds a good job. Equally important, he must stand more than 1.7 meters (5 feet, 7 inches) tall.

China is rapidly moving away from traditional arranged marriages and blushing brides. Today's young women are more assertive about finding the right mate, sometimes laying out marital requirements in magazine ads.

The country is changing in ways that often shock its older generation, and nowhere is this more evident than in the way Chinese men and women find each other and, increasingly these days, divorce each other.

But it's the women who are changing more than the men, especially in the cities. They expect and demand more from their mates. In the widely read Chinese Woman magazine, personal ads stress the importance of education, job security and height in a husband.

After the Communists took over China in the 1950s, young women thought the ideal mate was a government official or Communist Party cadre. Then, during the Cultural Revolution of 1966-76, when China was in chaos, many sought security through marriages with military men.

But now, in the era of economic reform, many women prefer husbands who earn more or who have rich overseas relatives. They also desire a husband with a college diploma, still a rare find in China these days.

One typical ad reads: "Woman, 38 in age, 1.63 meters in height, now working as head nurse of a hospital. Loves literature, has a cheerful character, divorced and living with a 15-year-old daughter. Would like to find an intellectual man under 48 in age with a height above 1.70 meters . . . . "

The Communist Party banned such ads during the Cultural Revolution because they were considered "bourgeois." Now the ads, along with increasingly popular matchmaking agencies, are a way to overcome what is called "chronic shyness" on the part of Chinese suitors.

But it's still not easy to meet potential partners. China has no singles bars. And the closest thing that young people in Shanghai have to a pickup joint is People's Park on a Saturday afternoon.

To make matters worse, the police in many locations have taken it upon themselves to watch for "immoral behavior." In Shanghai in July 1986, during a night sweep through the city's parks, the police hauled in more than 360 couples whose behavior was deemed to be "unhealthy."

Once the match is made, the couple and their families spend colossal amounts of money, by Chinese standards, on wedding gifts and festivities. In the big cities, some couples spend as much as four to five times their annual salaries -- sometimes going into debt -- in order to buy themselves expensive furniture, consumer goods and luxury items such as gold jewelry.

But no matter how much money they've saved, there is one thing money usually won't buy: an apartment for the newlyweds. Many city couples delay marriage because they're unable to find their own living quarters. Or worse, the bride may have to move in with her in-laws, in a country where it is still a tradition for the mother-in-law to assert authority over her son's wife.

But normally shy young women are becoming more assertive themselves, and this explains why 70 percent of divorce cases are initiated by women.

Family arguments are one reason for divorce, but in at least one out of four divorces, adultery is the cause. That comes as a shock to some people who consider China to be an essentially puritanical country.

Some say the divorce problem reflects a growing sense of individualism among both men and women. The individualism has been encouraged by western influences and economic reforms that reward individual effort.

There is still a strong prejudice against people who are divorced, and women are more often the target of this prejudice than men.

Even that attitude may be changing, however. A look at the men's personal ads show that some suitors no longer care if a woman has been divorced.

"Man of 34 with a height of 1.68 meters," reads one man's ad. "Unmarried, healthy, kind and with regular features. Working on a construction team with a monthly income of 140 yuan {$37.83}. Living with mother and owns five rooms. . . "

Anyone with these qualifications in China can afford to be selective. But the man shows no prejudice against divorcees.

" . . . looking for a healthy woman under 35, around 1.6 meters in height," the ad continues. "Doesn't matter if she has had a past marriage or has a child or where she is living."