Romance blossoms on Chinese Valentine's Day

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 August, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 August, 2006, 12:00am

Mid-summer is usually the low season for the floral industry, but Shanghai flower vendors saw a surge in orders yesterday with the arrival of the Chinese equivalent of Valentine's Day.

One online flower and gift company said orders were much higher than normal for this time of year. 'We are very busy this afternoon as our staff rarely handle this volume of business,' a representative said.

According to legend, a cow herder and his weaver lover are reunited each year on the seventh day of the seventh month in the lunar calendar in a festival known as Qixi, or the Night of Sevens.

The story has inspired lovers for generations and now generates revenue for florists and travel agents.

One tourist spot in Anhui promoted its romantic credentials with an advertisement in the Shanghai Morning Post. 'We have a Love Valley and it has an adventurous but happy-ending story. Come here to have more chances for love,' the advertisement read.

In Jinan , Shandong province , department stores have been selling gold sculptures of Chinese couples dressed in traditional wedding clothes.

Zeng Qi , a 23-year-old computer engineer in Shanghai, went for a more modern approach, spending 300 yuan on 99 red roses for his girlfriend.

But Qixi still has some stiff competition in the popularity stakes from Valentine's Day.

A flower vendor told the Shanghai Morning Post that business was not as busy as that recorded on February 14 and roses were priced lower.

'Some young people are not aware which day is Chinese Valentine's Day. And flowers are not easy to preserve in summer,' the vendor said.

The last day of Spring Festival is also celebrated by some as Chinese Valentine's Day. Academics described the commercial activities surrounding Qixi as cynical.

'It's nonsense. It's not China's Valentine's Day and China doesn't have such a day,' Liu Tieliang , a folklore professor from the Beijing Normal University, said.

'[Qixi] is a traditional festival and it features elements of agricultural society. It emphasises feudal society's family values, not just love, and has its own customs.'