Romantic gift sparks a lucrative business

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 August, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 August, 2009, 12:00am

For Chinese romantics looking to light a flame in the hearts of their lovers, Yang Fan has the answer.

After he and his girlfriend had an argument in 2005, Mr Yang caught a firefly to woo her and apologise. When he graduated from Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan three years ago and was yearning for an opportunity to set up a business, the glowing insects provided a spark of inspiration, Xinhua reported.

Now Mr Yang breeds and sells fireflies, and Wednesday - which was Chinese Valentine's Day, or the Qixi Festival, the most romantic day of the year - proved to be a good day for him and many others tapping into a fast-growing market. How lucrative? Mr Yang has raked in more than 700,000 yuan (HK$795,000) so far selling the insects. And fireflies for lovers are still a novelty.

Business boomed for Mr Yang in the run-up to the festival. Calls flooded in from wedding companies, bars, lovers and tourist spots around the nation.

'By August 22, we'd sold all of the 27,000 fireflies we had,' he said. 'Our sales volume on Chinese Valentine's Day alone was equal to that of a whole month.'

Mr Yang said he had invested 100,000 yuan every year in the business and hired three breeders to work on a 1.33 hectare farm. He and other entrepreneurs have drawn on a recent revival of interest in traditional Chinese culture and festivals, and found a way to make a living from it.

The Qixi Festival, for example, has made a comeback among lovers who would otherwise send flowers only on February 14. It falls on the seventh day of the seventh month on the lunar calendar.

Chinese legend tells the story of forbidden love between the daughter of the Emperor of Heaven and a young cowherd. Qixi is the only night of the year the lovers are allowed to meet in the heavens. In 2006, the State Council listed the festival as an intangible cultural heritage.