China / Society

Qixi faces commercialization paradox

(Xinhua) Updated: 2012-08-22 20:34

Qixi faces commercialization paradox 

A woman buys flowers at a flower stand in Huangshan, East China's Anhui province, Aug 22, 2012. [Shi Guangdong/Asianewsphoto]


BEIJING - Florists and folklorists are debating whether China's traditional Valentine's Day is becoming too commercialized.

The annual festival, Qixi, which falls on Thursday according to the lunar calendar, is expected to be another extravagant occasion for revellers to spend money on gifts and banquets.

Business bosses and shop owners have been ready for days, as they stocked up on flowers and offered tempting discounts on chocolate bars,shoes, jewellery and dolls.

In east China's Wuxi city, a florist surnamed Liang said he has been busy for days. The owner, standing in front of his flower stand with a big smile in his face, said his busiest day is yet to come. "As always, it should be around 3 pm on Qixi, when customers are literally battling for flowers," he said.

The latest to join the Qixi gift list are fireflies sold online. Storeowners said the bottled illuminating creatures create a romantic ambivalence for the special day.

But as the Qixi gift list is growing, so are the youngsters' complaints. They accuse merciless rip-offs on this romantic day.

Fu Lei, a fresh college graduate in the IT sector in Jinan, capital of Est China's Shandong province, said that his plan to take his girlfriend to dinner on Qixi eve would cost him too much.

"One candle at our dinner table alone would cost more than my one-month electricity bill," he grunted.

But with a Qixi tradition of "cinema plus candle-lit dinner" during the past decade, the 24-year-old said he would follow suit.

But Qixi is not romantic for others. Huang Pingli, from the same city, has chosen to ignore the "over-commercialized" festival, which was listed as an intangible cultural heritage by China's State Council in 2006.

Huang dubbed a "left-over girl", was born in the 1980s and remains single. "I do not think a festival marked only by consumerism can be romantic at all," she said.

Her observation was echoed by China's folklorists, who have been frequently appearing in the media since last month.

They alleged that Qixi has become "only about money", deviating from its original value and purpose.

The 2,000-year-old festival originated from a folk tale that a fairy called Zhi Nu married a mortal called Niu Lang. Shortly after the couple had two children, the Goddess of Heaven, who was against their marriage, disrupted their life, separating them by the Milky Way after the couple went to heaven as two stars.

According to the story, magpies felt sorry for the lovers and so they fly up to the heaven every year to form a bridge. It is through the bridge that the lovers can reunite for a single night.

Moved by the story, couples who are separated by work or study, celebrate their love on the date of the lovers' annual reunion.

Folklorist Wang Hengzhan, who works with Shandong Normal University, said that Qixi is much more about courting with expensive gifts.

"It should be about the Chinese tradition of belief in love and perseverance for true love," the professor said.

But many who oppose a commercialized Qixi also confess a paradox, and said that the festival would be forgotten if there were no commercial campaigns.

"But for the advertisements plastered all around the city these days, I would not have realized that Qixi is coming," said a resident surnamed Wang in east China's Wuhu city.

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