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'Valentine's' festival a long one for Xihe people

By Cheng Yingqi | | Updated: 2013-08-07 18:56

You may already have a gift chosen to please your sweetheart on Qixi, the coming Chinese Valentine's Day on Aug 13, whether it be chocolate, flowers or diamonds.

The choice is not so easy for men living in Xihe, Gansu province, as women there strictly follow the ancient custom, in which the festival lasts seven days and eight nights, from the first to the seventh day of the seventh lunar month.

On Aug 7, the first day of the seventh lunar month this year, the China Xihe Qiqiao Culture Summit Forum was held in Beijing.

The Qiqiao Festival (an alternate name of Qixi) in Xihe has a history as long as 2,000 years. The seven-day ceremony includes god worship, singing and dancing and handcraft making.

In 2008, Xihe Qiqiao was included on the national intangible cultural heritage list. Local government has held the annual summit forum since 2009.

"Xihe is the origin of the Qiqiao culture," said Sun Xuetao, Party chief of Longnan, which administers Xihe.

Sun said the local government holds the forum to promote a more gender-equal society.

"Through discussion of the cultural meaning of this festival, we hope women will become more independent, enjoy more freedom and will play a diverse role in society," he said.

The Xihe Qiqiao Festival is only for unmarried women, and helps them build confidence, said Yuan Li, an expert on folklore from the Chinese National Academy of Arts.

Xihe is one of the few places in China that strictly follow the girls-only tradition of Qiqiao. In most cities, it is regarded as a festival for couples.

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