China’s Valentine’s Day
written by Jerry Zhang
A couple of days ago I happened to find myself in an informal gathering of people working in the market research industry. There were both foreigners and Chinese. Some of them I knew as they were clients or partners, and some of them I didn’t know. While people were conversing with each other I caught myself thinking about why some foreigners could quickly connect to their Chinese colleagues and others couldn’t. It suddenly occurred to me that one of the reasons might be their knowledge of or interest in local culture and traditions since one person in the group instantly won everybody’s attention by mentioning a couple of things related to Chinese culture.
Last Thursday (23rd August) was the Chinese Valentine’s Day, called “Qi-xi” in Chinese, which is held on June 7th in the Chinese Lunar Calendar. On Qi-xi’s night, girls usually embroider some gifts for their boyfriends. They celebrate this holiday together, often by going to the countryside and gazing at stars.
There is a beautiful love story passed down from generation to generation about this traditional holiday.
The story goes that Niulang and Zhinu fell in love and got married, but their bond was met with disapproval by Wangmu, Zhinu’s mother and the queen of heaven. Niulang is viewed as the star Altair and Zhinu as the star Vega. With a swift move of her hairpin, Wangmu separated the two with a river in the sky, known today as the Milky Way.
But the queen took pity on them and gave them one night of the year to spend together. On Qi Xi Jie, the queen is said to send magpies to bridge the celestial gap between the two star lovers.
Some traditional customs are still observed in rural areas of China, but have been weakened or diluted in urban areas.
But in recent years, more and more stores and restaurants are holding activities and events during this holiday. Lots of young people celebrate it as Valentine’s Day in China.
Knowledge of such small but very important things can help you communicate more easily in China and impress your local partners and clients!