Photo taken on Aug. 13, 2013 shows a couple sitting under the starry sky in a tent beside the Dongqian Lake, east China's Zhejiang Province.(Xinhua/Hu Xuejun)
BEIJING, Aug. 13 (Xinhua) -- With flower stands lining the streets and online shopping sites awash with valentine gift commercials, Tuesday's Qixi Festival, which has recently been dubbed Chinese Valentine's Day, is not much different from its western counterpart on Feb. 14.
There is a rising perception in China that Qixi - a festival derived from an age-old romantic legend - must not be reduced to another anodyne exercise in consumerism, but rather it should be an occasion to revisit fading traditions.
Some young lovers are striving to make "Chinese Valentine's Day" more "Chinese".
"I don't want to just send roses and chocolates to my girlfriend as Chinese Valentine's gift," says Hua Junpeng, a 24-year-old graduate student in Beijing.
"I celebrate two Valentine's Days each year. I hope that I am able to use different ways to express my love, which represent two different cultures."
Unable celebrate the romantic occasion together, the two young lovers separated for the summer in their respective hometowns, Hua and his girlfriend will borrow some conceptual elements of Qixi as a way of romanticizing.
"I will chat with her online to celebrate Qixi, as if the Internet were our Magpie Bridge," Hua says.
The Magpie Bridge, in the folk legend from which Qixi originated, is the channel that enables separated lovers Zhinu and Niulang to reunite despite the obstacle of Milky Way. When a fairy named Zhinu married the mortal Niulang, the marriage enraged the goddess of heaven, who created the Milky Way to separate them. The lovers are reunited for a single night each year by magpies which fly to the heavens and form a bridge for them to cross.
Liu Xiaolong, 27, scours markets for a surprising gift for his girlfriend.
"Chinese Valentine's Day should be distinguished from the western one. I want to find my girlfriend a gift with a Chinese flavor."
Such gifts do exist, and their popularity shoots up around Qixi. For instance, bamboo-scroll love letters attract a large number of buyers on China's largest online shopping site, taobao.com.
Having a love letter you have written yourself inscribed on a bamboo scroll - used to display calligraphy in ancient China, before paper was invented - satisfies some young people's craving for personalized gifts with traditional feel.
One anonymous recipient of a bamboo billet doux commented on taobao.com, "I like it very much. A fitting gift for Qixi, memorable and easy to preserve. Much better than floral bouquet."
Events held all over China on Tuesday will explore the unique Chinese characteristics of the holiday.
A bar in Huizhou, southern Guangdong Province, posted on the twitter-like microblog, weibo.com, advertising a "romantic party on Chinese Valentine's Day".
Apart from entertainment, the party includes a needle threading competition, with a prize for most nimble fingers.
Qixi festival was traditionally a tribute to Zhinu, goddess of weaving, and for young girls to request the blessing of dexterity. The threading competition brings Qixi celebrations closer to its true meaning. Enditem (Interns Luo Wenyi, Tao Yiping contributed to the story.)