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.