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August 27, 2009

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Love blossoms during Qixi Festival

ROSES, chocolates, and the first-ever romance movie made especially for China's Valentine's Day were among the choices amorous couples had yesterday for the Qixi Festival.

"Eternal Beloved," directed by and starring Yu Feihong, premiered in Beijing yesterday and is a romance that crosses between the living and the dead. It has been promoted as China's version of the 1990 Hollywood blockbuster "Ghost."

"The premier was set for Qixi because we felt the air of romance might stir up enthusiasm," said a woman surnamed Ye, with promoter Stellar Mega Film.

Fantasy flick

The story is set around a family feud and details the lives of two lovers - both their present and reincarnated lives. Its fantasy nature reflects the origins of the Qixi Festival based around the myth of Niulang, a mortal orphan cow herder, who falls in love with the heavenly being Zhinu.

Qixi, which takes place on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, originated in the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) and became popular in the Tang (618-907 AD) and Song (960-1279) dynasties.

"The only thing I know about Qixi is the love story of Niulang and Zhinu. It's not a holiday, and we often forget this traditional festival," said Yang Xue, a college graduate who came to watch the film's premier.

"Qixi is a time for roses and chocolates, just like Western Valentine's Day and my boyfriend buys me flowers or we go shopping and have a romantic meal together," Yang added.

Qixi was listed as an intangible cultural heritage by China's State Council, or Cabinet, in 2006, and has since regained popularity among young Chinese.

However, critics say it has become too commercialized with retailers offering discounts to boost sales, especially of flowers and chocolates.

A 5-meter-tall teddy bear was erected in Sun Dong An Plaza in Beijing's bustling Wangfujing Shopping Street yesterday, where thousands of "lover teddy bears" were given out to shoppers.

"We had thought of using the images of Niulang and Zhinu in promotions, but our bosses said the folk story was tragic and not suitable for the joyful atmosphere they wanted," said a woman surnamed Yin, with the mall's sales promotion division.

She said the Qixi market was still maturing and they would consider producing cartoon images of Niulang and Zhinu to decorate the shopping mall in a traditional style similar to decorations they would use for the Spring Festival, also known as Chinese New Year.


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