(Sept 4): Singles Day (Nov 11) is still a way off, but China’s Valentine’s Day (Qixi) has just passed. Both events provide some insights into the changing nature of married and unmarried life in China.

Singles Day is a modern commercial construct designed to sell products. It is called Singles Day, not because it is aimed at unmarried people, but because the four ones in the date — 11/11 — are all “singles”. It is clever marketing.

Qixi, or Qiqiao, Festival, has a longer tradition, dating to the Han dynasty, and is referenced in the Three Hundred Songs, or Shijing. Like many traditions, it has become commercialised. The day comes from a traditional love story — between Zhinu, a weaver girl, and Niu lang, a cowherd. Their love was not allowed, so they were banished to opposite sides of the Silver River. Once a year, on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, a flock of magpies would form a bridge to reunite the lovers for one day.

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