Qixi Festival, also known as Double Sevens Festival or Chinese Valentines' Day, falls on the seventh day of the seven lunar month. Qixi - literally the "night of sevens" - is the nearest Chinese equivalent to the Western St Valentine's Day tradition. This year the festival takes place on August 26th and already bookings for romantic getaways are going off the scale.
Hangzhou's West Lake is the meeting place for many lovers in the myths and legends of ancient China. And because of those beautiful legends, many lovers nowadays like to be there to share their romantic moments.
Hangzhou is the capital of eastern China's Zhejiang province, also widely acclaimed as the country's "capital of love". Its romantic resonance stems from its long association with two of China's classic love stories: "The Legend of the White Serpent" and "The Butterfly Lovers".
Both stories tell of star-crossed lovers. In "The White Serpent", a young man falls in love with a beautiful girl and marries her but, unbeknown to him, she hides a dark secret - she is actually a huge white serpent disguised by a magic spell. The two lovers are then split asunder when a local monk betrays her secret.
"The Butterfly Lovers" has often been compared to the tale of Romeo and Juliet, except with a considerably greater degree of cross-dressing. Here a young woman disguises herself as a boy in order to secure an education. She spends three years sharing a room with a male classmate who never guesses her secret. She, however, falls in love with him.
When the truth is finally out, the two decide to marry, but their happiness is short-lived. The girl's father insists she marry another and the young man dies of a broken heart. The two are ultimately united when the girl visits her dead lover's tomb on her wedding day and the couple are transformed into a pair of butterflies.
Hangzhou and its environs are replete with beautiful, romantic locations, many of which provided the settings for the two classic tales of doomed love. By the West Lake, there is the Broken Bridge, supposedly the site where the snake woman first spied her lover-to-be. Tucked away on Fenghuang Mountain is the Wansong Academy, said to be the school where the two Butterfly Lovers shared a room.
Aside from its associations with these ancient love stories, the area has a number of other romantic connections. By the West Lake there is the tomb of Su Xiaoxiao, a famous beauty from the Southern Qi Dynasty (479-502). There is also the rocky plinth that was the scene of the celebrated May-December romance between a renowned writer, Su Dongpo, and a much younger singer, Qin Cao, during the period of the Song Dynasty (960-1279).
Capitalizing on these torrid tales, sensual sites and love-themed locations, the local tourism agencies have developed a variety of wedding celebration packages, including the "Rose Wedding". Organized once a year by the Hangzhou Commission of Communist Youth Leagues in China, it inevitably attracts a considerable number of young couples, as does the "Honeymoon Tour to Hangzhou", one of 14 national special travel routes approved by the China National Tourism Administration.
(From China Daily August 22, 2009)