Qixi Festival: Popular Gifts, Celebrations for the Chinese Valentine’s Day

As the sultry days of August are upon us, there’s another celebration ready to heat things up, especially among lovers and couples. The Qixi Festival, also known as Chinese Valentine’s Day or the Double-Sevens Festival (because it falls on the seventh day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar — Aug 7 in 2019), is a traditional Chinese holiday that has surged in popularity in recent years.

If you happen to have someone special in your life, how should you celebrate Qixi Festival? What are some popular gifts for Qixi Festival? Here are a few ideas I’ve culled together, whether you’re making purchases or plans or just curious about this Chinese Valentine’s Day.

Qixi Festival: Popular Gifts

If there’s anyone who knows what people usually buy for Qixi Festival, it’s China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba, and here’s what they found in an article in China Daily: “Alibaba claims that the number of people searching key words such as flowers, roses, and chocolates on online shopping websites increases dramatically around Qixi.”

In other words, your Valentine’s Day standards make for excellent gifts for Qixi Festival, if you’re buying for someone special, like a girlfriend or boyfriend, husband or wife.

But the same China Daily article gives additional visual cues through the photographs included in the story.

There’s a gorgeous cake frosted in pink with special Qixi Festival greetings written on the top, which could inspire you to give your loved one a sweet surprise – a cake or dessert — for the holiday as well.

Another photo shows a boyfriend presenting his girlfriend with a gold necklace for Qixi Festival. So add jewelry – another typical gift of Valentine’s Day – to your list of possibilities.

Qixi Festival: Popular Ways to Celebrate

Have a romantic candlelit meal together

As this China Daily article notes, “Chinese people embrace their own “Valentine’s Day” Tuesday, when lovers send each other gifts or have romantic candlelit meals together.” So yes, why not make reservations for two at that restaurant in town with the breathtaking views, cozy interiors and, perhaps, a history of people getting on one knee with a ring in their hands. It may sound utterly clichéd and unoriginal, but sometimes we all crave a little something corny (and delicious!) in our lives.

And if you’re not attached yet, just gather together your closest friends – who doesn’t love an excuse for a nice meal with good company?

Long-distance lovers make contact

Qixi Festival might just be the ultimate holiday honoring anyone “going the distance” in a relationship, and that’s because of the story behind it. As I wrote earlier in Gifts for the Qixi Festival (Chinese Valentine’s Day):

The story goes that once an oxherd, Niulang, and weaving girl, Zhinu, fell in love after he caught a glimpse of her bathing and stole her clothes. Instead of getting a good slap, Niulang got lucky (literally) and got married. The couple had two kids, lived happily ever after — that is, until the heavens (or, in some stories, her mother) realized their love went against natural laws: mortals and fairies cannot marry. She was banished up to the heavens forever, some say to go back to her real job of weaving the clouds. Still, Niulang loved her so much he couldn’t stay away. On the advice of an ox, he slaughtered it (let’s hope that ox got a real good deal in heaven), dressed in its hide, and then traveled up to the heavens to see her. But — aiya! — the heavens interfered by scratching a wide river in the heavens to separate the two lovers, forcing Niulang and Zhinu to stare longingly at each other from opposite banks. Then the magpies took pity on them and formed a bridge over the Milky Way on the seventh day of the seventh moon, bringing the stars together (this also happens in the Northern night sky, when the stars Altair and Vega, representing Niulang and Zhinu, get close). Thus, you have Qixi, the Chinese Valentine’s Day.

So if you’re separated from a loved one – whether a lover, spouse, relative or friend – why not follow in the footsteps of Niulang and Zhinu and reunite for the Qixi Festival? These Chinese couples did just that, flying across the country to be together. But even if you can’t manage the trip, do a virtual meeting with a video call and let them know how much you care.

Get matched or even married

As China Daily reported:

Wang Juan with the Department of Chinese Language and Literature at Peking University, said that Qixi was for young women and girls to get together, do embroidery and pray for good needlework skills which in turn would help them find a partner.

Though people today rarely do needlework, finding a mate is still an important part of the day. Traditional, commercial matchmaking events are held in parks.

So technically, you could give matchmaking a go, whether that’s attending a speed-dating event, giving online dating a try or even “swiping right” on someone in your dating apps.

And yes, if you’re already engaged (or about to be), you could follow in the footsteps of these couples in China, who participated in a mass wedding dressed in traditional Chinese garb.

Or you could take the holiday as a chance to reminisce: “Chen Yi, in his fifties, from Changsha, capital of central China’s Hunan province, said he does not envy young people celebrating the festival, but is reminded of the good old days when he and his wife enjoyed a simple, romantic relationship.”

Do a little stargazing

Since Qixi Festival has its own celestial symbols – with the stars Altair and Vega, representing Niulang and Zhinu – you could look up at the night sky on a clear evening on or near Qixi Festival and observe the two heavenly bodies as they make their annual reunion.

And you wouldn’t be the first one, as China Daily reported:

Guo Houchi, a college student from Changsha, remembers his mother telling him stories about Qixi.

“She told me that when she was young she would go out on the night of Qixi to see the stars in the sky and try to find Niu Lang and Zhi Nu. It sounded like such a romantic way to celebrate.”

How will you celebrate Qixi Festival, the Chinese Valentine’s Day?

How to Celebrate Valentine’s When Your Boyfriend/Girlfriend Is in China

When my husband Jun and I first met each other in China, the last thing I expected was to navigate a long-distance relationship with him.

Fast-forward a couple of years to when I was in Shanghai, and my company decided to post me to their Taipei office. Just as I jumped at the opportunity, a part of me struggled. At the time, it was nearly impossible for mainland Chinese to travel to Taiwan. This chance to work in Taipei meant we’d be separated across the great Taiwan Strait – and also forced to celebrate Valentine’s Day apart for the first time.

How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day – this ever-important holiday for lovers – when your boyfriend or girlfriend is in China? How do you manage the distance and still make the holiday something special?

Here are 3 of the ways Jun and I survived our first Valentine’s Day apart:

#1: Make a virtual date

If Jun and I had been together in Shanghai, we’d have gone out for a romantic dinner for two at one of our favorite vegetarian restaurants, such as the Jujube Tree.

Of course, it was impossible for us to dine together, with him in Shanghai and me in Taipei. But we could do the next best thing – make a virtual date to talk with each other.

Back then, our only choice was the phone. But nowadays, video chat means you can have your loved one beside you (well, virtually) while you’re enjoying your Valentine’s Day dinner or evening (or anything else…hint, hint!). If you have a tablet, you could even set it up across from you at your table, turning it into a virtual table for two!

Photo by Aaron Spraggins

#2: Write them a romantic message

During my stint in Taipei, e-mail became my best friend – because it was one of the best ways for Jun and me to stay in touch every single day. E-mail was also how I sent Jun a romantic (and kind of cheesy) poem I drafted just for him.

Nowadays, with messaging apps (such as WhatsApp and WeChat) it’s even easier to send your loved one a romantic poem or message. You can even add some cute stickers, photos or images to let them know just how much you miss them.

#3: Send your loved one a care package through online shopping

When I was living in Taipei, Taiwanese style mochi – soft rice cakes stuffed with sweet fillings – became one of my favorite snacks. Because I had never had them in Shanghai, I decided to send Jun some mochi to share a little local flavor while reminding him how much I loved him.

This was a great idea in theory, but a lot of trouble in practice. I had to find the nearest post office and give up one of my lunch breaks to get there. There was also the hassle of packaging everything, getting Jun’s address written correctly (in traditional Chinese characters, which I wasn’t used to), and spending more money than I anticipated. Ouch.

Fortunately, Jun received the package. But goodness knows, it could have been lost or snarled up in customs (both of which still happen when people send things to me in China, even today). Let’s just say I was crossing my fingers and praying to the postal deities that it would arrive. 😉

Nowadays, online shopping has made shipping your Valentine’s Day care packages to China a breeze.

If you already have a Taobao or Tmall account, you don’t even need to hassle with customs. Just browse your favorite shops and buy! This is by far the least expensive option. I’m impartial to Tmall’s online supermarket (天猫超市), which guarantees next-day shipping in most major cities and has loads of delicious gifts for your loved one, including imported chocolates and wine. Also, if you choose a reliable provider like Tmall’s online supermarket, you can be confident your package will arrive on time.

But of course, Taobao and Tmall are all in Chinese, and require users to have a Chinese bank account or credit card to use them. Can’t read Chinese? Can’t open an account? No worries.

One option is to find a Taobao agent, such as Taobao Focus, who will shop for you for a small fee. But if you’d prefer to do your shopping on your own, in English, you can still send a romantic care package to China through Gift Baskets Overseas.

Gift Baskets Overseas offers a variety of Valentine’s Day gift baskets – yes, including chocolates and wine – with listings in English, all backed by their 100 percent satisfaction guarantee. (If you’re not 100 percent satisfied with your order, they will either make it right or refund your money. How cool is that?) Gift Baskets Overseas takes care of everything and ships to 317 locations in China, covering just about anywhere your loved one would be.

(As a full disclosure, I am an affiliate for Gift Baskets Overseas. But I wouldn’t recommend them if I didn’t absolutely believe in their products and service.)

If you’d like to make a Valentine’s Day purchase through Gift Baskets Overseas, I’m offering my readers a special 13% discount off all Valentine’s Day gift baskets (including those with wine and chocolate). Just use the code VAL13 when you’re checking out.

Regardless of how you choose to celebrate, wishing all of you a wonderful Valentine’s Day!

Interview with Shannon Young on Her Memoir “Year of Fire Dragons”

Year of Fire Dragons

When you love someone from another culture and country, there’s a chance you’ll end up in a long-distance relationship. But what if you thought the long distance was over, only to discover you would have to be divided for another year?

That’s what happened to Shannon Young, an American who fell for a British man while studying abroad in England who she described as “my very own Mr. Darcy, except…talkative—and half Chinese.” But after she moved to Hong Kong to finally be together with him, he suddenly gets transferred to his company’s London office for a year, leaving Shannon all alone. Year of Fire Dragons details the life-changing year she spent in Hong Kong while continuing a long-distance relationship with her boyfriend. It’s a beautifully written story about how far people will go for love — and the unexpected joys that come when things don’t work out as planned.


Longtime readers may already remember Year of Fire Dragons from Shannon Young’s lovely guest post titled My Very Own Mr. Darcy, Except Talkative And Half Chinese. She also edited the fantastic anthology How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit? True Stories of Expat Women in Asia (which I’m honored to be a part of). I’m excited to once again feature Shannon Young and Year of Fire Dragons on Speaking of China.

Shannon Young
Shannon Young

Here’s Shannon’s bio from Blacksmith Books:

Shannon Young is an American twenty-something living in Hong Kong. She is the editor of an anthology of creative non-fiction called How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit? True Stories of Expat Women in Asia and the author of a bestselling Kindle Single called Pay Off: How One Millennial Eliminated Nearly $80,000 in Student Debt in Less Than Five Years. She has written e-books including a novella, The Art of Escalator Jumping, and a travel memoir, The Olympics Beat.

She writes a blog called “A Kindle in Hong Kong” and is an active member of the Hong Kong Women in Publishing Society. Originally from Arizona, she likes to read, travel and spy on other people’s books on the train.

You can learn more about Shannon Young at her author website as well as her blog.

I asked Shannon about everything from her thoughts on Hong Kong and managing a long-distance relationship to how her family’s ties to the city made her feel more at home there.


What inspired you to write this memoir?

Originally I just wanted to write about Hong Kong. The place itself inspired me, and writing became a way to catalogue and make sense of my experiences. But as I got further into the manuscript I realized I wanted people to actually read it. It became clear that I’d need to include my personal story to appeal to readers because that’s what appealed to me in the travel memoirs I read. Far away locations can be interesting, but a personal story that resonates with the experiences of real people is far more compelling. As I slowly opened up about my own life, it became easier to understand the growing process I was going through at the time. Writing the memoir morphed into a way to make sense of my feelings, perhaps even more than my surroundings, during a pivotal stage in my life.

You followed Ben to Hong Kong so the two of you would finally be together and then, after a month, he leaves you there to take a position in London. You couldn’t afford to chase after him because you had already committed yourself to a job in Hong Kong that would help you pay off your $80,000 student loan debt. Could you share with us some of your hopes and fears that came to mind when you said goodbye to Ben that fateful afternoon in September?

I was probably too optimistic for my own good. I thought the whole experience would be easier than it was, and didn’t realize how much turmoil I would end up feeling over the course of the year. I felt alone and disconnected in those first moments, but not as much as when the months dragged on and being together seemed less and less likely. The chances of the whole thing not working out were much greater than I let myself acknowledge at the time.

One of the love stories in your memoir follows your own relationship with the city of Hong Kong and how it unexpectedly charms you in so many ways. What was the most surprising thing about Hong Kong that you came to cherish?

I didn’t expect to love the energy so much. I’m a fairly reserved, introverted type, and it was surprising how much I loved the opportunity to be on the go and to see all sorts of different people around me every day. Hong Kong is enchanting, and living in such a vibrant city was more stimulating than I expected.

Your own family has an interesting connection to Hong Kong because your grandparents lived there for a period of time and your father was born there. How did your family’s ties to Hong Kong influence how you felt living alone there as well as your feelings about your relationship with Ben?

Hong Kong wasn’t 100% foreign to me, and I think that helped. I grew up hearing stories about Hong Kong and, although I never expected to live here, it had always been on my radar. I still meet people in the US who think Hong Kong is in Japan or who don’t understand the difference between Hong Kong and Mainland China, and that was never an issue for me. During my childhood, my dad used to talk about how much he’d like for us to move to China. He’d studied Mandarin and he had fond memories of his childhood in Asia. The prospect of an international life wasn’t as scary to me as it might be for someone whose family has always lived in the same town. Once I actually moved, it was encouraging to know that other people in my family had done it first. I even had the letters my grandma wrote home while she was living here in the late 1950s, and I’ve included excerpts in Year of Fire Dragons as a counterpoint to my own journey in Hong Kong. As for Ben, his stories about Hong Kong are guaranteed conversation starters around my relatives!

While in Hong Kong, you decide to buy a wedding dress, even though you weren’t certain if or when you would be getting married. You write, “I’d taken enough risks for Ben already. What was one more gamble that everything would work out?” Do you think that this kind of confidence is an example of how long-distance relationships can be a positive experience?

I think so. Looking back I’m still a little surprised I did that. It comes back to me being maybe a little too confident for my own good. On the other hand, long-distance relationships are difficult enough and you have to be hopeful and confident about your prospects in order for them to work. That kind of positive attitude can help carry you through the tougher times. I am lucky it turned out well, and the dress still fit me on my wedding day!

Now that you’ve survived a long-distance relationship, do you have any advice for anyone out there in the same situation? What do you think it takes to make a long-distance relationship successful?

Communication is absolutely the most important part of a relationship, especially a long-distance relationship. You have to be honest with each other about your concerns and feelings. It makes it much easier to trust the other person when you feel you can talk to them about anything, and without trust it won’t work at all. I think it’s also helpful to make plans for the end of the long-distance period, even though my own plans were thwarted a few times.

What do you hope readers come away with from your memoir?

I hope they’ll come away with a sense of optimism from my journey, and a reassurance that even during a tumultuous time like your early twenties, things can turn out better than you ever imagined possible. I also hope they’ll be as enchanted by Hong Kong as I am after reading about my adventures here!

Thanks so much to Shannon for this interview about Year of Fire Dragons! You can learn more about Shannon Young at her author website as well as her blog. Year of Fire Dragons is available at Amazon.com, where your purchase helps support Speaking of China.

Guest Post: The Unexpected Benefits of Long Distance Relationships

What happens when you fall in love with someone from another country, and geography gets in the way? When you’re separated by time zones and international borders and even oceans, counting on those Skype video chats to get you through? Does it always mean hardship or, worse, heartbreak? 

Marghini, who writes the lovely blog The Love Blender, survived a long-distance relationship (LDR) — and discovered the unexpected joys that come from loving someone from afar. 

Do you have something worth sharing here at Speaking of China? We’re always looking for great guest posts — check out the submit a post page to learn how you can see your writing published here!


Marghini and Mr. B.

We hear how Long Distance Relationships (LDR) are so hard all the times. The internet is full of suggestions, tips and tricks to survive through the awfulness of Long Distance Dating and most people state they would never ever accept to be in a LDR because they just need that physical presence that a LDR denies to lovers. Couples that are entering a LDR get comprehensibly worried and start frantically reading all the available materials about how to overcome the terrible hardship they are about to face.

Truth is, Long Distance Dating is not always so terrible: if anything, sometimes LDR can even be pretty good. No one ever talks about the bright side of Long Distance Dating and this contributed to generate a negative stigma around it. However, if a couple is healthy and solid, dating on a distance for a while can have a positive effect on both parties and strengthen the relationship all-around.

Around one year into my relationship with my boyfriend, I had to move back to Milan to complete my Master Degree, while he stayed in Beijing to work. We long-distance dated for over a year, until I graduated from my program and I joined him in Hong Kong, where he had moved to in the meantime. Sure, when we reunited we were both happy to be together again. However, in our case the distance did not turn out to be a big challenge and we navigated through that separation with relative ease. Not that just that: it was a great time for our relationship and we still cherish lots of memories from that period as some of the best of our life. I don’t think we are any different from many other couples out there and we didn’t do anything special to manage our separation: everyone can benefit from a LDR if it is approached with the right mindset.

First of all, Long Distance Dating is a great way to develop trust within the couple. A good dose of distance is a great trust-building experience for a healthy relationship: you have to trust your partner in this, otherwise it will never work out and it will drive you both crazy. Obviously this only works if the relationship does not have previous trust-related issues, in which case a LDR is probably a bad idea.

On top of that, a LDR gives you a lot of free time that you would spend with your partner otherwise. That allows you to cultivate hobbies, workout, learn foreign languages, hang out with friends and be awesome at your studies/ job. What a great chance! I firmly believe that we can only be amazing partners if we are amazing individuals first, and this is the perfect situation to actually put this principle into effect. At the beginning of a relationship we all tend to get a bit obsessive about spending a ton of time with our partner and doing everything together, but in the long run that is usually not the healthiest balance for a couple. A LDR forces you to be autonomous, gives you plenty of time to grow as a person and creates independency within the couple. Once the distance is over, you will both benefit from this, I promise!

Moreover, don’t forget how awesome it is to visit each other and spend time together during the separation! That is probably my favorite positive side of a LDR. When I think about the year my boyfriend and I spent apart, I remember blissful weekends, romantic strolls holding hands and amazing candlelight dinners. In between visits our desire to be together grew incredibly strong and as soon as we could see each other it felt like pure heaven. When you have limited time to spend together you really cherish it: special dinners, romantic trips and so on. Unfortunately, when you live in the same city (or in the same house) and you have a lot of chances to see each other, it is so easy to forget about the quality of the time you spend together: you end up glued to your smartphone during a supposedly romantic dinner or just watching television in total silence after a tiring day at work. When you are in a LDR this does not happen, as you really cherish the time you spend with your partner and put an effort in to make it special. When I think about my LDR, I actually miss the excitement that preceded our meetings and the absolute bliss of being together after such a long separation.

Let me just get this out: I am not trying to say that a LDR will be easy and pleasant for everyone. I am sure the way people deal with it has a lot to do with individual personalities and some may have it much harder than I did. However, I think it is good to put things in perspective and let people know that for some of them it may be tough, but for others it could very well be a positive experience.

I hope my story of Long-Distance Dating could provide a positive case study and take away some of the stigma that was placed over LDR. For me and my boyfriend Long Distance Dating was a good choice and it had a lot of positive effects on us. When the distance was over, our relationship was stronger than ever, because we used the separation as a chance to develop ourselves, cultivate our trust in each other and fall in love even more deeply, if possibly. That year taught us a lot about us as a couple and improved our relationship in ways we didn’t expect.

Often we don’t have a choice when it comes about separating from our partner; we just have to accept it as a temporary compromise. However, we have power over our attitude and we can choose how to live the experience of Long-Distance Dating. You can look at it as an opportunity of growth, enjoy the process and learn from it. Otherwise you can focus about the negative side, complain, cry and suffer through every second of it. Which option sounds better to you?

marghiniMarghini is an Italian Interior Designer, a nomadic soul and a cat lady. After living in Milan, Copenhagen, Beijing and Hong Kong, she is currently based in Taipei. She likes Japanese literature, swing music, urban gardening and her cross-cultural boyfriend. She writes about expat life, cross-cultural relationships and Third Culture Kids at The Love Blender.


Speaking of China is always on the lookout for outstanding guest posts! If you have something you’d like us to feature, visit the submit a post page for details — and then submit yours today.