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Love in a box
Publication Date : 14-08-2013
Lovers can be boxed up for special delivery this Qixi Festival
If you are bored with receiving flowers, chocolates and jewellery for the Qixi Festival, Chinese Valentine's Day, you may get a surprise to see your loved one springing from a large carton delivered to your doorstep holding a bunch of flowers.
The "packing myself" service, a joint initiative of China's shopping website Taobao.com and courier company Zhongtong Express, will pack customers in a 1-by-1-by-1.5-metre box to be shipped to their lover's doorstep.
A Zhongtong Express employee surnamed Xue said the service was launched in seven cities--Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hangzhou, Nanjing and Chengdu.
"Each customer is charged only 0.1 yuan (2 US cents). Zhongtong Express will give customers whose loved one lives in another of the cities (mentioned above) a one-way air ticket," she said. "But the seats are limited."
Liu Bo, a Taobao sales manager in charge of the design and implementation of the service, said they sold 100 seats in three batches from August 7 to 9, and the seats sold out within seconds each time.
Experts say the initiative is a good idea because it coincides with the story behind the Qixi Festival.
According to Chinese legend, Niulang, a cowherd and Zhinu, a goddess, once a happy couple, were separated by the Milky Way, but could meet once a year when magpies fly together to form a bridge on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month.
Chinese Academy of Social Sciences sociologist Ge Daoshun said, "To some extent, the packing service, which provides airline tickets and helps lovers get together, is like the magpies forming a bridge to make the meeting between the cowherd and the goddess possible.
"The companies showed creativity coming up with the idea because it connects commerce, people's values and emotions, and Chinese tradition," he said.
Some young lovers like the idea, too. Xu Ruodi, 22, from Hubei province, said she hopes her boyfriend of four years "packs himself as a gift for me".
Xu, whose boyfriend is in Chengdu, Sichuan province, added, "What's more, it won't cost him much money."
Her only concern was that courier company boxes are not known for their beauty.
"A box containing someone's lover would be more attractive if it was decorated with colourful wrapping paper and lovely bows," she said.
But the idea doesn't stir everyone's imagination.
Yu Xiawen, 25, of Zhejiang province, who was married in June, said she doesn't buy the packing idea because it's too dramatic, like something from a TV serial.
"I'd say that if 100 people have already paid for the service, it's no longer something special or personalised.
"I'd be content if, for example, my husband bakes a cake for me. Real romance lies in daily life, not surprises," she said.
But Yu said she could understand those who paid for the service.
"If my husband and I were separated in different cities and couldn't see each other often, I might appreciate the idea, too."
Liu said 80 per cent of the customers are students or white-collar workers ages 22 to 35.
"We've designed the service to meet the demand of young people and fashionistas," he said. "Flowers, chocolates and jewellery are gifts anyone could think of. Young people want something new and personalised, something that they can't see or buy in their daily lives."
Liu said his team also introduced other ways for people to express their love for each other, such as ordering fresh flowers ahead of time from Yunnan province, the biggest flower-growing centre in China and Asia.
"By now, more than 500,000 flowers have been ordered by people across the country," Liu said.
An online survey showed the most popular gift people want for Qixi Festival is spending the special day with their lover.
The survey of 1,074 netizens aged 18 to 45 was conducted by Horizon Key, a consulting company in China.
Eighteen per cent of respondents said the gift they wanted most for the festival was to be with their loved ones--followed by "dinner cooked by my lover" ranking second, and "a trip with my lover" third most popular.
Yan Ran contributed to this story.