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Asia Minute: Hong Kong’s Valentine’s Day Points Out Gender Imbalance

Ron Reiring

Valentine’s Day is a western tradition. Certainly encouraged by greeting card companies, among other influences. But it’s also celebrated in many parts of Asia with a surprising twist in Hong Kong. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

A survey by Mastercard shows Hong Kong couples spend twice as much as their mainland Chinese urban counterparts on Valentine’s Day—nearly 300 U.S. dollars.

There’s another difference in Hong Kong that gets attention each Valentine’s Day.

It’s the growing gender imbalance—not about pay, but population. Single women outnumber single men and the gap is widening. According to government figures, ten years ago there were 911 males per 1,000 females. Today, that ratio is down to 852 men per 1,000 women.

The South China Morning Post reports this has resulted in rounds of speed dating that take place on Valentine’s Day.

There is a Chinese festival related to love, by the way: Qixi—a tale of star-crossed lovers.

Credit shizhao / Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons
A mural of the tale Qixi in the Long Corridor of the Summer Palace in Beijing.

It’s a familiar story, cowherd falls in love with goddess, goddess’s mother thinks her daughter can do better. Goddess is snatched up to heaven and separated from her lover by the “silver river of stars” that we call the Milky Way.

Ahh—but once a year the two can reconnect on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month. That connection comes through a magical bridge formed, for some reason, by a flock of magpies.

But still—it’s a reason for flowers.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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