Sunday November 11, 2007
A special day for singles
By CELESTE FONG
SOME months ago, a friend mentioned Nov 11 as a day to observe in China.
“Remembrance Day,” I initially thought, although I was rather curious why China would mark Armistice Day, the anniversary of the official end of World War 1.
But then I found out that Nov 11 is, in China, Singles’ Day or Guang Gun Jie and is celebrated by the young Chinese.
Guang Gun Jie is not an official celebration in China but many singles tend to regard it as a special day.
However, if you question the locals about the origin of the day, most would probably not know the answer.
According to the Chinese language search portal Baidu.com, the day originated in the early 90s when college students in Nanjing first put forward the idea of having Nov 11 as the day for single people.
It says they preferred the day because the date (11.11) consists of four 1’s and when written in Arabic numerals, it looks like four single people standing together.
Nov 11 has since become a popular cultural event in campus.
Today, singlehood is no longer taboo, especially in China’s cities and metropolises like Beijing.
And like Valentine’s Day and many other occasions, Guang Gun Jie is rapidly becoming commercialised.
Just a few days ago, local newspapers carried reports about more than 10 sweet, smiling girls dressed as “Angels of Love”, flapping their white-feathered angel wings while distributing pamphlets on the Guang Gun Jie celebration and party to passers-by outside Xizhimen subway station.
More than 4,000 singles have also registered to take part in today’s Aiqing yundong hui (love sports day) at Chaoyang Sports Centre in the Chinese capital. The event is organised by Shiji Jiayuan, a Chinese online dating agency.
“What a joke! I won’t join any of these Guang Gun Jie activities,” remarked my 25-year-old local friend Jack Sheng.
“It’s more like a day for making a self-mockery of being single.
“(Guang Gun Jie is) Not a serious celebration! And now it’s so commercialised.”
Another friend laughed while confessing that he used to line up outside a Japanese restaurant for free meals on Guang Gun Jie during his university years.
“A big crowd, mostly students, flocks to the restaurant near Tsinghua University, which offers free meals on that day each year,” he said with a chuckle.
Personalities like sportsman Liu Xiang and superstar Andy Lau figure regularly in a poll of the top 10 guang gun (equivalent to an old Joe with diamonds) in China. The poll is organised by China Guang Gun Xie Hui, Beijing Guang Gun Xie Hui and China Guang Gun website.
Florists and other businesses, including pubs, also take advantage of Nov 11 to lure singles and yuppies, the big spenders on food and beverages.
But I believe Guang Gun Jie will gain more popularity and become serious business in the future given the statistics that by 2020, some 30 million Chinese men will find it well-nigh impossible to find a bride as a result of a rising gender imbalance.
For every 100 baby girls born in 2005, there were 118.58 baby boys and the gap will continue to widen, according to the State Population and Family Planning Commission.
By the way, Nov 11 is Veterans’ Day in the United States, and Remembrance Day in the British Commonwealth of nations, and in these and many other parts of the world, people commemorate those members of the armed forces who were killed in battle.