By Emma Li
The Explainer is where we explain an aspect of Chinese life. Simple. So now you know.
Think of May 20 as young netizens’ Valentine’s Day. This is in addition to the other two lovers’ days that people celebrate in China: traditional Chinese lovers’ day, qixi, (七夕) on lunar July 7, and Western Valentine’s Day on February 14.
“5.20” originated from the internet, as many things do. And like many other internet terms, this one is based on pronounciation. The Chinese pronounciation for “five two zero” (wu er ling) sounds like “I love you” (wo ai ni). Recently, people are also involving the next day in the gimmick, 5.21, which sounds like “I do” or “I am willing.”
Image via DKNB
In China, many holidays are a craze, official or not, and this one is no exception. According to QQ News, roses that normally sell for RMB3 each are around RMB20 on this special day. Imported roses are often over RMB300 each across city flower shops, and that’s for a single rose!
Images via China News
Thinking of getting married on May 20? Good luck with that. In Shanghai, the government office for marriage certificates opens at 8am, but couples started lining up as early as 6am in the past on May 20. In Zhengzhou, a city in Henan province, hundreds of couples lined up outside the city’s marriage registration office, waiting to make it ‘official’ on this unofficial holiday.
Image via Weibo
May 20 is a day to show a special someone you care, but maybe you’ve decided that roses are too expensive or mainstream.
Here are some inspirational alternatives netizens came up with to personalize their act of love.
This man mailed himself as a package to his girlfriend's house. His “wrapping” was a Santa costume (who knows why...) and he stuck a package receipt onto his chest. The delivery man even called the recipient, insisting that she pick up her package herself.
Image via Sohu
Here, a male cosplayer dressed up as a sperm cell for his girlfriend. Subtle, no?
Image via Bastille Post
This last marriage proposer met his girlfriend at a hot dog shop while traveling in Thailand. Turned out they were from the same city, so they became friends and eventually lovers. He proposed by spelling out "I love you" with hot dog buns. Who could say no to that?
Image via Sohu
To all you singles out there: fear not, China also has a singles’ day dedicated to you on November 11.
This article was originally published on Thatsmags.com in May 2016. It has been updated and republished on May 20, 2019.
[Cover image via Pai Hang Bang]
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This article was originally published in April 2015 by our sister magazine That's Shanghai, it has been updated and republished on April 28, 2018. For more articles like this, visit the That's Shanghai website, or follow the That's Shanghai WeChat account (ID: Thats_Shanghai).