A story behind this 'I do'

These couples said "I do" in unison yesterday when a group wedding ceremony was held in traditional Han dynasty style to celebrate the Qixi Festival, or Chinese Valentine's Day, in Hengyang, in China's Hunan province.

According to the legend behind the festival, mortal cowherd Niulang fell in love with Zhinu, a fairy weaver girl. Their love was forbidden and they were banished to different sides of the Milky Way.

However, magpies took pity on them and built a bridge they could cross once a year - on the seventh night of the seventh lunar month, which is when the Qixi Festival falls every year.

While celebrations traditionally symbolise a happy marriage and show that a married woman is treasured by her new family, single people take part in the festivities too.

In Ningxiang, Hunan province, singles echo the legend by holding an event where male suitors dress as Niulang to parade their best cow past a line-up of interested women in the hope of finding their fairy partner.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 29, 2017, with the headline 'A story behind this 'I do''. Print Edition | Subscribe