All the single guys! All the single guys! All the single guys! Now put your hands up, up in the club, just broke up, I’m doing my own little thing….
This refrain is the modern day tune with its roots in a 1993 party at the Nanjing University dorm-room, Mingcaowuzhu (All Single Men), where 4 lads danced the night away on the 11th day of every November in celebration of their singleness. Perhaps this was the same dorm from which, in 1970, Mu Guangkun (Guang Gun), would ascend to the rooftop on every 11 November, in order to light candles and play the flute to his long lost love?
These are the legendary beginnings of what is now one of China’s most celebrated festivals, the Double 11 Singles Day Festival. Starting out as a symbolic way to celebrate “Bachelor’s Day” (as it was formally known), the concept spread quickly around China and soon became a day to not only celebrate singleness, but also a day to proclaim one’s love to a special person.
1 represents: individual, alone, a single person
11 represents: finding love (the only “one” for me)
11:11 represents: celebrating two separate couples finding each other on the special date
As it is with things sacred and symbolic in our modern world, singles day is now an excuse for everyone to shop until they drop. Alibaba officially patented “双十一” turning Singles Day into the largest shopping bonanza in the world, with in 2016, a record 120.7 billion in purchases.
As an excuse for people to party, have a good time, and even pay for their meals themselves (as a way of showcasing independence), Guanggun Jie (光棍节; Singles Day) certainly is an event worth revving up and getting excited about.
Phone’s blaze during the weeks leading up to the event, with barrages of text messages promoting deals. In years gone past, devotees were known to stay up late until midnight, only to be let down by the seller at 12:05 with the devastating news that what they wanted had sold out in under 2 minutes! Such problems have now been resolved, making Singles Day 2017 a smooth ride.
All is not so rosy however; “Guangun Jie” can translate as “bare branches” or male bachelors. Due to China’s gender imbalance, with over 60 million single men every year may never finding a partner, is this a day worth celebrating or condemning? In China’s 2017 it would seem it is still a day worth celebrating, after all, Nanjingers have money to spend!
Unlike the physical punch-ups and stampedes of Black Friday events in the West, perhaps the only problem with mass online shopping is the impending crash of the main site Taobao, that will no doubt happen multiple times throughout the day. Other than that it will be full steam ahead for every shop, mall, restaurant and bar in China.
So, what do you have in your basket?