ZHOUQU, Gansu, Aug. 16 (Xinhua) -- Without chocolates, roses or a candlelight dinner, Ren Wenbin and Li Jin spent Qixi Festival, dubbed "China's Valentine' s Day", huddling in a tent, eating instant noodles in Zhouqu County, which had been leveled by China's worst mudslide in decades.
The young couple, both taking part in the disaster relief effort, are working with the public security bureau of Zhouqu in northwest China's Gansu Province. They rushed to the mudslide-devastated zone only one week after they joined the security bureau.
"I've never imagined that we would spend our first 'Valentine' s Day' this way," said the 23-year-old Li, who has been with Ren for two years.
"If it hadn't happened, I would've hung out with her today. I haven' t even bought her a rose before. I planned to make up for that lapse today," said Ren, five years older than Li.
Qixi, which is the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, fell on Aug. 16 this year.
The festival started in the Han Dynasty about 2,000 years ago to eulogize a legendary love story between Niulang, a herder, and Zhinu, a fairy weaver girl. As their romance infuriated the goddess of Heaven, they could only meet once a year on a bridge formed by magpies on Qixi.
On this special day, which is supposed to be full of sweet remembrances,Li could not help but think about her best friend, who died in the disaster on Aug. 8.
The massive mudslide destroyed the office building and residential building of the county's public security bureau and killed 14 policemen and 35 other police family members.
Sadness haunted Li every night during the past week. "I can't believe she has left me. I even wanted to call her yesterday," Li said.
When she felt almost stricken by grief, she would text messages to her boyfriend on her cell phone about her friend. "Without him, I couldn't go through this pain," Li said.
The couple has decided to postpone their wedding ceremony, which was scheduled in the New Year of 2011. They have not yet thought of a new date.
In Zhouqu, many people will never again have a date with their beloved on Qixi, as the catastrophe claimed 1,254 lives while 490 remain missing as of Monday.
Couples in other parts of China have extended their best wishes to Zhouqu mudslide victims while celebrating the romantic festival.
In a lover's carnival Monday in the coastal resort of Beidaihe in north China's Hebei Province, 100 couples, lying on the ground, made a large heart-shaped design as a sign of sympathy for the people of Zhouqu. Money was also raised for victims of the disaster.
Just one day prior to Qixi, Chinese citizens stood in silent tribute to victims of Zhouqu, when the national flag across the country and at the embassies and consulates overseas was lowered to half-mast and public entertainment was suspended
China observed a three-day national mourning period after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, and one-day of national mourning after the Yushu quake in Qinghai Province on April 14 of this year.