Tue, February 14, 2012
Lifestyle > Society > Valentine's Day 2012

Artificial roses deliver real love for Valentine's Day

2012-02-13 12:47:24 GMT2012-02-13 20:47:24(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

YINCHUAN, Feb. 13 (Xinhua) -- Qian Fang believes she will experience a very romantic Valentine's Day this year, as the roses she made with her own hands will be used by thousands of people to proclaim their love or propose marriage.

When the wheelchair-bound woman and her husband -- both without a steady job at the time -- started selling handmade fabric flowers in 2008 in the city of Yinchuan in northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, they rarely sold more than five flowers a day.

Without a business permit, she had to be careful to avoid urban management authorities, who might fine her or confiscate her flowers. Qian said she was broke and had nowhere to turn at the time.

Qian got a break in May 2011, when she complained about her flowers being confiscated on Weibo.com, a popular Chinese microblogging site.

Her post caught a great deal public attention, with netizens accusing urban management authorities of being "cold-blooded" for not offering help to the disabled.

Under great public pressure, local urban management authorities visited the couple and promised to help them establish legal sales channels.

Since then, Qian has been able to sell flowers on the city's vehicle-free promenade undisturbed, although she still has no business permit.

"Thanks to the netizens, life has become easier for me," said Qian.

The 36-year-old woman was left with paraplegia after suffering a spinal cord injury when she was just one year old. Although she has been forced to depend on a wheelchair ever since, she was able to get a bachelor's degree and run a bookstore after graduating.

Her bookstore later went out of business due to competition from online bookstores, leading her to seek out and obtain website maintenance and psychotherapy qualifications. However, she still had a hard time making ends meet.

"I learned to make flowers through an online tutorial and thought I could make my life more comfortable by selling them," said Qian.

Her roses became an online hit after she posted photos of the handmade flowers on her microblog. Qian makes roses, lilies, daisies and other flowers out of cotton flannel and sells each for just 5 yuan (0.8 U.S. dollars), even offering custom bouquets.

Qian originally planned to sell the roses on the street, but a cold snap that swept Yinchuan last week kept her at home.

"I was almost frozen stiff in my wheelchair and very few people glanced at my roses," Qian said.

Several of her microblog readers placed orders, but the biggest offer came from a local branch of China Mobile, one of China's largest telecom companies, which ordered 1,000 of the flowers for a Valentine's Day promotion.

"We noticed Qian Fang via her microblog and were touched by her story. We hope the roses can remind lovers to extend their love to those who need help," said Duan Xiaoyuan, a representative from the company.

Sheer sympathy has not been the only motivation for Qian's customers, as many have professed admiration for Qian and her husband's relationship.

Qian met her husband Wei Xiaobing in 1998, when he was an art major and frequent customer of her bookstore.

Although Wei's family initially opposed their marriage for fear that Qian would be a burden on Wei, he chose to resign from his job to take care of her while she taught herself about computer science and psychology.

Every day, Wei gets up at 5 a.m. to cook, clean and help Qian take a shower before taking her out in the wheelchair.

"He is like air and sunlight for me -- indispensable," Qian said.

Her husband's biggest wish at the moment is to raise enough money to buy a powered wheelchair for Qian.

"A wheelchair costs more than 10,000 yuan, but we only receive 300 yuan in government subsidies each month. I will have to save up for a long time," said Wei.

He said with a powered wheelchair, Qian will be able to move freely on her own and I can find a job.

"As a florist, I wish every day was Valentine's Day, so I could sell more flowers. However, lovers can treat each day as Valentine's Day if they've found their 'Mr. or Mrs. Right'," she said.

Qian and her husband don't plan on applying for a business permit or opening a shop to sell the handmade flowers, as they cannot afford to pay for taxes and rent. However, Qian says she's going to keep seeking out customers and making her flowers.

"I hope I can keep finding customers online," said Qian.

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