Traditionalists may be sticking to flowers and chocolates this Valentine's Day, but young lovers in Shanghai are taking a far more radical approach.
Cosmetic surgery clinics in the city are reporting a boom around February 14, with people paying for their partners to go under the knife or surprising their loved ones with new features of their own.
Three couples, patients at the Shanghai Art Plastic Cosmetic & Esthetic Surgery, have even asked for matching features: Two have chosen similar noses and the third want identical eyes.
Liu Yan, 24, and her 28-year-old boyfriend had matching nose jobs on the same day a fortnight before Valentine's Day. The two operations cost more than 10,000 yuan (US$1,200).
"I suggested it as a way of celebrating our relationship and bringing us closer together with a special kind of bond," said Liu. "My boyfriend loved the idea and paid for the whole thing; we're very happy with the results."
Liu Chunlong, head of the surgery which performed the operations, said business from 20-somethings had risen 30 per cent since February 4.
"A lot of our patients, especially the women, have been telling the doctors their surgery was an early Valentine's present from their husband or boyfriend they seem really pleased with their gifts," said Liu.
Elsewhere, the Shanghai ConBio Plastic and Laser Surgery Hospital is offering a Valentine's Day surgery package featuring reduced prices.
The Shanghai Kinway Plastic & Cosmetic Surgery is seeing twice its usual number of patients and is fully booked until mid-March.
Eyes and noses are the most popular for surgery, with prices ranging from around 3,000 yuan (US$370) for a "double-eyelid" procedure to about 20,000 yuan (US$2,500) for a nose job.
Breast augmentation, a favourite in the West, sets patients in Shanghai back about 35,000 yuan (US$4,400).
Although illegal until the early 1980s, plastic surgery is now a multi-billion dollar industry, spurred in part by TV shows such as "Lovely Cinderella" which offer surgery as prizes.
According to Xinhua News Agency, the country is home to a million plastic surgery clinics, employing 6 million people.
However, surgery is far from risk free. The China Consumers Association has said there are an average of 20,000 complaints of disfigurement as a result of cosmetic operations each year.
(China Daily February 13, 2006)