Qi Xi, sometimes called Chinese Valentine's Day, Magpie Festival, or the Double Seventh Festival is a traditional romantic festival in China. It take places on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month and often goes into August on the Gregorian calendar.
The story of Cowherd and Weaver Girl[change | change source]
In late summer, two bright stars can be seen on opposite sides of the Milky Way. These stars are Altair ("the cowherd", Niulang) and Vega ("the weaver girl", Zhinü). The following story is told about the two:
Long, long ago, there was an honest and kind-hearted fellow named Niulang (Cowherd). His parents died when he was a child. Later, he was driven out of his home by his sister-in-law. So he lived by himself herding cattle and farming. One day, a fairy from heaven named Zhinü (Weaver Girl) fell in love with him. She secretly came down to earth and married him. Niulang farmed in the field and Zhinü wove at home. They lived a happy life and gave birth to a boy and a girl. Unfortunately, the God of Heaven soon found this out and ordered the Queen Mother of the Western Heavens to bring Zhinü back.
With the help of celestial cattle, Niulang flew to heaven with his son and daughter. When he was about to catch up with his wife, the Queen Mother took off one of her gold hairpins and scratched a river in the sky to separate the lovers. Niulang and Zhinü have been separated on the two banks ever since. Once a year all of the magpies in the world come to build a bridge for Niulang and Zhinü to meet each other. This meeting happens on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month. Because of this, their meeting is called "Qi Xi" (Double Seventh).
History[change | change source]
Scholars have shown the Double Seventh Festival originated from the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220). Historical documents from the Eastern Jin Dynasty (AD 371-420) mention the festival, while records from the Tang Dynasty (618-907) depict the grand evening banquet of Emperor Taizong and his concubines. By the Song (960-1279) and Yuan (1279-1368) dynasties, special articles for the Qi Xi were seen being sold on markets in the capital. The bustling markets demonstrated the significance of the festival.
Traditional celebrations[change | change source]
Today some traditional customs are still observed in rural areas of China, but have been weakened or diluted in urban cities.
In the past, Qi Xi was not only a special day for lovers, but also for girls. It has been known as the "Begging for Skills Festival" or "Daughters' Festival."
In the past, girls would conduct a ceremony to beg Zhinü for wisdom, dexterity and a satisfying marriage in the future.
In some parts of the Shandong Province, young women offered fruit and pastries to pray for a bright mind. If spiders were seen to weave webs on sacrificial objects, it was believed the Weaving Girl was offering positive feedback.
In other regions, seven close friends would gather to make dumplings. They put into three separate dumplings a needle, a copper coin and a red date, which represented perfect needlework skills, good fortune and an early marriage.
Girls also held weaving and needlework competitions to see who had the best hands and the brightest mind, both important to being a good wife and mother in ancient China. Young women in southern China used to weave small handicrafts with colored paper, grass and thread. Afterwards, they competed to pass a thread through the eyes of seven needles in a single breath.
Japan[change | change source]
The Japanese version of Qi Xi is called Tanabata. It is held on July 7th. On the evening of the 7th, slips of paper are hung on bamboo trees. The notes contain desires that the person hopes will be fulfilled.