Qixi Festival: Chinese Valentine’s Day
Qixi Festival, Chinese Valentine’s Day, is a special day of romance and sweetness for those who are in love. It is also the only day of reunion for the Cowherd and the Girl Weaver, a man- fairy couple from a Chinese legend, who met with each other on the Magpie Bridge in the moonlight.
The seventh day of the seventh lunar month of the lunar calendar is called Qixi. Because the main activity on this day is qiqiao ( a ritual ceremony to pray for smartness and skillfulness), and the participants in the rite are mostly women, it is also called Qiaoqiao Festival or Girl’s Day. As one of the traditional festivals, Qixi has been passed down for thousands of years, which demonstrates Chinese people’s longing for love and passion in life.
Qixi Festival dates back to the Han Dynasty. In ancient China, when it was Qixi Festival, women would call on their bosom friends, show their thread work to each other, and pray for their families to be happy and for good luck.
The origin of this festival comes from the worship of nature and the stars. Later this is incorporated into the legend of the Cowherd and the Girl Weaver, and thus Qixi became a festival for love.
In the legend, there was an orphan, named Dong Yong. He lived together with an old ox,
and was thus called Cowherd. One day, the Girl Weaver, one of seven sister fairies, and her sisters danced and bathed in a river. The Cowherd met the Girl Weaver unexpectedly, and the two fell in love and soon became husband and wife. After marriage, the Cowherd did the farm work and the Girl Weaver engaged in spinning and weaving, raising their daughter and son. Unfortunately, their marriage did not obtain permission from the Fairy Mother Queen, mother of the Girl Weaver. Instead, the Fairy Mother Queen demanded the Girl Weaver to end her relationship with the Cowherd and sent guards to bring her back to the Celestial Land. The intelligent old ox of the Cowherd cracked the horns off its head, and they turned into a small flying boat into which the Cowherd could put the children and catch up with the Girl Weaver.
When the Cowherd was about to meet with his wife, the Fairy Mother Queen took out a golden hair pin which she cast back to make the impassable Milky River in the sky. The Cowherd could not cross the river and could only watch his wife from the riverside, full of tender affection. Their touching love moved the magpies so that thousands of magpies flew to the Milky River and the Magpie Bridge was formed. It was there the Cowherd and the Girl Weaver met again. The Fairy Mother Queen could do nothing but allow the Cowherd and the Girl Weaver to meet on the seventh of the seventh lunar month of every year. The love story of the Cowherd and the Girl Weaver is one of the Four Love Legends in China.
The Cowherd and the Girl Weaver can only meet once a year, so Qixi symbolizes pure and everlasting love of human kind. Through multi- ethnic exchanges, the legend of the Cowherd and the Girl Weaver has also spread to areas inhabited by ethnic minorities in China, and influenced the culture in Japan, North Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, and other Asian countries.
During the Tang and Song Dynasties, Qixi Festival gained popularity among the people. There are nearly two hundred classic poems on the theme of Qixi. For example, in the Tang Dynasty, the great poet Du Mu once wrote, “The steps seem stepped in water when cold grows the night, she lies watching heart- broken stars shed tears in the sky.” While Qin Guan in Song Dynasty chanted, “Their tender love flows like a stream; this happy date seems but a dream. Can they bear a separate homeward way? If love between both sides can last for aye, why need they stay together night and day?” During the Ming and Qing Dynasties, operas like Marriage oftheFairyPrincess and The PalaceofEternalYouth have been produced and played.
In ancient times, women would pay visit to their friends, and qiqiao, which is an activity to pray for smartness and skillfulness on Qixi Festival. 古代妇女于七夕会访、乞巧