Qi Xi

From Academic Kids

Qi Xi (七夕; Pinyin: qī x; "The Night of Sevens"), sometimes called Chinese Valentine's Day, falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month of the Chinese calendar and thus its name. It is traditional for young girls to demonstrate their domestic arts on this day (especially melon carving) and to make wishes for a good husband. It is also known by the following names:

  • The Festival to Plead for Skills (乞巧節; qǐ qiǎo ji)
  • The Seventh Sister's Birthday (七姐誕; qī jiě dn)
  • The Night of Skills (巧夕; qiǎo x)

Japan also celebrates this festival as the Tanabata festival, celebrating the meeting of Orihime (Vega) and Hikoboshi (Altair).

Contents

The Story of Cowherd and Weaver Girl

On the night sky of the late summer days the stars Altair and Vega are high in the night sky and the Chinese tell the following love story, of which there are many variations:

A young cowherd named Niu Lang (牛郎, "the cowherd", the star Altair) happens across seven fairy sisters bathing in a lake. Encouraged by his mischievous companion the ox, he steals their clothes and waits to see what will happen next. The fairy sisters elect the youngest and most beautiful sister Zhi N (織女, "the weaver girl", the star Vega) to retrieve their clothing. She does so, but since Niu Lang sees her naked she must agree to his request for marriage. She proves to be a wonderful wife, and Niu Lang a good husband, and they are very happy together. But the Goddess of Heaven (in some versions Zhi N's mother) finds out that a mere mortal has married one of the fairy girls and is furious. (In another version, the Goddess forced the weaver fairy back to her former duty of weaving colorful clouds in the sky because she could not do her job while married to the mortal.) Taking out her hairpin, the Goddess scratches a wide river in the sky to separate the two lovers forever (thus forming the Milky Way separating Altair and Vega).

Zhi N must sit forever on one side of the river, sadly weaving on her loom, while Niu Lang watches her from afar and takes care of the two kids (his flanking stars Aquila -β and -γ).

But once a year all the magpies in the world take pity on them and fly up into heaven to form a bridge (鵲橋, "the bridge of magpies", Que Qiao) over the star Deneb in the Cygnus constellation so the lovers may be together for a single night, the seventh night of the seventh moon.

See also: The Princess and the Cowherd

Variations of the Story

  • It is the Emperor of Heaven, or her father, who keeps the lovers separate and he does so in order that they focus on their work instead of romance (the work-ethic version)
  • The star Deneb is a fairy who acts as a chaperone when the lovers meet on the magpie bridge (the G-rated version)

Traditions

On Qi Xi, a festoon is placed in the yard and the single or newly married women in the household make an offering to Niu Lang and Zhi Nu consisting of fruit, flowers, tea, and facial powder (makeup). After finishing the offering, half of the facial powder is thrown on the roof and the other half divided among the young women. It is believed by doing this the women are bound in beauty with Zhi Nu.

Other Romantic Days in Chinese Culture

Two other days have, or had, romantic associations in China: Valentine's Day on February 14th, borrowed from the West, and Lantern Festival Day, on which an ummarried girl was traditionally permitted to appear in public unescorted and thus be seen by eligible bachelors. The latter no longer has such implications nowadays, however.

See Also

vi:Ngưu Lang Chức Nữ zh:七夕

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