Monday, August 16, 2010

Qixi Festival --- Chinese Valentines' Day

The meet of two lovers who can only happen once a year , a sad and beautiful story from ancient China , still influences China and Overseas Chinese nowadays .

Magic Haijing, Xiamen Hotels First Blog Present:

Qixi Festival (literally "The Night of Sevens"), also known as Magpie Festival, falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month on the Chinese calendar; thus its name.  It is sometimes called Chinese Valentine's Day in recent decades. This year the day falls in 16th Aug,2010

In late summer, 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 Niulang, came across seven fairy sisters bathing in a lake. Encouraged by his mischievous companion the ox, he stole their clothes and waited to see what would happen. The fairy sisters elected the youngest and most beautiful sister Zhinü ( literally "[the] weaver girl", the star Vega) to retrieve their clothing. She agreed to do so, but since Niulang had seen her naked, she agreed to his request for marriage. She proved to be a wonderful wife, and Niulang to be a good husband. They lived happily and had two children. But the Goddess of Heaven (or in some versions, Zhinü's mother) found out that Zhinü, a fairy girl, had married a mere mortal. The Goddess was furious and ordered Zhinü to return to heaven. (Alternatively, the Goddess forced the fairy back to her former duty of weaving colorful clouds, a task she neglected while living on earth with a mortal.) On Earth, Niulang was very upset that his wife had disappeared. Suddenly, his ox began to talk, telling him that if he killed it and put on its hide, he would be able to go up to Heaven to find his wife. Crying bitterly, he killed the ox, put on the skin, and carried his two beloved children off to Heaven to find Zhinü. The Goddess discovered this and was very angry. Taking out her hairpin, the Goddess scratched a wide river in the sky to separate the two lovers forever, thus forming the Milky Way between Altair and Vega.

Zhinü must sit forever on one side of the river, sadly weaving on her loom, while Niulang watches her from afar and takes care of their two children (his flanking stars β and γ Aquilae or by their Chinese names Hè Gu 1 and Hè Gu 3).

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

However, there were more other practices all over China, as the festival varied from region to region.

In Fujian, girls also held weaving and needlework competitions to see who had the best hands and the brightest mind, both prerequisites for making a good wife and mother in ancient China.

Young women in Fujian 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.

In Xiamen, the belief is that if it rains on the day, older people might say that Zhinu is crying on the day she meets Niulang and her family again. This is why the Qixi day is usually wet.

Also in the evening, families sit outdoors to observe the stars.

The Xiamen grannies would say that, if you stand under a grapevine, you can probably overhear Zhi Nu and Niu Lang talking.

In some Southern part of China, 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 Waving 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.

Nowadays, however, through changing time, these ancient customs are being adjusted and altered. More and more young people celebrate Qixi in the same way that Valentine's Day is celebrated in western countries. Hotels, restaurants and flower shops capitalize on this by offering special sales on "Chinese Valentine's Day."

On this special day, there are many entertainment venues in Xiamen that cater for this special occassion for singles who are seeking for romance, married couples who are seeking for further bonding, families with small kids who want to share family union.

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1 comment:

StephanieTJLee said...

I'm in Taiwan right now on vacation and I was able to witness this :). Thanks for the explanation!