Steve's China Blog

Monday, July 31, 2006

Happy Chinese Valentine’s Day!

Qi Xi (七夕; Pinyin: qī xī; "The Night of Sevens"), sometimes called Chinese Valentine's Day, falls on the seventh day of lunar month seven 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.

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 Niulang (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 Zhinü (織女, "the weaver girl", the star Vega) to retrieve their clothing. She does so, but since Niulang sees her naked she must agree to his request for marriage. She proves to be a wonderful wife, and Niulang a good husband, and they are very happy together.

But the Goddess of Heaven (in some versions Zhinü'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).

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).

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.

(from Wikipedia)


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