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Qi Qiao Jie

Qi Qiao Jie (乞巧节, The Festival to Plead for Skills), sometimes called Chinese Valentine's Day, falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month of the Chinese calendar and thus is also known as Double Seven Day. 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. Additional names include:
  • The Night of Sevens (七夕)
  • Seventh Sister's Birthday (七姐誕 qi1 jie3 dan4)
  • The Night of Skills (巧夕 qiao3 xi4)

Table of contents

The story of Cowherd and Weaver Girl

On Qi Qiao Jie eve 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 Niu Lang (牛郎, the star Altair) happens across seven fairy sisters bathing in a lake. Encouraged by his mischievious 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 Nu (織女, 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 Nu's mother) finds out that a mere mortal has married one of the fairy girls and she's furious. Taking out her hairpin, the Goddess scratches a wide river in the sky to separate the two lovers forever (thus forming the Milky Way).

Zhi Nu 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 over the star Deneb in the constellation Cygnus so the lovers may be together for a single night. This is the night of Qi Qiao Jie!

Variations to the story

  • it is the Emperor of Heaven[?] 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 Qiao Jie night 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. After finishing the offering, half of the facial powder is thrown on the roof and the other half divided among the young women. In this way the women are bound in beauty with Zhi Nu!

Other romantic days

Two other days have romantic associations in China: Valentine's Day on February 14th, borrowed from the west, and Lantern Festival Day[?] on which an ummarried girl can appear in public unescorted and thus be seen by eligible bachelors.

See also: Chinese mythology, Chinese astrology, Summer Triangle



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