Thursday, September 11, 2008


Qi Xi , also known as Magpie Festival, falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month on the Chinese calendar; thus its name. It also inspired Tanabata in Japan, Chilseok in Korea, and That Tich in Vietnam. It is sometimes called Chinese Valentine's Day in recent years.

Young girls traditionally demonstrate their domestic arts, especially melon carving, on this day and make wishes for a good husband. It is also known by the following names:
* The Festival to Plead for Skills
* The Seventh Sister's Birthday
* The Night of Skills

In 2008, this festival falls on August 7.

The story of Cowherd and Weaver Girl

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

A young cowherd named Niulang 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. The fairy sisters elect the youngest and most beautiful sister Zhinü to retrieve their clothing. She does so, but since Niulang has seen her naked, she must agree to his request for marriage. She proves to be a wonderful wife, and Niulang a good husband. They lived happily and had two children. But the Goddess of Heaven finds out that a mere mortal has married one of the fairy girls and is furious. Down on Earth, Niulang is very upset learning that his wife is gone. Suddenly, his cow begins to talk telling him that if he kills him and puts on his hide, he will be able to go up to Heaven to find his wife. With tears flowing, he killed the cow, put on the skin and carrying his two children with him and off he went to Heaven to find Zhinü. The Goddess found out he had come and was very angry. Taking out her hairpin, the Goddess scratches a wide river in the sky to separate the two lovers forever .

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 .

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 Cygnus constellation so the lovers may be together for a single night, the seventh night of the seventh moon.

It is said that if it rains on the night of Qi Xi, they are the tears of Niulang and Zhinü crying at the misery of their life.

See also:

As an interesting note, Barry Hughart's fantasy tale "Bridge of Birds"
is loosely based upon this celestial story, though the two figures are switched here. The girl is forced to remain on earth, and her male paramour in heaven. She is a peasant girl, and he shepherds the stars.

Variations of the story

*It was also said that the Goddess of Heaven out of pity decided to let them unite once on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month. She was touched by their love for each other.
*It is the Emperor of Heaven, or his father , who keeps the lovers separate and he does so in order that they focus on their work instead of romance.
*The star Deneb is a fairy who acts as a chaperon when the lovers meet on the magpie bridge.
*Rather than once a year, there was another version where the lovers were allowed once a month.
*It is also a Chinese myth that sometime during the night of Qi Xi the two stars Altair and Vega will actually unite on the same side of the Milky Way.


On Qi Xi, a festoon is placed in the yard and the single or newly married women in the household make an offering to Niulang and Zhinü 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. It is believed by doing this the women are bound in beauty with Zhinü.

Another tradition is for young girls to throw a sewing needle into a bowl full of water on the night of Qi Xi as a test of embroidery skills. If the needle floats on top of the water instead of sinking, it is believed to be an indication of the girl's being a skilled embroideress.


The seventh day of the seventh lunar month of the lunisolar calendar in the coming years.

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 , on which an unmarried 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.

Vietnam: "Ngày m?a Ng?u"

In Vietnam, this day is called "Ngày m?a ng?u" . The tale is about a pair of lovers: Ng?u Lang, who is the Jade Emperor's buffalo man and an outstanding bamboo fluter, and Ch?c N?, who is responsible for fabric weaving. They were too passionate for each other to do their work well. Because of this lost productivity, the Jade Emperor became angry and decided that they must live on opposite sides of s?ng Ng?n . But after that, the Jade Emperor felt sorry for them and permitted that they can meet each other once a year on the 7th day of the 7th month on the lunar year.

However, they cannot cross the Milky Way. To fix this, the Jade Emperor ordered crows and Racquet-tailed treepie to build a bridge across the Milky Way. From then on, the bridge has the name c?u ? Th??c .

Every year, when they meet each other, they cry and cry and cry. Their tears fall down from the sky and make a special kind of rain on this day: "m?a ng?u" . This is why the people call them ?ng Ng?u and bà Ng?u .

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