The Qixi Festival, also known as the Qiqiao Festival, is a Chinese festival celebrating the annual meeting of the cowherd and weaver girl in mythology. The festival is celebrated on the 7th day of the 7th lunisolar month on the Chinese calendar.
|Also called||Qiqiao Festival|
|Date||7th day of 7th month|
on the Chinese lunisolar calendar
|2020 date||25 August|
|Related to||Tanabata (Japan), Chilseok (Korea), Thất Tịch (Vietnam)|
|Literal meaning||"Evening of Sevens"|
|Literal meaning||"Beseeching Skills"|
The festival originated from the romantic legend of two lovers, Zhinü and Niulang, who were the weaver girl and the cowherd, respectively. The tale of The Cowherd and the Weaver Girl has been celebrated in the Qixi Festival since the Han dynasty. The earliest-known reference to this famous myth dates back to over 2600 years ago, which was told in a poem from the Classic of Poetry. The Qixi festival inspired the Tanabata festival in Japan, Chilseok festival in Korea, and Thất Tịch festival in Vietnam.
The general tale is a love story between Zhinü (织女, the weaver girl, symbolizing Vega) and Niulang (牛郎, the cowherd, symbolizing Altair). Their love was not allowed, thus they were banished to opposite sides of the Silver River (symbolizing the Milky Way). Once a year, on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, a flock of magpies would form a bridge to reunite the lovers for one day. There are many variations of the story.
Girls take part in worshiping the celestials (拜仙) during rituals. They go to the local temple to pray to Zhinü for wisdom. Paper items are usually burned as offerings. Girls may recite traditional prayers for dexterity in needlework, which symbolize the traditional talents of a good spouse. Divination could take place to determine possible dexterity in needlework. They make wishes for marrying someone who would be a good and loving husband. During the festival, girls make a display of their domestic skills. Traditionally, there would be contests amongst those who attempted to be the best in threading needles under low-light conditions like the glow of an ember or a half moon. Today, girls sometimes gather toiletries in honor of the seven maidens.
The festival also held an importance for newlywed couples. Traditionally, they would worship the celestial couple for the last time and bid farewell to them (辭仙). The celebration stood symbol for a happy marriage and showed that the married woman was treasured by her new family.
On this day, the Chinese gaze to the sky to look for Vega and Altair shining in the Milky Way, while a third star forms a symbolic bridge between the two stars. It was said that if it rains on this day that it was caused by a river sweeping away the magpie bridge or that the rain is the tears of the separated couple. Based on the legend of a flock of magpies forming a bridge to reunite the couple, a pair of magpies came to symbolize conjugal happiness and faithfulness.
In some places people gather together and build a four meter long bridge(花桥) with big incensticks and decorate with colorful flowers. They burn the bridge at night and wish to bring happiness in life.
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Due to the romance, elegance, and beautiful symbolic meaning of the festival, many pieces of literature, such as poems, popular songs and operas, have been written for this festival since the Zhou Dynasty. Many describe the atmosphere of the festival or narrated related stories. This has left a valuable literary legacy which helps modern scholars better understand ancient Chinese customs, feelings, and opinions relating to the festival.
迢迢牽牛星–佚名（東漢） Far, Far Away, the Cowherd – Anonymous（Han Dynasty）Edit
迢迢牽牛星， Far, far away, the Cowherd,
皎皎河漢女。 Fair, fair, the Weaving Maid,
纖纖擢素手， Nimbly move her slender white finger,
札札弄機杼。 Click-clack goes her weaving-loom.
終日不成章， All day she weaves, yet her web is still not done.
泣涕零如雨。 And her tears fall like rain.
河漢清且淺， Clear and shallow the Milky Way,
相去復幾許？ They are not far apart!
盈盈–水間， But the stream brims always between.
脈脈不得語。 And, gazing at each other, they cannot speak.
（翻譯：楊憲益，戴乃迭） (Translated by Yang Xianyi, Dai Naidie)
秋夕–杜牧（唐朝） An Autumn Night – Du Mu (Tang Dynasty)Edit
銀燭秋光冷畫屏， A candle flame flickers against a dull painted screen on a cool autumn night,
輕羅小扇撲流螢。 She holds a small silk fan to flap away dashing fireflies.
天階夜色涼如水， Above her hang celestial bodies as frigid as deep water,
坐看牽牛織女星。 She sat there watching Altair of Aquila and Vega of Lyra pining for each other in the sky.
（翻譯：曾培慈 (Translated by Betty Tseng])
鵲橋仙–秦觀（宋朝） Immortals at the Magpie Bridge – Qin Guan (Song Dynasty)Edit
纖雲弄巧， Clouds float like works of art,
飛星傳恨， Stars shoot with grief at heart.
銀漢迢迢暗渡。 Across the Milky Way the Cowherd meets the Maid.
金風玉露一相逢， When Autumn’s Golden Wind embraces Dew of Jade,
便勝却人間無數。 All the love scenes on earth, however many, fade.
柔情似水， Their tender love flows like a stream;
佳期如夢， Their happy date seems but a dream.
忍顧鶴橋歸路。 How can they bear a separate homeward way?
兩情若是久長時， If love between both sides can last for aye,
又豈在朝朝暮暮。 Why need they stay together night and day?
（翻譯：許淵沖） (Translated by Xu Yuanchong)
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Qixi Festival.|
- Brown, Ju; Brown, John (2006). China, Japan, Korea: Culture and customs. North Charleston: BookSurge. ISBN 1-4196-4893-4.
- Kiang, Heng Chye (1999). Cities of aristocrats and bureaucrats: The development of medieval Chinese cityscapes. Singapore: Singapore University Press. ISBN 9971-69-223-6.
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- Melton, J. Gordon; Baumann, Martin (2010). "The Double Seventh Festival". Religions of the world: A comprehensive encyclopedia of beliefs and practices (2nd ed.). Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-1-59884-203-6.
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