The Qixi Festival (Chinese: 七夕), also known as the Qiqiao Festival (Chinese: 乞巧), is a Chinese festival celebrating the annual meeting of the cowherd and weaver girl in mythology. The festival is celebrated on the seventh day of the seventh lunisolar month on the Chinese calendar.
|Also called||Qiqiao Festival|
|Date||7th day of 7th month|
on the Chinese lunisolar calendar
|2021 date||14 August|
|2022 date||4 August|
|Related to||Tanabata (Japan), Chilseok (Korea), Thất Tịch (Vietnam)|
|Literal meaning||"Evening of Sevens"|
|Literal meaning||"beseeching craftsmanship"|
The festival was derived from worship of the natural astrology. It is the birthday of the seventh elder sister in the traditional significance. It is called "Qixi Festival" because of the worship of the seventh elder sister held on the seventh night of the seventh lunar month. Gradually, people celebrated for 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 (織女, the weaver girl, symbolizing Vega) and Niulang (牛郎, the cowherd, symbolizing Altair). Niulang was an orphan who lived with his brother and sister-in-law. He was often abused by his sister-in-law. They eventually kicked him out of the house, and gave him nothing but an old cow. One day, the old cow suddenly spoke out, telling Niulang that a fairy will come, and that she is the heavenly weaver. It said the fairy will stay here if she fails to go back to heaven before morning. In accordance with what the old cow said, Niulang saw the beautiful fairy and fell in love with her, then they got married. The emperor of heaven (玉皇大帝, lit. 'The Jade Emperor') found out about this and was furious, so he sent minions to escort the heavenly weaver back to heaven. Niulang was heartbroken and decided to chase after them. However, the Queen Mother of the West drew a Silver River (The Milky Way) in the sky and blocked his way. Meanwhile, the love between Niulang and the weaver moved the magpie, and they built a bridge of magpies over the Silver River for them to meet. The Emperor of Heaven was also moved by the sight, and allowed this couple to meet on the Magpie Bridge once a year on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month. That was the origin of the Qixi Festival.
During the Han dynasty, the practices were conducted in accordance with formal ceremonial state rituals. Over time, the festival activities also included customs that the common people partook in.
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 symbolizes the traditional talents of a good spouse. Divination could take place to determine the 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 of a half moon. Today, girls sometimes gather toiletries in honour 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 as a symbol for a happy marriage and showed that the married woman was treasured by her new family.
On this day, the Chinese gaze up at the sky to look for Vega and Altair shining in the Milky Way, while Deneb, 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.
The eating customs of Qixi Festival vary from place to place, and it is called eating Qiao food. The most famous traditional food people eat on Qixi Festival is Qiao Guo. The main material is flour, oil and honey, sometimes adding sesame, peanuts, kernels, roses and other different ingredients. After mixing those ingredients, they are then deep-fried. Qiao Guo has a history of more than one thousand years since it became popular during the Song Dynasty. Beyond that, people would eat crunchy candy, refreshments and fruits together, expressing the people's pursuit of ingenuity, family health, happy life wishes.
In some places people gather together and build a four meter long bridge (花橋) with big incense sticks and decorate them with colourful 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 narrate 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)
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)
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])
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.|
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