|Also called||Qiqiao Festival|
|Date||7th day of 7th month|
on the Chinese lunar calendar
|2018 date||17 August|
|2019 date||7 August|
|2020 date||25 August|
|Related to||Tanabata (Japan), Chilseok (Korea)|
|Literal meaning||"Evening of Sevens"|
|Literal meaning||"Beseeching Skills"|
The Qixi Festival, also known as the Qiqiao Festival, is a Chinese traditional festival celebrating the annual meeting of the cowherd and the weaver girl in mythology. "Qi" means seven in Chinese, and "Xi" means night in Chinese, so "Qixi" points out that the cowherd and the weaver maid meet with each other on the night of seventh day of the seventh month on the Chinese lunar calendar every year, so Qixi Festival is also called Double Seventh Festival, Seventh Evening Festival or Night of Sevens.
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 and Chilseok festival in Korea. Contemporarily, the Qixi Festival has been given the cultural meaning of Chinese Valentine's Day, because the love tale of the cowherd and the weaver maid has made the Qixi Festival become a symbol of love.
The general tale is a love story between Zhinü (the weaver girl, symbolizing Vega) and Niulang (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.
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