Chinese Valentine’s Day


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Today is known as Valentine’s Day in Western cultures.  It is a day where couples exchange valentine cards, chocolate, and other wonderful gifts on February 14th.  However, the Chinese version of Valentine’s Day is in the summer on the 7th day of the 7th month of the lunar calendar.  Which is why it is commonly known as the Double Seventh Festival, 七夕节 (Qīxì jié). 

This year in 2014, it falls on August 2nd.  While it is the norm in Western cultures for couples to celebrate this special day together, Chinese Valentine’s Day is for single ladies to celebrate and worship.  There is a legend of how this special day began and how important it is to many young single ladies in China that they take time out of their busy schedule to pray and worship a certain pair in hopes of finding their significant other.

Legend has it that a young cowherd, Niulang, came upon a sick cattle one day and with his kind-heartedness he cared for it until it became well again.  This cattle was not any ordinary cattle, it was in fact, a celestial being.  Seeing that Niulang was so kind-hearted, the celestial being decided to introduce him to Weaver Girl, Zhinü.

After the two met, they fell in love quickly, got married, and had two children together.  Niulang was living a blissful life, farming and taking care of the cattle, while Zhinü stayed home, caring for their children and continuing her specialty of weaving.  Unknowingly, Zhinü was an immortal fairy who quietly escaped heaven without the Heaven Goddess’ permission.

One day, the Heaven Goddess found out that Zhinü not only escape heaven and left her duty of weaving colorful clouds for the heaven, she even married a man in the mortal world!  Furious, the Heaven Goddess forced Zhinü to return back to heaven to continue her original duty of weaving clouds.

After realizing what had happened, Niulang was very depressed not knowing what to do as he was left with their two children.  Seeing that the pair of lovers was forcefully separated, the cattle told Niulang to take his lowly life so that he can use his hide to fly to heaven to be reunited with Zhinü again.  With no options left, Niulang killed the cattle unwillingly, put on the hide, and brought their two children to see Zhinü.

Before Niulang was able to reach Zhinü in the skies, the Heaven Goddess used her hairpin and made a river separating the two lovers in the sky.  Niulang and Zhinü were only able to cry day and night while being divided by the long river.  Time passed and the Heaven Goddess was touched by their sincerity, so she permitted them to only meet on the 7th day of the 7th month once every year.

To this day, many believe that the river created by Heaven Goddess is the well-known Milky Way located between the two stars of Vega and Altair in the sky.

Now, many single ladies in China would go to their local temples to pray to Zhinü for a pair of skilled hands for sewing and for finding their true love.  To show their sincerity, these girls would bring paper items to burn for Zhinü.  Besides bringing paper items, they would also bring fruit, flowers, and tea to worship Niulang and Zhinü so that they can find a good husband and be blessed by this legendary couple.

Submitted by Irene Lam

Works Cited:

Travel Chine Guide

Double Seventh Festival

http://www.travelchinaguide.com/essential/holidays/qixi.htm

February 10, 2014

 

Wikipedia

Qixi Festival

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qixi_Festival

February 10, 2014

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