Explainer: The Story of Qixi, AKA Chinese Valentine's Day

By Ella Wong, August 1, 2022

5 0

The Explainer is where we explain an aspect of Chinese life. Simple. So now you know.

Thursday, August 4 marks Qixi (七夕), the seventh day of the seventh month in the Chinese lunar calendar, when legend has it a pair of star-crossed lovers are reunited for one night only.

The traditional festival, which is also observed in Japan, Korea and Vietnam is now also referred to as Chinese Valentine’s Day.

There are several versions of the myth that inspired the festival – the oldest written incarnation is from a 2,600-year-old poem – but the basic tale is of the forbidden romance between a weaver girl, Zhinü (织女), and a cowherd, Niulang (牛郎).

The beautiful seventh daughter of the Goddess of Heaven, Zhinü abandons her duties of weaving clouds and rainbows for a day to frolic on earth.

Spying Zhinü – in risqué variations of the story, she is bathing in a lake – Niulang falls for the celestial maiden, and proposes. Zhinü agrees, they have two children and almost live happily ever after.

Unfortunately, Zhinü’s finger-wagging mother does not consider the lowly cowherd a suitable match, and conspires to break them apart. She summons Zhinü back to heaven (and her monotonous weaving tasks), leaving a distraught Niulang as a single father in the mortal realm.

Hoping to make everything better, Niulang’s magical talking ox offers to sacrifice himself so that Niulang can don its hide, thereby transporting him and their children to heaven.

When the Goddess gets wind, she banishes Zhinü to the eastern star Vega, and Niulang to the western star Altair, and creates the Milky Way to separate them for eternity.

But, every year on the seventh night of the seventh moon, all the magpies of the world flock to the heavens and form a bridge so that the couple can spend the night together.

READ MORE: Spread the Love On Qixi, Chinese Valentine’s Day


For more of The Explainer, click here.

[Cover image by That’s]

more news

Explainer: Everything You Need to Know About October Holiday

Take a break from your holiday planning to find out why you're having one in the first place.

Journalist Stephen Claypole Reflects on His 1972 Trip to China

Peeking behind the bamboo curtain: Stephen Claypole recalls the 1972 press delegation to Shanghai.

This Day In History: Mao Coins Communist Slogan Serve the People

Though death befalls all men alike, it may be weightier than Mount Tai or lighter than a feather...

This Day In History: Small Sword Society Take Shanghai

Never underestimate an emaciated, opium smoking Cantonese ex-sugar broker...

Cigars, Coffins & Concubines: Dogmeat, China's Basest Warlord

The day warlord Zhang Zongchang found out that it's a dog eat dog world.

This Day in History: The Central China Floods of 1931

The deadliest natural disaster ever recorded.

0 User Comments

In Case You Missed It…

We're on WeChat!

Scan our QR Code at right or follow us at ThatsGBA for events, guides, giveaways and much more!

7 Days in Gba With thatsmags.com

Weekly updates to your email inbox every Wednesday

Download previous issues

Never miss an issue of That's GBA!

Visit the archives