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

By Ella Wong, August 21, 2020

5 0

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

Tuesday, August 25 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.

READ MORE: Watch Jon Bon Jovi Sing in Mandarin for Chinese Valentine’s Day

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.

This article originally appeared on Thatsmags.com in August 2015. It has been updated and republished. 


For more of The Explainer, click here.

[Cover image by That’s]

more news

Tian Han – The Man Who Wrote the Chinese National Anthem

Tian Han's Beijing ancestral home lies in Xiguan Hutong, Dongcheng district.

Explainer: Everything You Need to Know About Lantern Festival

What China's Lantern Festival is all about.

8 Chinese Aphrodisiacs to Help You Get it On

The Chinese way to rev your engine.

The Story of Ho Chi Minh's Secret Chinese Bride

A tale of love and woe, just in time for Valentine's Day.

Explainer: Everything You Need to Know About the Year of the Ox

Chinese New Year 2021 marks the beginning of the Year of the Ox.

How This Chinese E-Cigarette Brand is Vaporizing the Competition

Shenzhen-based vape brand Relx has made a name for itself in a short two-year period.

The Top 5 Most Festive Chinese New Year Dishes

A look at the top five festive Chinese dishes and their symbolic meanings.

Explainer: Why Beijing Gets Central Heating Yet the South is Left in the Cold

When the ancient Huai River-Qin Mountains Line and the days of central planning combine...

0 User Comments

In Case You Missed It…

We're on WeChat!

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

7 Days in Shanghai With thatsmags.com

Weekly updates to your email inbox every Wednesday

Subscribe

Download previous issues

Never miss an issue of That's Shanghai!

Visit the archives