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Cultural Heritage / Trip Ideas

Qixi: the most romantic festival in China

By Minjun Xu

August 8

Originating from a folk tale about two lovers, Zhinü and Niulang, the Qixi Festival has been celebrated for over 2000 years and has been called China’s own Valentine’s Day.

Originating from a folk tale about two lovers, Zhinü and Niulang, the Qixi Festival has been celebrated for over 2000 years and has been called China’s own Valentine’s Day.

The Qixi Festival (七夕节), or Qiqiao, falls on the seventh day of the seventh month of the Chinese lunar calendar, or August 9 this year according to the Gregorian calendar.

Originating from a folk tale about two lovers, Zhinü (织女) and Niulang (牛郎), the Qixi Festival has been celebrated for over 2000 years and has been called China’s own Valentine’s Day.

Niulang and Zhinü [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Jian Hua]
Niulang and Zhinü [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Jian Hua]
According to mythology, when Niulang, a cow herder, fell in love with Zhinü, the seventh daughter of the Jade Emperor (玉帝), they became separated on opposite sides of the Silver River because their love was forbidden. Niuliang and Zhinü symbolize the constellations Vega and Altair, and the Silver River is the Chinese name of the Milky Way. Once a year, on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, a group of magpies would form a bridge to reunite the lovers for the day.

Zhinü, a master weaver, is revered by women who pray for a happy family life during the festival. Many of the traditional customs have been diluted in cities but are still observed in rural areas of China.

Zhucun: Home to Qiqiao Festival [Image Credit: gd.people.cn]
Zhucun: Home to Qiqiao Festival [Image Credit: gd.people.cn]
Zhucun (珠村), a small village in Guangzhou, is renowned for its annual Qixi celebration.

This year, the grand Qiqiao Cultural Festival began on August 5 and will last more than a week. Folk ceremonies like Bai Qiniang (拜七娘), where women bow to the starry sky which symbolizes Zhinü, and Song Qiniang (送七娘), a ritual to burn sacrificial offerings, are accompanied by carnivals with traditional games and activities.

Worshiping Zhinü (拜七娘) [Image Credit: gd.people.cn]
Worshiping Zhinü (拜七娘) [Image Credit: gd.people.cn]
To celebrate and pay tribute to Zhinü, women in Zhucun make exquisite handcrafts and dolls with beads and sesame.

Handcrafts Exhibition [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Gao Dianhua]
Handcrafts Exhibition [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Gao Dianhua]
Girls taking part in a sewing competition hope to get noticed by a young suitor.

Girl Demonstrating Sewing Work [Image Credit: gd.people.cn]
Girl Demonstrating Sewing Work [Image Credit: gd.people.cn]
Qiniang Fan (七娘饭) also plays an important part during the festival. A banquet for women who prepared the celebration, it is also attended by married women returning to their hometown for the occasion.

Qiniang Fan (七娘饭) [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Gao Dianhua]
Qiniang Fan (七娘饭) [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Gao Dianhua]
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