The Qixi Festival (七夕节), is a Chinese festival that celebrates the annual meeting of the cowherd and weaver girl in Chinese mythology. It falls on the seventh day of the 7th month on the Chinese calendar, so sometimes it is called the Double Seventh Festival or the Chinese Valentine’s Day. This is an important festival, especially for young girls.
The festival originated from the romantic legend of two lovers, Zhīnǚ (织女) and Niúláng (牛郎), who were the weaver maid and the cowherd, respectively. The tale of The Weaver Girl and the Cowherd has been celebrated during 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.
A young cowherd Niúláng, came across a beautiful girl Zhīnǚ, the Goddess’s seventh daughter, who had just escaped from boring heaven to look for fun. Zhīnǚ soon fell in love with Niúláng, and they got married without the knowledge of the Goddess. Zhīnǚ proved to be a wonderful wife, and Niúláng to be a good husband. They lived happily and had two children. But the Goddess of Heaven found out that Zhīnǚ, a fairy girl, had married a mere mortal. The Goddess was furious and ordered Zhīnǚ to return to heaven. (Alternatively, the Goddess forced the fairy back to her former duty of weaving colorful clouds, a task she neglected while living on Earth with a mortal.) On Earth, Niúláng was very upset that his wife had disappeared. Suddenly, his ox began to talk, telling him that if he killed it and put on its hide, he would be able to go up to Heaven to find his wife. Crying bitterly, he killed the ox, put on the skin, and carried his two beloved children off to Heaven to find Zhīnǚ. The Goddess discovered this and was very angry. Taking out her hairpin, the Goddess scratched a wide river in the sky to separate the two lovers forever, thus forming the Milky Way between Altair and Vega. Zhīnǚ must sit forever on one side of the river, sadly weaving on her loom, while Niúláng watches her from afar while taking care of their two children. But once a year all the magpies in the world would take pity on them and fly up into heaven to form a bridge (鹊桥, “the bridge of magpies”, Queqiao) over the star Deneb in the Cygnus constellation so the lovers may be together for a single night, which is the seventh night of the seventh moon.
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