Cultural Heritage
Published: Jul 31, 2022 06:33 PM
A couple celebrates the Qixi Festival in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province. Photo: IC

A couple celebrates the Qixi Festival in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province. Photo: IC

The Qixi Festival: A day for love and romance

The Qixi Festival, one of the most romantic traditional Chinese festivals, falls on the seventh day of the seventh month of the Chinese calendar. 

The Qixi Festival originated from the myth of the Cowherd and the Weaver Girl. Back during the Western Zhou Dynasty (1046BC-771BC), mentions of the two constellations known in the West as Altair and Vega first appeared in the Book of Songs. It was during the Northern and Southern Dynasties (386-589) that the two constellations were turned into the Cowherd and the Weaver Girl. Legend goes that the Weaver Girl, an immortal from Heaven, falls in love with the Cowherd, a poor peasant with only one old ox, and finally marries him. After their marriage, they have a son and a daughter and live a happy life. Unexpectedly, the Emperor of Heaven finds out about the marriage, so he orders the Queen Mother to bring the Weaver Girl back to Heaven for trial. Although the girl feels very sad, she has to separate from her family and return to Heaven. The old ox cannot bear to see the separation of its master's family, so it kills itself and its ox hide turns into a boat for the Cowherd and his two children to chase the Weaver Girl. However, before they catch up with the Weaver Girl, the Queen Mother suddenly pulls off her hairpin and marks out a heavenly river between them. Finally, the Queen Mother is touched by the crying Cowherd and his children and allows the couple to meet on the Magpie Bridge once a year - on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month.

The Cowherd and Weaver Girl are also important subjects in Chinese literature, folklore and local opera. For example, the most famous work based on their legend is the Huangmei Opera Goddess Marriage.

Traditionally, the Qixi Festival is also known as the Girls' Festival and the Qiqiao Festival. According to custom, on that night, young women pray to the Weaver Girl and wish for a good husband and a pair of hands as clever as the Weaver Girl's. 

Today, the Qixi Festival is treated as the Chinese version of Valentine's Day. Young couples will celebrate it together and wish for a happy marriage. 

In 2006, the Qixi Festival was inscribed on the first batch of China's national intangible cultural heritage list.

Global Times