The Qixi Festival (Chinese: 七夕), also known as the Qiqiao Festival (Chinese: 乞巧), is a Chinese festival celebrating the annual meeting of the cowherd and weaver girl in mythology. The festival is celebrated on the seventh day of the seventh lunisolar month on the Chinese calendar.
The festival was derived from worship of the natural astrology. It is the birthday of the seventh elder sister in the traditional significance. It is called “Qixi Festival” because of the worship of the seventh elder sister held on the seventh night of the seventh lunar month. Gradually, people celebrated for the romantic legend of two lovers, Zhinü and Niulang, who were the weaver girl and the cowherd, respectively. The tale of The Cowherd and the Weaver Girl has been celebrated in 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. The Qixi festival inspired the Tanabata festival in Japan, Chilseok festival in Korea, and Thất Tịch festival in Vietnam.
The festival has variously been called the Double Seventh Festival, the Chinese Valentine’s Day, the Night of Sevens, or the Magpie Festival.
The general tale is a love story between Zhinü (織女, the weaver girl, symbolizing Vega) and Niulang (牛郎, the cowherd, symbolizing Altair). Niulang was an orphan who lived with his brother and sister-in-law. He was often abused by his sister-in-law. They eventually kicked him out of the house, and gave him nothing but an old cow. One day, the old cow suddenly spoke out, telling Niulang that a fairy will come, and that she is the heavenly weaver. It said the fairy will stay here if she fails to go back to heaven before morning. In accordance with what the old cow said, Niulang saw the beautiful fairy and fell in love with her, then they got married. The emperor of heaven (玉皇大帝, lit. ’The Jade Emperor’) found out about this and was furious, so he sent minions to escort the heavenly weaver back to heaven. Niulang was heartbroken and decided to chase after them. However, the Queen Mother of the West drew a Silver River (The Milky Way) in the sky and blocked his way. Meanwhile, the love between Niulang and the weaver moved the magpie, and they built a bridge of magpies over the Silver River for them to meet. The Emperor of Heaven was also moved by the sight, and allowed this couple to meet on the Magpie Bridge once a year on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month. That was the origin of the Qixi Festival.
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