Chinese’ Own Valentine’s Day
While the rest of the world does their daily regulars, the Chinese celebrates Valentine’s Day every 15th of August.
Chinese Valentine’s Day, called Qi Xi or The Night of Sevens, falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month of the Chinese calendar. It is also known as ‘The Festival to Plead for Skills,’ ‘The Seventh Sister’s Birthday,’ and ‘The Night of Skills.
In every Valentine’s Day, the Chinese tell the old love story of Niu Lang and Zhi Nu. This story is believed to have existed before Christ and has been handed down for thousands of years. They believe that the constellation Aquila (or Altair in some literature) on the western side of Milky Way is Niu Lang waiting for his wife Zhi Nu who is on the eastern side as the star Vega.
The story begins with a young cowherd Niu Lang, an orphan, who happens to see the seven fairies that had just slipped out of their palace to bathe in a lake. The curiosity-driven Niu Lang steals one of the beautiful silk dresses the fairies had left on the bank. As the youngest, Zhi Nu is picked by her sisters to remain and retrieve the clothes. As Zhi Nu tries to find her clothes, Niu Lang comes out and gives back her clothes. Since Niu Lang is able to see her naked, Zhi Nu must fulfill his request: to marry him.
The two marries and had two children. They live a happy ever after until the Queen of Heaven finds out about her daughter’s absence and his mortal husband. The Queen then forces Zhi Nu back to her former duty of weaving clouds. Together with their two children, Niu Lang goes after his wife. The Queen of Heaven pulls off her hairpin to draw a line just when he is about to reach his wife. Such line separates the two and is called the Silver River in heaven or the Milky Way. The Queen of Heaven gave mercy to the couple, and allowed them to meet once every year on the Silver River.
Because of such sad fate, the magpies pity them and fly up into heaven to form a bridge, called Que Qiao, over the star Deneb in the Cygnus constellation. With this, the lovers will be able to be together for a night. This is the seventh night of the seventh moon.
Through the years, many versions have emerged, but the basic story line remains. Qin Guan during the Song Dynasty in 960-1279 wrote a well-known poem, titled Fairy of the Magpie Bridge. This is one of the most prominent poems telling the tale of love.
The celebration of Chinese Valentine’s Day is largely different from the West’s February 14 festivity. Instead of giving chocolates, flowers, and cards, the Chinese girls prepare fruits like melon and incense as offering to Zhi Nut to be able to gain high skills in needlecraft. In addition, they do melon carving to show their talents. During the night, Chinese people observe the stars.