While most of us around the globe celebrate Valentine’s Day on the 14th of February, in China their Valentine’s is celebrated every February 4. Chinese Valentine’s day, also known as the Qixi Festival or Magpie festival, is a Chinese celebration about the reunion of two lovers in the Chinese mythology on the bridge of magpies. These characters are the cowherder and weaver girl who meets once a year every 7th day of the 7th lunar month in the Chinese calendar.
A goddess by the name of Zhi Nu was renowned for her weaving skills. She went to the mortal world and met a cow herder named Niu Lang. They both fell in love, married, and had two children. But Zhi Nu’s mother, who was the queen of heaven, had found out about the two’s relationship and she became very upset and angry, bringing Zhi Nu back to heaven. This made Niu Lang very heartbroken. But an old cow that Niu Lang rescued revealed his true identity and was a god injured in the mortal world and offered him his skin. He told Niu Lang that his leather can be used to make shoes that will make him fly to heaven. When the cow had passed, Niu Lang tried to find Zhi Nu along with their children, but the mother used her hairpin to create the stars that would eventually become the Milky Way in order to separate the two lovers. Their cries reached the magpies and thousands of them formed a bridge for the two lovers to walk over the river. Eventually, the mother had agreed to let the two meet one night out of every year on Qi Xi. And they do this with the help of their magpie friends.
Qi Xi has since come to symbolize true love. In ancient times, most girls offer food and fruits to Zhi Nu on the night of the festival for the skillful hands like the goddess’ to weave with so they can find their ideal husbands. Children also pick up flowers to hang onto an ox’s horns in memory of the cow-god who sacrificed himself for the sake of the two lovers. Festivals across China celebrate a variety of different traditions in honor of Qi Xi. In South China’s city, Shaoxing, the ones who can hear the whispers of Niu Lang and Zhi Nu would be able to find love soon. The girls hide in pumpkin farms, believing that they could find love. In Hunan province, women fetch water from the mountains which they believe to be holy. They wash their hair with it so they can be blessed by Zhi Nu. Some may even collect dew—which symbolizes tears from the two lovers—in the early morning following Qi Xi, believing that drinking the dew would make them smarter. The people in Taiwan release lanterns to float into the sky and make wishes for love and a relationship. Qi Xi is not the only Valentine’s Day that the Chinese people celebrate. The Chinese people also celebrate love on February 14th, as well as the Lantern Festival which would take place on the Lunar New Year. And if as it’s the Western holiday, these are days that have become commercialized by most hotels, flower vendors, and chocolate companies.
The story of the Cowherd and the Weaver Girl is widely celebrated since the Han Dynasty up to present. This popularity even inspired the festival in Japan called Tanabata as well as in Korea with their Chilseok festival. The love story of The Cowherd and the Weaver Girl came to be one of China’s Great Folktales.