Friday, August 5, 2011

QiXi, A Story of Love

Tomorrow (8/6) is QiXi (pronounced "chii-shii"), the seventh day of the seventh month on the lunar calendar. It is a Chinese holiday similar to Valentine's Day in the west and is therefore sometimes called "Chinese Valentine's Day."

Image Source

Originally, on this day girls would show off their domestic skills and pray for a good husband, but now it is quite similar to the commercialized Valentine's Day with sales on couples' goods such as matching T-shirts and high-end chocolates. There are many variations on the legend of Qixi, but I would like to share the version I heard as a child!

NiuLang (Cow Herder) was a hard-working boy. One day he happened upon seven fairies who had come down from Heaven to bathe and play in a lake. He secretly stole one set of clothes because without the clothes, the fairy would be unable to return to Heaven. When the fairies were done playing, they left one by one until the seventh sister was left searching for her clothes. At this time, NiuLang came out of hiding and asked her to marry him.

At first, the fairy ZhiNu (Weaving Girl) was frightened. But NiuLang was very kind and gentle and eventually she agreed. They were happily married and lived together for a long time and had two children. One day while cleaning, ZhiNu happened upon a trunk and looked inside and found her fairy clothes. She had to return to Heaven and resume her fairy duties now that she had found them, so she put them on and flew back up to Heaven.

NiuLang was heartbroken but was unable to follow his wife. At this time, his ox spoke to him and told NiuLang to kill him and put on his skin. It would give him the power to follow ZhiNu up to Heaven. NiuLang was very sad that he had to kill his ox, but the ox insisted so NiuLang did as he asked, took each of his children in a basket on either side of a pole he carried across his shoulders, and put on the skin.

Image Source
He flew up after ZhiNu and was almost going to catch up! But the Heavenly Mother saw this and was upset because NiuLang and ZhiNu's love was interfering with their duties. She cut a huge river/chasm across the sky so they would be unable to be reunited. Both of them were so sad that in the end Heavenly Mother took pity on them and decreed that on the seventh day of the seventh month all the magpies of the world would join together to form a bridge across the chasm and NiuLang and ZhiNu would be together for a day.

So from that day on, NiuLang stays on his side of the galaxy with his children and ZhiNu stays on her side, then on QiXi they get to reunite as a family for a day.

Image Source: Google - the original post seems to be broken :o
There are many more variations if you would care to Google for them :) This is just the one I grew up hearing. In celebration of NOT commercializing this holiday, here are some "domestic arts" to try!

*Fruit carving - making food look as good as it tastes!
*Embroidery (I have also heard that throwing a needle into a body of water on this day to see if it floats is an indication of whether you will be good at embroidery or not!)
*Cooking (presentation is key!)
*Flower Arrangements
*Handmade arts such as painting, drawing, cards, calligraphy, etc.
*Deco! Completely not traditional in any way, but I think it should count as a domestic art because it makes normal things much cuter!

Do you have any ideas for QiXi or how you would celebrate? Even if you don't have a sweetheart to celebrate with (join the club!) it can be a good time to pray for good husband in the future!