Happy Chinese Valentine’s Day! The Romantic Story Behind China’s Day of Hearts

Valentine’s day in August? You read that right.

In many parts of the world, Valentine’s day is celebrated every 14th of February, but in China, it’s celebrated 6 times – today is only one of those days! This year, the Qixi Festival (Valentine’s Day), falls on Tuesday, 25th August.

Qixi Festival comes from the romantic tale of two lovers who can only come together once a year, which is why it is celebrated on this day. If you would love to know more about the story behind this festival, read on!

Contents:

What is the Qixi Festival
Origin of the Qixi Festival
How is the Qixi Festival Celebrated?
6 Valentine’s Days Celebrated in China
Chinese Vocabulary for China’s Valentine’s Day

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What is the Qixi Festival?

Chinese Valentine’s Day (七夕节 Qīxì Jié) is celebrated on the 7th day of the 7th month of the Chinese lunar calendar. Also known as the Qixi Festival or “Evening of Sevens Festival”, this festive celebration of love is traditionally rooted in Chinese folklore. It is based on the romantic legend of Zhinü (織女 Zhīnǚ) and Niulang (牛郎 Niúláng).

The Qixi Festival is not an official holiday in China, but it has over 2,000 years of history. It is also highly celebrated in China. Like Valentine’s Day in the Western world, the Qixi Festival is a romantic time of the year. You receive gifts from loved ones, go on dates with a companion or share meals with close friends.

The Origin of the Qixi Festival

The Qixi Festival is based on the story of Zhi Nu, a skilled weaver, youngest daughter of the Jade Emperor (the ruler of the world as per the legend) and Niu Lang, a simple cow herder.

Bored by her mundane life as an immortal, Zhi Nu decided to descend into the mortal world. On earth, she met and fell in love with the cow herder named Niu Lang. Zhi Nu defied the rules of the heaven and got married with Niu Lang. She also gave birth to two mortals.

When Zhi Nu’s mother, the queen mother of heaven, discovered their union, she became very upset and angry. She sent soldiers to bring back Zhi Nu to heaven and the lovers were separated.

Niu Lang was heartbroken. But good news soon came when a cow once rescued by Niu Lang told him that he was actually and injured God banished to the mortal world. The cow offered his skin to Niu Lang once he died as it could make shoes which could fly him to heaven.

The Milky Way that separated Zhi Nu and Niu Lang.

When the cow died, Niu Lang carried his children to heaven in search for his wife. However, the Queen Mother knew of his arrival and created a vast Milky Way to separate the lovers forever. Moved by the couple’s love for each other, the magpies formed a bridge for the couple to walk over the Milky Way.

Eventually, the queen mother agreed to let the couple meet one night out of every year on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month (Qixi).

How is the Qixi Festival Celebrated? 

Qixi has since become a symbol of true love in China. Chinese people offer fruits and delicious food to Zhi Nu on the night of the festival. Women pray that they could find ideal husbands like Niu Lang. Children also pick flowers to hang on an ox’s horns to commemorate the cow-god.

The Qixi Festival teaches young people that true #love is worth waiting for. Click To Tweet

In Shaoxing, girls would hide in pumpkin farms. Whoever hears the whispers of Niu Lang and Zhi Nu are believed to find true love. In Hunan Province, women fetch water from the mountains and wash their hair with the water (as they believe it’s holy) to get blessings from Zhi Nu. Some Chinese people also collect dew, which is a symbol of tears from the lovers. Drinking this water in the early morning following Qixi is believed to make you smarter.

6 Valentine’s Days Celebrated in China
  • February 14: Valentine’s Day (情人节 qíngrén jié)
  • March 14: White Valentine’s Day (白色情人节 báisè qíngrén jié)
  • May 20: 520 Festival (五二零节 wǔ’èr líng jié)
  • August 25: Qixi Festival (七夕节, Qīxì jié)
  • 15th Day in Lunar Year: Lantern Festival (元宵节, Yuánxiāo jié)
  • November 11: Single’s Day (双十一, Shuāng shíyī)
Chinese Vocabulary for China’s Valentine’s Day
  • love – 爱情 (àiqíng)
  • to date – 谈恋爱 (tán liàn’ài)
  • to marry – 结婚 (jiéhūn)
  • lovers – 情侣 (qínglǚ)
  • fresh flowers – 鲜花 (xiānhuā)
  • gift – 礼物 (lǐwù)
  • candle lit dinner – 蠋光晚餐 (zhú guāng wǎncān)
  • boyfriend – 男朋友 (nán péngyǒu)
  • girlfriend – 女朋友 (nǚ péngyǒu)
  • to have a crush; to like someone in secret – 暗恋 (ànliàn)
  • happiness – 幸福 (xìngfú)

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