Qixi Festival (Magpie Festival)

Qixi Festival is a chinese festival, falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month on the Chinese calendar.It is most important for unmarried girls.
Girls traditionally demonstrate their domestic arts, especially melon carving, on this day and make wishes for a good husband. It is also known by the following names:
  • The Night of Sevens 
  • Chinese Valentines Day
  • Magpie Festival
  • The Festival to Plead for Skills
  • The Seventh Sister's Birthday, especially in Cantonese
  • The Night of Skills 
Story behind this Festival
Cowherd and the Weaver girl
         Qixi Festival is closely combined with a classic folk legend named Niu Lang(牛郎) and Zhi Nv(织女), which is a beautiful, old and touching love story ranked one of Chinese Four Top Folk Love Stories.
         There is said to be a Zhinv Star (Vega) who was a fair girl on heaven and a Qianniu Star (Altair) who was a good-looking young man. Both of them fell in love with each other deeply. However, on heaven, the gods’ love was forbidden absolutely. And their love was finally found by Empress. Zhinv was the granddaughter of Empress(Goddess of Heaven). Niulang was punished to fall down to the earth, and Zhinv was penalized to do the non-stop job of weaving the brocade day and night. The job of Zhinv was weaving endless colorized clouds into a marvelous kind of silk, and the clouds changed in line with the change of time and seasons. Since Niulang left, Zhinv shed tears all days long and still missed Niulang too much. She worked hard every second as to wish to satisfy Empress and let Empress allow Niulang’s return. One day, several fairies begged Empress to allow their earth trip in Bilian Pool. At that day, empress had a good mood and agreed them. These fairies also suggested going there together with Zhinv when they saw she was so sad. Empress both could not withstand seeing her granddaughter was so unhappy all the time, and also permitted their request on the condition that they should go and come back as soon as they could. This is a perfect occasion for augmenting Zhi Nv’s opportunity to see her beloved Niu Lang. A heart-warming and impressive story took place.
             After Niulang fall down to earth as his penalty of breaking the heavenly laws, he was reborn in a farmer’s family. Later, his parents passed away and he lived with his elder brother and brother’s wife. But this couple treated Niulang badly, and finally separated the family with Niulang. They just gave Niulang an old ox and a broken wheelbarrow. Since then, Niulang led a life with this old ox. They worked hard to assart the wild land and do the farming as well as build their house. But actually, Niulang’s life was isolated and lonely except this speechless ox. In fact he did know this ox was also a god on heaven, and it was Gold-Ox Star. One day, the old ox suddenly mouthed and said to Niulang: Niulang, go to Bilian Pool; some fairies are having bath there, and you hide the red clothes for the fairy wearing red will be your wife. Niulang was shocked and asked Ox:”Brother Ox, you can speak! Is your word true?” Ox nodded, and Niulang arrived and hid in the reed of Bilian Pool to wait the arrival of the fairy. In a short time, these fairies flew down and put off their clothes to have a bath in pool. Niulang quickly came out and took the red clothes away. The fairies saw him and suddenly put on their clothes and flew away like bird except the fairy without clothes, and she was Zhinv. Zhinv was worried and shy when her clothes were stolen. At this time, Niulang appeared and let Zhinv be his wife. Zhinv found carefully this young man was indeed her Qianniu star. Hence, Zhinv became Niulang’s wife. After marriage, this couple loved each other and led a happy life; also they had one son and one daughter.
         However, Empress was furious when she knew this message, and appointed the heavenly army to catch Zhinv. On this day, when Zhinv was cooking, Niulang came back and cried to Zhinv that Ox died. Before the death, ox told Niulang to denude his skin, because some day it was needed for flying. Zhinv knew that this ox was God-Ox Star who was demoted to earth just for speaking out some impartial words. They buried the ox well.
          But later, the gales happened. The heavenly troop suddenly appeared and caught Zhinv away. Zhinv was very sad and suddenly heard the word from Niuliang:”Zhinv, waiting me!” Zhinv in the sky turned around and saw Niulang shouldering two baskets where their son and daughter sat. Niulang wore the ox skin and flew behind her and her infants were crying aloud. When they almost came together, Empress appeared by clouds. She pulled out hairpin from her hairs and took a draw amid them. A large heavenly silver river between heaven and earth(Milky Way) appeared between this couples. They could not go across any more. This family was separated unconditionally and unreasonably. Zhinv crazily cried on one side, and Niulang together with his infants cried on the other side. They can not meet any more. All the fairies and gods at present were touched deeply, even Empress was also a little bit moved by their love and then agreed that Niulang and his infants can stay on heaven, also they can meet once a year. The meeting day is lunar 7, July.
           Since then, this couple is forced to live on both sides of the Milky Way, and they looked at each other from afar. In autumn’s evening, people can easily find two brighter stars lying on the both sides of Milky River. They are Niulang and Zhinv. And beside Niulang, there are two little stars, which are their son and daughter. On the evening of lunar 7 July, a large number of pied magpies built a temporary bridge with their bodies for this couple’s meeting.

    Variations of the story

    • Niulang, came across seven fairy sisters bathing in a lake. Encouraged by his mischievous companion the ox, he stole their clothes and waited to see what would happen. The fairy sisters elected the youngest and most beautiful sister Zhinü (weaver girl, the star Vega) to retrieve their clothing. She agreed to do so. Returning their clothes to them and admiring Zhinü’s courage and kindness, Niulang fell in love with her. Since Niulang had seen her naked, she gave up being a fairy girl and agreed to marry him.
    • Niu-Lang had missed his life back on earth, but the Heavenly King had married them with the condition that Niu-Lang will stay in heaven forever. The breaching of promise had lead to the punishment from the angry Heavenly King, but agreed to let them meet up again if the Milky Way dried up. Hence Niu-Lang taking their children, scooping water from the Milky Way everyday in the hope of drying up the river. His act had moved Yu-Di the Heavenly King, who decided to let them meet once every seven days. The Magpie who was the messenger however, conveyed the wrong message as "meeting every 7th day of the 7th month". To seek forgiveness from the couple, the Magpie King summoned all the magpies to form the bridge, to help Niu-Lang and Zhi-Nu reach each other sooner. 
    • In some versions it is the Emperor of Heaven, the cowherd's father, or the cowherd's mother who has the role of separating the lovers for them to focus on their work instead of romance.
    • The star Deneb is a fairy who acts as a chaperone when the lovers meet on the magpie bridge.
    • Rather than once a year, there is a version where the lovers were permitted to reunite once a month.
    • There is a belief that sometime during the night of Qixi, the two stars Altair and Vega will actually unite on the same side of the Milky Way.
    • Zhinu was told as the 7th daughter of Yu-Di(Emperor of Gods) in some versions and as one of his grandaughters in some.
    • Niulang got cow from his late father
    • Similar stories are told throughout Asia: in Japan, Korea, Thailand, Laos and Indonesia. In South-east Asia the stories were known as Sudhana Jataka, believed to be one of the stories of the past lives of the Buddha, or the jataka.
    Vietnam version
            In Vietnam, this day is called ngày "Ngưu Lang Chức Nữ" (Niu Lang Zhi Nu day in Mandarin). The tale is about a pair of lovers: Ngưu Lang, who is the Jade Emperor's buffalo man and an outstanding bamboo fluter, and Chức Nữ, who is responsible for fabric weaving. They were too passionate for each other to do their work well. Because of this lost productivity, the Jade Emperor became angry and decided that they must live on opposite sides of Ngân Hà (Ngân river aka the Milky Way). But later the Jade Emperor felt sorry for them and permitted them to meet each other once a year on the 7th day of the 7th month of the lunar year.
    However, they are unable to cross the Milky Way on their own. Thus the Jade Emperor ordered crows and racket-tailed treepies to build a bridge across the Milky Way. From then on, the bridge has the name cầu Ô Thước ("Crow and Pie Bridge").
    Every year, when they meet each other, the lovers weep. Their tears fall from the sky and make a special kind of rain on this day: "mưa ngâu" ("continual rain" — a rain that lasts a long time).

    Traditions 
    • Qixi originated during the Han Dynasty. It came from people's worship of the stars.
    • Many unmarried girls will go outside and watch the Milky Way. 
    • On Qixi, a festoon is placed in the yard and single or newly married women in the household makes an offering to Niulang and Zhinü consisting of fruit, flowers, tea, and face powder. After finishing the offering, half of the face powder is thrown on the roof and the other half divided among the young women of the household. It is believed that by doing this, the women are bound in beauty with Zhinü.
    • Another tradition is for girls to throw a sewing needle into a bowl full of water on the night of Qixi as a test of embroidery skills. If the needle floats on top of the water instead of sinking, it proves the girl is a skilled embroideress. Single women also pray for finding a good husband in the future. And the newly married women pray to become pregnant quickly.
    • Also in some places, a popular event of the night was to lead a thread through the needle facing the bright moon, and those who managed to do so are said to be crafty in embroidery.
    People say that on this day it will rain, because of the crying in heaven. Others say that if you stand under grapevines on this night, you can hear the lovers talking.