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8 Q&A ABOUT 七夕

Enjune Zhang





1 Why is it called 七夕?

It is on July 7 lunar calendar, and the related activity worshiping Zhinv, the seventh daughters (织女/七姐)of the Queen of Heaven (王母娘娘), comes in the evening of this day. We call evening 夕(xi) in ancient Chinese. So it means a festival falling on the evening of July 7. And the legend of 织女 furthers the meaning of this custom and its connection with the number seven. 


2 Why does somebody regard it as Chinese Valentine?

As the myth goes, 织女 comes to the man's world (we call it 下凡) and falls in love with 牛郎. However, their love gets hindered by the parents of 织女, and the couple is forced to be apart, without any opportunity to meet each other except the date July 7, when the magpies (喜鹊) of the world gather to make the bridge across the milky way for them. 

It is said that 牛郎织女 will meet each other this day, which is a symbol of reunion of couples through the thick and thin, a reflection of 有情人终成眷属.


3 Is it really the Chinese Valentine?

Traditional Chinese Valentine is on Jan 15 lunar calendar, and it is lantern festival (正月十五:元宵节) too. Girls stay at home with no chance to meet the potential BF in ancient China, but their opportunity comes in lantern festival, when they are allowed to go out watch the lantern show (赏花灯) and have fun figuring out the lantern riddles (猜灯谜).  And that's when the single get to each other, so lantern festival works like the Valentine better than Qixi, when single girls just have fun on their own.


4 Why is it also called 乞巧节?

Being smart in mind and deft in handcraft (心灵手巧)is the best praise for girls in ancient China. It is a day when single girls ask that quality and ability from 织女. Zhinv is good at waving and capable of getting the fabric done next to perfect. Girls dressed up decently gather and worship the goddess with the handcraft they make, praying for the skillfulness like 织女 and a happy marriage like 牛郎织女. 


5 What did girls in ancient China do in Qixi Festival?

Worship 织女 with their handcraft. There will be a competition in handcraft, and girls are judged by their handwork, like embroidery, decorations knitted with beads, clay figurine, etc. as offerings.

Collect the dews to wash their hands and eyes. It is said that eyes will be clearer and hands will be more skillful and proficient with the craft after wash. Water is deemed blessed by 织女 on that day.

Wash their hair and dye their nails. Single girls do this as a way in seek of beautify and happy marriage. 


6 Why does ancient Chinese have a festival like this on July 7?

Initially, festival on July 7 has nothing to do with 牛郎织女, and it is just a day to worship time and nature. 七 is a special number in Chinese culture, which sounds similar to 吉.  It means lucky. July 7 could be deemed as double 吉, conforming to the Chinese saying 好事成双. China has several festivals like this, with the day in the same number as the month per lunar calendar, say, double five, May 5 as dragon boat day, double nine, Sep 9, Chongyang Festival.


7 Why is it a festival for single girls in ancient China?

It was originally a day for single girls to pray for all the best from 织女. Actually married female are fully occupied by family and kids and they are far away from those days when they gather to pray for a better self and the ideal marriage accordingly. Qixi provides a good timing for young girls to get together and discuss what they are longing for.


8 Why do people store water or go swimming that day as a custom?

It is said that 织女 comes down for a bath in the river that day and the water is blessed. People believe that water fetched in a certain period of time is magically good for human body. 



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