Happy Chinese Valentines Day

by - August 06, 2011

“What is 7-7?” you wonder. What is Chinese Valentines Day? I’m glad you asked. Allow me to share…
Please note: There are many variations of this tale. I have combined some elements to make it comprehensible.
Once upon a time, there was a cowherder, named Nuilang (translated: Cowherder). He was a handsome orphaned lad that worked hard as a farmer. One day he spotted seven fairy sisters skinny-dipping in a lake. On the urgings of his mischievous ox, he stole their clothes and sat back to watch the show that would inevitably follow. The sisters selected the youngest and most beautiful among them, the seventh sister, Zhinu (translated: weaver girl), to retrieve their fairy garments.
Aside: The ox was an immortal from heaven, sent to earth in the form of an ox as punishment for his misdeeds in the heavenly realm.
Magpies are an important part of the Chinese Valentines Day myth
Zhinu retrieved the clothing for her siblings and had Nuilang agree to marry her, as he has seen her unclothed.* The couple got along well, him a dutiful husband, and she a wonderful wife. They fell very much in love and had two children.
Zhinu’s mother, the Empress of Heaven, heard her daughter, the weaver of colorful clouds, had married a mortal. She was furious, as mothers sometimes are about what they perceive to be bad marriages.
She snatched Zhinu from earth and placed her back the heavens to resume her weaving. Niulang packed the kids in wicker baskets, and using the magically hide of his now dead, and formerly god-like ox, and gave chase. The Empress, using her hairpin, tore a river across the night sky (the milky way), separating the lovers forever.
Zhinu lives on the star Vega, and Nuilang on the other side of the night sky, lives on Altair, flanked by their children on the stars β and γ Aquilae.
In time, the Empress of Heaven was touched by their great love and took pity upon the couple. Once a year, the seventh night of the seventh month, she allowed all the world’s magpies to fly into the heavens. They formed a bridge over the river and allowed the lovers to reunite.
Qi Xi is also called The Festival to Plead for Skills (qǐ qiǎo jié), The Seventh Sister’s Birthday (qī jiě dàn), and The Night of Skills (qiǎo xī).
The Night of Sevens, Chinese Valentines Day, is celebrated by:
On Qi Xi, a festoon is placed in the yard and the single or newly married women in the household make an offering to Niulang and Zhinü consisting of fruit, flowers, tea, and facial powder (makeup). After finishing the offering, half of the facial powder is thrown on the roof and the other half divided among the young women. It is believed by doing this the women are bound in beauty with Zhinü.
Another tradition is for young girls to throw a sewing needle into a bowl full of water on the night of Qi Xi, Chinese Valentines Day, as a test of embroidery skills. If the needle floats on top of the water instead of sinking, it is believed to be an indication of the girl’s being a skilled embroideress.
Source: answers.com
Today, Chinese Valentines Day is one of matchmaking by parents and at speed dating parties. Astronomically, on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month the milky way appears dimmer, supporting the idea of a bridge between the two stars.

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