Wednesday, August 26, 2009
China's Qixi Festival takes place on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month (mid-August by our calendars) and has its root in an ancient legend about two lovers separated by the Milky Way who can only meet once a year on this night. This year the festival takes place on Wednesday, August 26.
Some conservative Chinese citizens have criticized the traditional festival for its Westernization as couples have participated in Valentine's Day rituals on the day. In recent years, the West's Saint Valentine's Day on February 14 http://www.edu-cyberpg.com/Arts/Valentine_Clip_Art.html has exploded in popularity in China. Flower vendors hit the streets, convenience stores sell stuffed animals (though not much chocolate, given the Chinese traditional aversion to sweets), and tables are full at restaurants.
In China's metropolitan areas, it's not difficult to find young men who complain about the difficulty in finding girlfriends or wives. Not only is there a well-known shortage of available women because of the country's "one-child" policy, but Chinese women are increasingly practical and look for suitors with promising jobs and those who already own cars or apartments. In China's countryside, arranged marriages are still the norm.
Qixi festival tells the story of Niulang, the cowherd, who fell in love with a beautiful fairy Zhinu when grazing his cow. But their love was interfered with by Wangmu, wife of the Jade Emperor, the Supreme Deity in Taoism. She separated the couple by drawing a river, the Milky Way, with her hairpin between them.
Touched by their love, magpies come in flocks every Qixi festival to form a bridge spanning the galaxy with their bodies so that the couple can meet.