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Did you know that this year, Chinese Valentine’s Day falls on Monday August 28th?
Also known as Qixi Festival, it is the most romantic among traditional Chinese festivals. Each year it falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month in China, which lends it its other name: The Double Seven Festival.
As with most cultural festivals, this romantic occasion is rooted in traditions and legends. The earliest reference to the story of Qixi Festival dates back to over 2600 years ago and while there are many different variations, each interpretation is filled with beauty, heartache, and magic. One version goes like this...
It begins with a boy and a girl: Niulang the cowherd and Zhinü, a fairy and the seventh daughter of the Goddess of Heaven.
With his parents no longer around, Niulang lived with his brother and brother-in-law who both treated him poorly, until one day they drove him from his home with only the clothes on his back and an old ox.
The ox was not just any ox; he was once the star of Taurus but was demoted to life as an ox in the mortal world after violating the laws of the Heavenly Palace.
Niulang had once saved the ox when it had become very ill and so, to show its gratitude, the ox introduced Niulang to Zhinü, who had escaped from heaven to find excitement on Earth among humans.
The two fell in love and married. They lived a happy life with their two children. Niulang spent his days working in the field while Zhinü stayed at home weaving.
All was well until the Goddess of Heaven learned that Zhinü had married a mere mortal. In her fury she banished Zhinü to the heavens so the two would live forever apart.
The ox, deeply distressed by their situation, sacrificed himself to help the lovers reunite in heaven. Niulang collected his children and using the ox’s hide, began to traverse the heavens.
The Goddess of Heaven learned of his plan and, intent on ensuring the lovers could never be reunited, she took a hairpin from her hair and scratched a huge silver river between them in the sky, thus forming the Milky Way between the constellations Altair and Vega.
Heartbroken, Niulang and his children wept until their tears and sadness drew sympathy from all of the magpies all over the world. Taking pity on them, the magpies flew up into heaven to form a bridge over the river, to enable Niulang and Zhinü to reunite.
The Goddess, so moved by their love, allowed the lovers to meet each other on the magpie bridge on that same day each year - on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month.
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