Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Qixi Festival~ Zhi Nü and Niu Lang Story

Zhi Nü and Niu Lang
The Qixi Festival, which is held every year on the 7th of July according to the lunar calendar, is like the Chinese Valentine's Day. It also known as Magpie Festival, falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month on the Chinese calendar; thus its name. It also inspired Tanabata (aka. Shichiseki [七夕]) in Japan, Chilseok (칠석) in Korea, and “Ngày mưa ngâu” (Continual Rain Day) in Vietnam.

Tanabata(aka. Shichiseki)
Generally this night is warm and the shimmering Milky Way, flanked by the stars Altair and Vega, dominate the clear sky. The air is filled with the scent of blooming flowers, creating the perfect setting for the most romantic festival in China.

Gazing at Altair and Vega on this night is an old tradition in China. According to Chinese tales, the stars are a fairy named Zhinv and her beloved husband, Niulang who are only allowed to meet during the Qixi Festival. Chinese women place fresh fruit in their gardens and worship the beautiful and kind Zhinv begging her for wisdom, skill and perfect love in their lives. For this reason, the Qixi Festival is also called as Qiqiao (begging for wisdom and skill) Festival. It is said that on the night of Qixi, while Zhinv and Niulang can be seen in the sky, their conversation can be heard if you stand by the fresh fruit. 

For the most women, love and marriage are the most important things in their lives; so praying to Zhiny on the night of the Qixi Festival is a popular undertaking.

The Story...

It is said that a long time ago, a clever and honest man named Niu Lang (Herd-boy) was living in the Niu village at the west of Nanyang city. Niu Lang's parents died when he was very young and he had to live with his brother and sister-in-law. The latter was very cruel and mean to Niu and always forced him to do some hard work. Finally she even drove Niu out of her family. Poor Niu only had an old cow with him. One day the old cow suddenly told Niu, "Tomorrow is the seventh day of the seventh lunar month' the seven daughters of Yuhuang Dadi will come to earth and have a bathe. The youngest one that named Zhi Nü (Weaving-girl) is the cleverest. Hide her clothes and she will be your wife." Niu Lang was aroused by what the cow had said and decided to have a try.

When it came to that day, Niu Lang hided himself in the reed by the river beforehand. Soon seven fairies descended from the heaven. They took off their clothes and jumped into the river. Right then Niu Lang bounced up from the reed, grabbed Zhi Nü's clothes and dashed backwards immediately. This had terrified the seven fairies and the six of them flew to the heaven with their clothes on, leaving only the youngest Zhi Nü startled in the river. Niu Lang stumbled that he would return the clothes as long as she promised to marry him. Zhi Nü found that Niu Lang was the kind of man that she loved, so she nodded bashfully. After the marriage Herd-boy and Weaving-girl lead a happy life and they loved each other very much. Later they gave birth to a son and a daughter. How perfect the life was! However, the Queen Mother of the Western Heavens was irritated by their behavior and forced Zhi Nü to return to the heaven.

Niu Lang put on his cowhide shoes and brought his kids with him to chase Zhi Nü back. When it came to the edge of success, the Queen Mother of the Western heavens pulled out a hairpin from her hair. With just one wave of the hairpin, she brought about a billowing river, which separated the two lovers at each bank. They could do nothing but weep with each other. Fortunately, the magpies were moved by their sincere love. That's said to be the origin of the Milky Way, Altair and Vega. Hundreds of thousands of them flew there and they formed a magpie bridge so that Herb-boy and Weaving-girl can get together again on the bridge. Not being able to make any change to this, the Queen Mother of the Western Heavens had to permit them to reunite with each other every seventh day of the seventh lunar month.

From then on, whenever it comes to that day, young girls will dress themselves in new clothes and tried to find the Her-boy and the Weaving-girl stars in the sky at night, expecting to see their yearly reunion and praying to gods that they can be as intelligent and talented as Zhi Nü and can have a happy marriage. That's how the Praying-for-Cleverness Ceremony originated.
The Praying-for-Cleverness Ceremony is a very exciting day in the Chinese countryside. Young girls wear new clothes, worship the two stars and "pray to Zhi Nü for cleverness." There are many kinds of prays, the most common one of which is the pray for the talent of threading needles. Young women bring out colorful threads and seven needles. The girl who can pull a thread through these needles will be regarded as "talented lady."

The Double Seventh Festival is considered as the Chinese Valentine's Day. The story that Herd-boy and Weaving-girl reunited on the Magpie Bridge casts a romantic light on this festival. It is said that you can even hear the sweet whispers between these two lovers if you sit under the grape vine on that day.

                  google images



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