Valentine’s day has become a universal celebration for lovers. But do you know Chinese people also have their own traditional lovers’ day－Qixi, which is on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month? Qixi was initially known as Qiqiao Festival. It had little to do with love. It was a significant day for women to pray to the weaver fairy, Zhinnu, for elaborated weaving skills and good luck. Later, people associate this festival to the legend of the Cowherd and the Weaver Fairy.
The legend of the Cowherd and the Weaver Fairy
Just like the ancient Babylonians had their fantasy about the starry sky and name the 12 zodiac signs, the ancient Chinese also had their romantic imaginations of the stars. When they look up to the nightfall, they spotted there were two stars separated by the Milky Way: Altair and Vega. Then a story came up in their mind.
One day, the weaver fairy, Zhinu got permission from the Queen Mother of Heaven to go down the earth for exploration. She found a river and she decided to take a bath, leaving her clothes by the river. However, she didn’t notice that Niulang, the cowherd who was enchanted by her beauty was coming closer and stole her clothes. The fairy could not find her clothes so she lost her magic power to go back to heaven. While she was being helpless, Niulang gave her his clothes and took care of her in his house. Later Zhinnu fell in love with Niulang. They got married and lived a happy life with two kids.
Good times never last long. When the Queen Mother learned their marriage, she was furious and she sent a troop to bring the fairy back. To save his wife, Niulang made a cloak from the cowhide to fly to the sky with his kids. Upon seeing Niulang coming upward, the Queen Mother removed her golden hairpin and created a sky river (AKA the Milky Way) between the lovers.
Niulang and the kids could do nothing but cry helplessly. The story of the star-crossed lovers moved a flock of magpies. Countless magpies then gathered together, flying up to create a bridge across the Milky Way so that Niulang and Zhinnu can meet. The Queen Mother was later touched by the scene and her attitude to the marriage was softened. Therefore she allowed Niulang to meet Zhinu once a year on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month.
That’s all about the sad but beautiful Chinese legend. On Chinese Lovers Day, you can share this story with your lover so you will cherish each other more.
Search for Niulang star (Altair) and Zhinu (Vega)
Though in the story, the lovers can meet once a year; in reality, the distance between the two stars is always 16 light-years.
Vega is the brightest star of Lyra, with the color of white-blue. Around the star, there are 4 less bright stars that make a shape of a diamond and were associated with Zhinu’s weaving shuttle.
Altair is the brightest star of Aquila, with the color of white. It’s between β Aql and γ Aql. The three stars are connected into a line, which is the symbol of Niulang and his kids.
Then where is the magpie bridge? There’s a star in the Milky Way with the apparent magnitude of 1.3－Deneb. It’s the star of Cygnus, and it’s where Niulang and Zhinu have their reunion.
And guess what? The stars mentioned above are the so-called Summer Triangle. Now you know the story, don’t just take the stars as a triangle.
Don’t be sad if you don’t have a lover. We have a special Taipei Day Tour for you: Oh My God. In this tour you can meet the gods in Taiwan; of course, including the love god. Join our tour to pray for love and experience Taiwan temple culture!