Or should we say Happy Night of Sevens! (七夕 or qi xi) or Happy Festival to Plead for Skills! (乞巧節 or qi qiao jie) or Happy Seventh Sister’s Birthday! (七姐誕 or qi jie dan) or Happy Night of Skills! (巧夕 or qiao xi)? This is the day Shanghaiist has had circled on our lunar calendar for some time now, the seventh day of the seventh lunar month. Today we will display our skill at carving melons, we will decorate the horns of our neighborhood oxen with flowers and we will go to the “temple of matchmaker” and pray that we get hooked up. Good times, good times. China Daily fills us in on the holiday’s history:
The festival has its origin from a romantic tragedy. As the story goes, once there was a cowherd, Niulang, who lived with his elder brother and sister-in-law. But she disliked and abused him, and the boy was forced to leave home with only an old cow for company. The cow, however, was a former god who had violated imperial rules and was sent to earth in bovine form.
One day the cow led Niulang to a lake where fairies took a bath on earth. Among them was Zhinu, the most beautiful fairy and a skilled seamstress.
The two fell in love at first sight and were soon married. They had a son and daughter and their happy life was held up as an example for hundreds of years in China.
Yet in the eyes of the Jade Emperor, the Supreme Deity in Taoism, marriage between a mortal and fairy was strictly forbidden. He sent the empress to fetch Zhinu.
Too bad this LSD trip didn’t take place in Canada. Fairies can marry whoever they want there. Several other variations on the story of qi xi exist. China Daily, it seems, glossed over the juiciest part of the story:
A young cowherd named Niu Lang (牛郎, “the cowherd”, the star Altair) happens across seven fairy sisters bathing in a lake. Encouraged by his mischievous companion the ox, he steals their clothes and waits to see what will happen next. The fairy sisters elect the youngest and most beautiful sister Zhi Nü (織女, “the weaver girl”, the star Vega) to retrieve their clothing. She does so, but since Niu Lang sees her naked she must agree to his request for marriage.
Note to Shanghaiist: “Ask Bai Ling to marry you … now!”
Also on the internet:
- Several online greeting cards for the occasion.
- Or you could just send 999 gold roses.
- Xinhua says interest in the holiday among Chinese youth is waning.
- City Weekend would like those who do plan on celebrating the holiday to do so safely … if you know what we mean.
- And for those who wish not to be tempted, 8 Days tells us where to be alone in Shanghai.