[Zhinu and Niulang, weaving clouds and being mythically old]
The mythology behind Qixi Festival is like something pulled out of an alcohol-fuelled, hallucinogenic trip. If you haven’t bothered reading the Wikipedia entry, here is my rendition of it along with a list of the many places you might want to wine and dine in celebration of it down below.
So there’s this fairy. Her name is Zhinu. She lives in heaven. And her job is to weave colourful clouds in the sky. Yes, that’s her job. Deal with it for now. There’s way more crazy to come.
And there’s this guy. His name is Niulang. He lives on earth. And his job is to herd cows.
For some completely illogical reason, Zhinu gets bored of heaven and decides to find good times down here on earth… On a cow farm…
Skipping right past an examination of Zhinu’s appalling life choices, she finds love in Niulang and they make two quasi god babies and live very happily together.
UNTIL Mamma Zhinu finds out about it. And with the full furied wrath of an Asian mother armed with the infinite power of heaven, she demands Zhinu return to her cloud weaving duties.
Meanwhile, back on earth, Niulang is bereft. He turns to his cow and mutters, “Oh, brown cow! How do I rub this furrow from my brow?”
His beloved cow turns to look at him with a peaceful expression. Though his eyes have been scourged with the lent sorrow of his owner. “Kill me, hide in my carcass, and go find your wife in heaven”, the cow responds.
So Niulang irresponsibly takes his two children, shoves them into the still-warm hide of the deceased ox and goes to heaven. (They had Earth-Heaven transport figured out back then presumably.)
But Mamma Zhinu knows. And she is not happy. So she whips out her hairpin and tears a river right across the sky. The river, otherwise known to the rest of us fancy-talking folk as The Milkyway (?!) is more than big enough to separate Zhinu and Niulang for all eternity.
But why do we celebrate such a miserable love story, I hear you ask.
Well kids, that’s because on Qixi our world’s-worth of magpies migrate to intergalactic space and together form a bridge across the milky way which Zhinu can use to sneak off and spend the night with Niulang. The other birds? Pigeons? No they’re dicks.
So, besides stomping across a string of dead magpies to your beloved, arms laden with children sheathed in cowhides, how else can you romance your cowherder/fairy?
Jean Georges @ Three on the Bund
Picks of their Qixi menu include; foie gras brûlé with slowly roasted strawberries; halibut steamed with honshimeji mushrooms; miso-yuzu broth; grilled beef tenderloin.
4 course early bird menu: 18:00-18:30 (798RMB per person) // 5 course Qixi tasting menu plus a glass of strawberry royal cocktail from 20:00 (1118RMB pp) // 4/F, 3 Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu, 中山东一路3号4楼 // RSVP @ 21 6321 7733
Their four course Qixi menu includes lobster hamachi, asparagus and caviar, Wagyu beef, black truffles and mango coconut.
788RMB pp // 18:00-22:00 // 1/F, Waldorf Astoria Club, 2 Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu, 上海市黄浦区中山东一路2号，华尔道夫会所1楼 // RSVP @ 6322 9988
Selections of their three course Qixi menu includes; Kumamoto oyster, Ortiz anchovies and chorizo on toast, roast and braised beef, fresh longans, sago, coconut and ginger and peanut butter parfait.
720RMB w/ wine pairings or 588RMB w/o // 18:00-22:00 // The Puli Hotel and Spa, 2/F, 1 Changde Lu, 常德路1号2楼
Their four course menu includes Waldorf truffle salad, mushroom veloute, fillet or beef or salmon and blueberry cheese cake.
488RMB pp // 18:00-22:00 // 1/F, Waldorf Astoria Tower, No. 2, Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu 中山东一路2号,华尔道夫酒店一楼 // RSVP @ 6322 9988
Their six-course tapas, mains and desert menu includes avocado and prawn salad, shitake croquettes, red pepper stuffed with baby squid, beef sirloin and chocolate hearts stuffed with passion fruit foam. White wine for the tapas, red for the mains.
688RMB per couple // All day // 33 Sichuan Zhong Lu 四川中路33号 // RSVP @ 021 61360206
The Cathay Room @ Fairmont Peace Hotel
Picks of their “Sweetheart Dinner” for two includes Longjing tea-smoked duck carpaccio, sweet corn bisque corn veloute and seared Canadian Angus tenderloin.
1488RMB per couple // Fairmont Peace Hotel, 9/F, 20 Nanjing Dong Lu, 南京东路20号, 和平饭店9楼 // RSVP @ 6321 6888
Picks of their five course menu includes: oysters, Bostonian lobster to share, back cod, Australian angus beef and a chocolate heart.
1314RMB per couple (+150RMB for wine pairing) // Fucheng Lu by Huayuanshiqiao Lu 富城路滨江一号，近花园石桥路 // RSVP @ 5877 7500
Service charges not included in prices and MAKE SURE TO RSVP
[Image credit: Liu Guoxian via CNTV]