what is qixi festival

Valentine’s Day, It originated as a Western Christian feast day honoring one or two early Christian martyrs named Saint Valentine and is recognized as a significant cultural, religious, and commercial celebration of romance and love in many regions of the world.Coincidentally, China has the same Festival.Though in Chinese cities, Western Valentine’s Day is now more popular than Qixi with young people, the romantic legend of Niulang and Zhinü has taken deep root in the hearts of Chinese people. It probably always will be told from one generation to the next…

when is valentine’s day in china

Is there Valentine’s Day in China? Double Seven Festival is the most romantic of traditional Chinese festivals, and since China’s globalization it’s become known as “Chinese Valentine’s Day”.The Qixi Festival, also known as the Qiqiao Festival, is a Chinese festival celebrating the annual meeting of the cowherd and weaver girl in mythology.It falls on the 7th day of the 7th lunisolar month on the Chinese calendar.

how qixi festival is celebrated

chinese valentine’s day Traditions

Many customs and practices are associated with Qixi Festival. Traditionally, it is a day when women dress up in Hanfu – a traditional Chinese-clothing that has a long flowing robe with loose sleeves and a belt at the waist – and spend the day preparing offerings of tea, wine, flowers, and various fruits to pray to Zhinu for wisdom and to grant their wishes. Single women would pray to the celestial couple to grant them a good spouse, and newly married women would wish to bear a baby. Later in the night, the women will gather around and compete with each other on threading a needle.

Girls take part in worshiping the celestials during rituals.They go to the local temple to pray to Zhinü for wisdom.Paper items are usually burned as offerings.Girls may recite traditional prayers for dexterity in needlework,which symbolize the traditional talents of a good spouse. Divination could take place to determine possible dexterity in needlework.They make wishes for marrying someone who would be a good and loving husband. During the festival, girls make a display of their domestic skills.Traditionally, there would be contests amongst those who attempted to be the best in threading needles under low-light conditions like the glow of an ember or a half moon.Today, girls sometimes gather toiletries in honor of the seven maidens.

The festival also held an importance for newlywed couples.Traditionally, they would worship the celestial couple for the last time and bid farewell to them . The celebration stood symbol for a happy marriage and showed that the married woman was treasured by her new family.

On this day, the Chinese gaze to the sky to look for Vega and Altair shining in the Milky Way, while a third star forms a symbolic bridge between the two stars.It was said that if it rains on this day that it was caused by a river sweeping away the magpie bridge or that the rain is the tears of the separated couple.Based on the legend of a flock of magpies forming a bridge to reunite the couple, a pair of magpies came to symbolize conjugal happiness and faithfulness.

In some places people gather together and build a four meter long bridge with big incensticks and decorate with colorful flowers. They burn the bridge at night and wish to bring happiness in life.

Qixi Festival Traditions

1. Worship the Moon and Appreciate Stars
This is a primary Qixi Festival tradition. In Chinese traditional culture, the moon is an auspicious sign for women. On the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, girls and married women take a bath in water to which they have added several leaves. After bathing, they gather outdoors, eat seasonal fruits, and burn incense to worship the moon, view the stars, and share secrets and wishes with each other.

2. Handy Girl Competition
Chinese Valentine’s Day tradition includes several “handy girl” competitions:

Needle threading competition
Women thread colorful thread into a seven-holed needle. The one who threads the fastest is said to be handy and skillful in the future, while the one who threads the slowest must give a gift to the winner.

Spiderweb predictions
In the evening, every girl places a small spider in a box. If the next morning the spider’s web is round and dense, the girl will be handy. The rounder and denser the web is, the handier and more skillful the girl will be.

Sewing needle predictions
This is another way to predict whether or not a girl will be handy. First, the girl takes a sample of water during the daytime and another one at nighttime. Then she mixes the two samples together and lets it sit overnight. The next morning there will be a thin film over the water. Then it’s time to select the handy girls. Each girl puts a sewing needle gently on the film of her water sample. The needle will cast a shadow. If the shadow forms a shape such as a bent one, it is a sign that the girl will be skillful. If it is straight, she will not be so handy.

3. Worship the Weaver Girl
Worshiping the Weaver Girl is a purely girls’ and young women’s Qixi Festival tradition. The ceremony is held in somebody’s home under moonlight. They set a table with tea, wine, fruits, hazelnuts, peanuts, melon seeds and other sacrifices. Flowers are put into a bottle that has been covered with red paper, and a small incense burner is put in front of the flowers. After they have bathed, the young women and girls who are worshiping the Weaver Girl arrive at appointed time. After praying in front of the table, everyone sits around the table eating peanuts and melon seeds, and chatting until the middle of the night.

4. Worship Qiniangma Goddess
The Qixi Festival in southern Fujian and Taiwan is also the birthday of Qiniangma, who is regarded as a symbol of safety and health. On this day, people gather in groups to worship Qiniangma with flowers, fruits, and gifts. Taiwanese also hold a “coming of age ceremony”. That is, when the child reaches the age of 15, the parents give gifts to the Qiniang Temple together with their children, and thank Qininagma for protecting the children through their childhood and adolescence.

5. Worship Kuixing Star
In traditional Chinese culture, Kuixing Star, the first star of the Big Dipper, is in charge of the imperial examination. Kuixing’s birthday is July 7. Scholars and students who want to get good grades in the examination worship on that day to request good results.

6. Sowing Seeds to Wish for a Baby
This Qixi Festival tradition celebrates people’s wish to give birth. A few days before the festival, Women who want to get pregnant plant seeds on a small wooden board with a layer of soil. When the tender green seedlings sprout, they add some small huts and flowers, making it look like a small village in the field.

7. Eat Qiaoguo
Qiaoguo is a kind of sweet pastry. There are many styles and types of Qiaoguo. The main materials are oil, noodles, sugar and honey.

8. Welcome Fairies
This is a Qixi Festival tradition in Guangzhou, Guangdong. Before Qixi, girls make some lovely gadgets with colorful lines and papers, and put mung beans in a basin filled with water to make them sprout. On the sixth and seventh day of the seventh lunar month, the girls put on new clothes and jewelry. They put the mung bean sprouts and the gadgets on the incense table, burn the candles and bow to the stars. This is called “welcoming fairies”.

9. Swim in the River Where the Seven Fairies Bathed
It is said that seven fairies will come down to the earth and bathe in the rivers during the Qixi Festival, thus rivers become magic and will not only bring good luck but also prevent diseases. In Jiangxi, Baise of Guangxi, and some other places, people believe that the water on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month is holy and clean. It can exorcise evil, prevent disease and bring happiness to people. So people swim in rivers on Qixi.

10. Store Qixi Water
In Guangdong, the morning of Qixi, each family goes to the well or the river to fetch water to save for future use. It is said that Qixi water has a magical function. It can be used for treatment of burns and removing sores.

11. Celebrate the Cows
This is an interesting Qixi Festival custom for children. In the old days, children picked wild flowers and hung them on the horns of cows. Legend has it that when the Heavenly Queen Mother separated the Cowherd and the Weaver Girl, an old cow loaned his skin to the Cowherd to use to cross the Milky Way to visit the Weaver Girl. Children commemorate the sacrifice of the old cow by hanging flowers on cows’ horns.

12. Worship the Bed God
Worshiping the Bed God is one of the Chinese Valentine’s Day traditions in Taiwan. The seventh day of the seventh lunar month is the birthday of the Bed God. The Bed God is the child’s patron and can protect children as they grow up until he or she is sixteen years old.

13. Dying Fingernails
Fingernail dyeing is a Qixi tradition in the southwestern part of China. Girls dye their fingernails with a special kind of flower called impatiens balsamina. They smash the flowers, put them on their nails, and then wrap the nails with leaves. After a few hours, the nails are dyed a beautiful red.

14. Hair Washing
On Chinese Valentine’s Day, young girls in many areas like to wash their hair with water in which leaves have been soaked. Tradition has it that washing their hair on that day can make women young and beautiful and help unmarried girls find their future husband.

15. Airing Out Clothes and Books
In ancient times, people hung their clothes and placed their books outside to show off their wealth and knowledge and to show gratitude and respect to the sun. The fact is that clothing, books, and other items are susceptible to moisture and insects and can mildew easily; exposing them to the strong sunlight at this time can kill mites and prevent mildew. This custom has disappeared.

16. Make a Qiaogu Scarecrow
The Loess Plateau region of Shaanxi, has observes some unique customs and activities on the night of Qixi Festival. Women often make a Qiaogu scarecrow and there are paper-cutting competitions.

17. Consecrate Mohele, the Qixi Mascot
A Mohele is a small children’s doll that was popular in the Qixi Festival during the Song Dynasty (960 – 1279). In the Song Dynasty, people not only considered Mohele a symbol of the Qixi Festival, but also increased the size and proportion of the doll making it easier to play with. Moheles were also made into historical figures that were educational for kids.

18. Tie the Hair with Red Rope
Another Oixi tradition is for parents to tie red rope into their children’s hair on this day. It is believed that this will help them stay healthy and have long lives.

Modern-day celebrations

Today, however, only a few of these customs remain, as the festival has become increasingly commercialised, and converted into how the West celebrates Valentine’s Day – with many couples celebrating by giving each other gifts and flowers, and going on dates in China and Taiwan. In Hong Kong, the festival has gradually vanished in popularity, with few even unaware of its existence.

qixi festival story in chinese

The legend of the cowherd Niulang and the weaver girl Zhinü:

There once was a young, poor, but kind-hearted cowherd called Niulang, and an old ox. The ox actually was once the God of Cattle, but downgraded as he had violated the law of heaven. Niulang once saved the ox when it was sick. In order to show its gratitude, the old ox helped Niulang get acquainted with Zhinü (a fairy, the seventh daughter of a Goddess and the Jade Emperor) when she escaped from her boring life in heaven to look for fun on Earth.

Zhinü soon fell in love with Niulang and they got married without the knowledge of the Goddess of Heaven. Niulang and Zhinü lived a happy life together; Niulang worked in the field while Zhinü did weaving at home. After a few years passed, they had two children, one boy and one girl.

However, the Goddess of Heaven (Zhinü’s mother) found out that Zhinü, a fairy girl, had married a mere mortal. The Goddess of Heaven was furious and sent celestial soldiers to bring Zhinü back. Niulang was very upset when he found his wife was taken back to heaven. Then the ox asked Niulang to kill him and put on his skin, so he would be able to go up to heaven to find his wife. Crying bitterly, he killed the ox, put on the skin, and carried his two beloved children off to heaven to find Zhinü.

Just before he caught up with Zhinü the Goddess of Heaven took out her hairpin and created a huge river between them, and they were separated forever by the river that later became known as the Milky Way.

Heartbroken, Niulang and his children could only weep bitterly. However, their love moved all the magpies to take pity on them, and they flew up into heaven to form a Magpie bridge over the river, so Niulang and Zhinü could meet on the Magpie Bridge. The Goddess of Heaven was also moved by their love, so she allowed them a meeting on the Magpie Bridge on that day every year: the seventh day of the seventh lunar month.

In the rural regions, people usually see the meeting of Niulang and Zhinü as two stars in the sky:

✮ Altair – Niulang
✮ Vega – Zhinü.


My name is Yelang, I love my country. I love Chinese history, Chinese culture and Chinese food, I want to share my story to friends all over the world. Truly, without any political bias, let you know my motherland. For this reason, I have traveled all over China's 20 + provinces and visited more than 100 + cities. At the same time, I read a lot of books and articles, and let you know through the website of sonofchina. At the same time, I hope to get to know friends all over the world and know different countries in the world through sonofchina.So, if you have any questions, please let me know.

Leave a Reply