Tag Archives: valentine’s

Valentines Day and China’s Other Unique Festivals

News and Travel Editor

Today is Valentines Day, you either love it or hate it but it seems the Chinese certainly love it given the fact that the Chinese Valentines Day, known as the Double Seventh Festival, predates the Western version by about 1000 years. The Double Seventh Festival is thought to have originated during the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD), whereas Valentines Day was made famous by Chaucer in the 14th Century.

This is Zhang Chunwen, Beijing’s Clown Delivery Man. He’s been in the job several years now travelling all around the city and will deliver flowers to anyone from your partner to your favourite teacher. Although, not everyone looks too pleased with this unusual method…

Although Valentine’s Day is traditionally celebrated on the 14th February in the West, the Chinese have their own version, known as Double Seventh Festival, or the Qixi Festival. The festival falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month. Why on this particular date I hear you ask? The answer lies with the legend of Niu Lang and Zhi Nu. One day, Niu Lang, a cow herder met Zhi Nu, a fairy from heaven and, although some would say she was out of his league, they naturally fell in love. The story of their love soon got back to heaven, with the king and queen demanding her return. When Niu Lang tried to follow her, the queen created a wide river between them but was so moved by their tears that she allowed them to visit each other one day a year, the seventh day of the seventh lunar month. The date for your diaries on this year is the 28th August, as if you wanted to celebrate Valentine’s Day 2 times a year!

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As well as the Qixi Festival, the Chinese have a few more quirky festivals up their sleeve, celebrated throughout the year. Some of our favourites are below.

The Festival of Hungry Ghosts

Admit it, this one sounds awesome. According to traditional Chinese belief, the seventh month of the lunar calendar is when spirits of the ancestors roam the earth – Could this also be why Niu Lang and Zhi Nu meet in the seventh lunar month?! *jaw drops in fascination*. Many Chinese people will appease these ghosts by burning fake money or leaving food out for the ghosts to use in the afterlife. If you find yourself wandering the streets during this month, make sure you don’t sweep up any offerings left out, unless you want some serious misfortune befalling you…

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Monihei Carnival

This festival is best summed up by the image below.

monihei-festival
Image courtesy of http://www.yunnantravelguide.com/Line/show.asp?id=726.

 

Interested? Thought so. Monihei Festival celebrates the discovery of a local herbal medicine in Yunnan Province which is rubbed all over your body. During the festival, mud is used to the same effect as a representation of the medicine as people run around trying to get each other as filthy as possible.

Cheung Chau Bun Festival

Held at Pak Tai Temple in Hong Kong, the Cheng Chau Bun Festival coincides with the Buddha’s birthday and every year, 3 60ft towers are constructed from bamboo around the temple are are covered in buns. The most entertaining part of the festival is the ‘bun snatching race’, where men and women race up the tower grabbing as many buns as possible. The more you grab, the more luck you will have to share with the rest of your family.

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Dragon Boat Festival

Zigui County is the centre for this amazing spectacle. The festival commemorates the life of poet and adviser Qu Yuan. Legend has it that Qu Yuan lived around 2500 years ago during China’s Warring States period and committed suicide by drowning in a river, when his leader was defeated. Watch our exclusive video below.

 

Chinese Valentines Day: What you need to know

News and Travel editor

Romance is sure to be in the air all over China tomorrow as the Qixi festival, also known as Chinese Valentine’s day, celebrations get underway.

 In the city, shops will be packed to the brim with cards, beautiful flowers, heart shaped chocolates and a range of gifts for young lovers to exchange, much like a Western Valentine’s day. Restaurants will be heaving with romantic dates and cinemas will be full of young couples enjoying each others company.
 But the tragic story behind this festival is very different to the tale of love and happiness that many young Chinese adults – like people all over the world – yearn for in their lives.
  Venture further into rural China and you will notice the very different and traditional festivities taking place, all with origins in the mythology surrounding the Qixi festival. Though many of the traditions are less likely to take place within larger cities, the story behind the festival is still passed between generations, and most people in China know the legend well.
  The festival originates from ancient Chinese folklore which depicts the forbidden love between a cowherd and a weaver girl and her disapproving mother.
 Legend has it that the young cowherd, Niulang, who was poor but kind-hearted and an orphan, lived with his elder brother and sister-in-law, who were cruel to him and threw him out of the house. He thus lived by himself as a farmer and cattle herder.
 The weaver girl, named Zhinü, was a fairy from heaven, the seventh daughter of a Goddess. She fell in love with the cowherd and descended from heaven to marry him, without the knowledge of her mother. The weaver girl and the cowherd were very happy and loved each other very much. They soon bore two children.
Illustration of the Cowherd and Weaver Girl together in Heaven
 However, when the Goddess learnt that her daughter, a fairy, had married a mere mortal, she was furious and sent celestial soldiers to force Zhinü back to heaven. Niulang, heartbroken, was surprised when one of his oxen spoke to him and told him to slaughter the ox and wear its hide to get into heaven.
 Through bitter tears, Niulang killed the ox and he and his children put on its hide – hoping to get to heaven and be reunited with his wife and their mother. But the Goddess would not allow it, and on his arrival she took her hairpin and slashed a river in the sky to separate the lovers so that they could only see each other from opposite banks.
 The tears of the couple attracted the pity of all of the magpies in the world, who flew to the river and created a bridge so that the lovers could be together again. The Goddess, moved by their loyalty to love, allowed for the magpies to come once a year, so that Zhinü and Niulang could spend a single night together on the seventh day of the seventh month.
Qixi Stars
There are some Qixi festival traditions which date back around 2000 years and are still practiced across rural China today…
1. Practicing dexterity 
Young single women would traditionally showcase their dexterity by threading a needle by moonlight and carving exotic shapes, animals and flowers into fruit to symbolise their good skills as a potential wife.
2. Making offerings to and worshipping Zhinü
Traditionally, young Chinese women visit their local temple and pray to Zhinü, offering her fruit, flowers and beauty powder in the hope that she will help them to find their own husbands.
3. Hanging wild flowers on oxen horns
Children collect wild flowers and hang them on oxen horns in honour of the Niulang’s noble ox who sacrifices himself for the couple’s love.
4. Bidding farewell to the celestial couple (newly weds)
Newly weds traditionally, on this day, worship and say goodbye to Zhinü and Niulang, symbolising a happy marriage and acceptance of the woman into her new family.
5. Stargazing 
According to some folklore, Niulang represents the star Altair and Zhinü represents the star Vega, with the river created by the Goddess representing the milky way. Traditionally, on the night of Chinese Valentine’s Day, the Chinese look to the sky for the stars Vega and Altair shining in the Milky Way, with a third star forming a bridge between the two.

 

Looking for a way to surprise someone you love? Why not try Beijing’s clown-flower-delivery-man!