Qixi, or Chinese Valentine’s Day, falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month; this year, that’s Tuesday, August 13. Qixi celebrates the legend of two star-crossed lovers, Niulang the cowherd and Zhinv the weaver girl. This ancient tale, which dates from at least the 6th century BC, is a story of eternal love overcoming all adversity and changing the fabric of the universe in the process. We suggest some ways to mark the festival with your children.
Read: The Fairy Tale
Before diving into the other activities listed below, read and discuss the story of Qixi with your kids.
Play: QiXi Games
Google have created a series of free QiXi games here. Place the magpies in the correct slots to form a bridge and reunite the lovers.
Make: Qixi Craft Projects
Because Zhinv is a weaver girl, many of the festival’s customs center on needlework and handiwork. Try these projects with your kids:
- A traditional contest pits kids against each other, where they show off their dexterity by threading a needle as quickly as possible.
- During the festival, a garland is displayed in the yard. You can make pretty tissue paper flowers or tassel garlands. Or, create paper butterfly or sewn paper garlands. All these projects include detailed step-by-step instructions.
- Lanterns are an intrinsic part of many Chinese festivals. On Qixi in Beijing, people flock to lakes and parks to light lanterns. Lanterns can be bought here. Or, make your own decorative lanterns.
The fairy tale gives a Chinese folkloric explanation for the creation of the Milky Way. In Chinese astronomy, there are stars named after Niulang the cowherd and Zhinv the weaver girl. The "Cowherd" star (qianniu 牽牛) is known as Altair in the West. There are two additional smaller stars, one on each side of Altair, which are the Cowherd’s children. The "Girl Weaver" star (zhinv 織女) is known as Vega in the West.
Beijing’s night skies don’t always lend themselves to stargazing, so budding astronauts can find Altair and Vega for themselves on Stellarium. This is a free application that installs a virtual planetarium on your computer. It provides an enormous 3D interactive map of the sky which you can zoom around and explore. If you don’t want to install software, you can use interactive online maps at Sky Map or Google Sky to find the tragic couple.
Watch: The Karate Kid (2010)
In this Beijing-based family movie, the karate kid, played by Will Smith’s son Jaden, develops a schoolboy crush and attends the Qixi festival with the object of his affections. Together, they watch a shadow play that tells the story of the ill-fated lovers.
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons