Wed | Aug 31, 2016

Qixi is for lovers

Published:Sunday | March 3, 2013 | 12:00 AM

In the month of February, most of the Western world celebrates what is regarded as the special day for lovers. For people in love, February 14 is known as Valentine's Day, or St Valentine's Day, which began as a tribute to the saint who was specially supportive of lovers. On that day, gifts of flowers and candy - particularly chocolates - as well as cards and other tokens are exchanged. Valentine parties and other events are held to celebrate the day.

There is also a festival for lovers celebrated in China for millennia and, in recent years, many young Chinese as well as some westerners are returning to this event to demonstrate their regard for their partners. This festival is known as the Qixi (Kee Chee) or the Seventh Night, and in recent years as The Chinese Valentine Day.

This festival had its beginnings in the Han Dynasty, about 206BC, and for the traditional Chinese, has been observed ever since. It falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month. This year, August 23 is the day.

Strangely, the day's observance is based on one of the well-known tragic love stories of ancient China.

As the story goes, a mortal Niulang, a cowherd, and Zinu, a fairy, fell madly in love and got married. But they were separated by the Supreme Goddess of Heaven in her great anger that one of her subjects, a fairy, had married an ordinary mortal.

The couple could only meet once a year on a bridge across the skies. This bridge was made by magpies who took pity on their plight. You can still see the bridge today and you know it as the Milky Way.

The fairy was very skilled at weaving and she is also known as the Weaver Maiden. Mortal girls longed and prayed for the skill.

needs of young lovers

This they made sure to do on the day of the Qixi. They also pray - as you can imagine - for a good husband, for wisdom, talent and skill. But the festival is chiefly concerned with the needs and desires of young lovers. No wonder, then, that it is regarded in the same way as Valentine's Day, and now is even so called by many in China. This trend is growing as more and more young people return to their ancestry.

There are, however, many persons in China who do not approve of the link with Western observation and resent the effort to link the two. They are upset at the commercialisation of Valentine's Day in the west and they think that too much emphasis is placed on the aspect of gifts. The purists feel that a festival of such vintage should not be linked with the much newer western observance. They feel it is important to preserve the purity of the ancient customs.

For Qixi, many poems and songs are composed to loved ones, and at gatherings of young people, they are on the lookout for their life's partner. Many go to the temples to pray. Many young Chinese are embracing the Valentine's Day name for Qixi. They believe the purposes are identical, and that they need special occasions to channel their affections.

Qixi or Valentine, whichever you choose, the feelings, emotions and the affections whether in Jamaica or China, will be the same, because we are not too different at all.

- Article courtesy of the Jamaica- China Friendship Association.