Saturday, August 21, 2010

Taiwanese Tradition: Chinese Valentines Day

Chinese Valentines day is celebrated on the seventh day of the seventh month on the Lunar Calendar. In 2010 that day (by the Solar Calendar) was August 16th. The Chinese name for the holiday is Qing Ren Jie. (情人節 Passion person Festival.) There is an interesting legend that goes with Qing Ren Jie.

The legend goes like this:

The seven daughters of the Goddess of Heaven were visiting the earth. While there they stopped to bathe in a river. The noise of frolic caught the attention of a cowboy by the name of Niu Lang. Niu Lang thought it would be a great joke to hide the clothing of the seven daughters as they swam in the river.

When the daughters finished bathing they looked for their clothes and discovered that they were missing and that Niu Lang had hidden them. They chose the youngest and prettiest daughter, her name was Zhi Nu, to go to Niu Lang to ask him to return their clothing, which she did.

Niu Lang gave them back their clothing. However, during the exchange Niu Lang saw Zhi Nu naked. They fell in love and were married. Niu Lang and Zhi Nu were so happy that Zhi Nu neglected her work as a weaver. So the Goddess, in order to punish her called her back to heaven, and the couple was forced to separate. Niu Lang being a mortal cannot enter the heavenly realm, of the immortals.

But once a year the Goddess feels pity for the two lovers, so on the 7th night of 7th month, she allows them to be reunited. The legend says that magpies use their wings to form a bridge allowing Zhi Nu to cross over to be with Niu Lang.

As Americans in Taiwan, my family celebrated Valentines Day on February 14th as we usually do. But when we found about this we celebrated again last week. I thought that it was unusual that no one really was out buying gifts or flowers or anything. In fact, Brenda teased some of the husbands that they would be in the doghouse if they didn’t buy flowers for their wives. But as I read up on Qing Ren Jie I found out that gift-giving and cards are not associated with it. Instead Lovers sit and look at the star Vega, which represents Zhi Nu and the constellation Aquila which represents Niu Lang. Vega is found east of the Milky Way and Aquila is west of it. They are looking for the Bridge of Magpies, to reunite the lovers.

That’s romantic isn’t it, to sit together gazing at the stars and pondering this lovely little legend. And it’s cheaper than a dozen roses. I wonder…..nah, I’ll just do both next year, Roses and stargazing. The best of both traditions.

Other posts you may be interested in:

Taiwanese Traditions:  Chinese New Year: The Legend of Nian
Taiwanese Traditions:  Ghost Month
Taiwanese Traditions:  The Dragon Boat Festival

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