The Legend of Magpie Bridge

The seventh day of the seventh month in the Chinese Lunar Calendar (celebrated in the Western Calendar during the month of August) is known as Qi Qiao Jie or Chinese Valentine's Day. As is the custom elsewhere in the world, this is a day devoted to romance. There are many versions of the origins of Chinese Valentine's Day. This is but one of them involving the Goddess of Heaven and her seven daughters.

According to legend, during one of their visits to Earth, the seven daughters of the Goddess of Heaven caught the eye of a cowherder named Niu Lang. As the seven maidens were bathing in a river, they were observed by the youth who was determined to engage in a little fun and made off with their clothing. In order to retrieve their belongings, the sisters decided that the prettiest of them, Zhi Nu who was the seventh daughter, should ask the cowherder to return their clothes.

Since Niu Lang would thus see Zhi Nu unclothed, they pair had no choice but to marry. The couple lived very happily for several years. Then (dependent upon which version of the folktale is followed) Niu Lang either died, or the Goddess of Heaven simply became disgruntled with the absence of her seventh daughter ordered that Zhi Nu return to her home in Heaven. Whichever the case, the Goddess of Heaven took pity on the sweethearts and allowed them to be reunited once every year.

It is said that on this seventh night of the seventh moon, Magpies form a bridge with their wings in order that Zhi Nu might cross and meet with her beloved husband.

In China, this day is also known as "The Begging Festival" or "The Daughter’s Festival." It is an important day for girls. In the evening, they prepare melons and fruits prior to engaging in worship and praying that their wishes for a good marriage will come true.

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