Prada’s promotion for Qixi, the Chinese equivalent of Valentine’s Day.
Culture

Like Valentine’s Day, China’s Qixi is all about consumerism, too

Aug 07, 2019

They say there are two types of people in the world: those who celebrate 七夕 Qixi, and those who don’t. That is, you’re either out at an overpriced dinner—or binge-watching rom-coms at home by yourself.

Qixi is the Chinese equivalent of Valentine’s Day, and it dates back more than 2,000 years.

The festival, which is also celebrated in Japan and Korea, falls on the seventh day of the seventh month of the Chinese calendar, which means the date changes every year (this year, it falls on Aug. 7).

A couple poses for a wedding photo in Beijing on Aug. 7, the day of Qixi.
A couple poses for a wedding photo in Beijing on Aug. 7, the day of Qixi. / Photo: Simon Song/SCMP

As with any consumer holiday, the occasion has become a battleground for luxury brands, which release new products every year specifically for Qixi.

Nike has a line of shoes inspired by Qixi’s original folktale (more on that later). A magpie graces the heel of the shoe, a reference to the birds that build a bridge between two star-crossed lovers.

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Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Bulgari have all released limited-edition handbags as well.

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They might have recycled these designs from Valentine’s Day.
They might have recycled these designs from Valentine’s Day.

Prada has taken it a step further by offering flower bouquets for purchase at its stores.

It’s based off an astronomical phenomenon

Away from the commercialism, Qixi’s origin stems from a Romeo and Juliet folktale about a poor cowherd who falls in love with a weaver goddess.

When the weaver’s mother, the all-powerful Queen of Heaven, discovers their affair, she banishes them to either side of a “silver river”—the Milky Way.

Google’s Doodle celebrating Qixi.
Google’s Doodle celebrating Qixi.

But once a year on Qixi, the stars align, and a bridge forms between the two star-crossed lovers, allowing them to reunite for just one day. (Astronomers now believe the phenomenon described in the folktale is the “summer triangle,” where the stars Altair, Vega, and Deneb form the vertices of a triangle.)

Astronomers now believe the phenomenon described in the folktale is the “summer triangle,” where the stars Altair, Vega, and Deneb form the vertices of a triangle.

There are a variety of folk rituals associated with the holiday, many of them having to do with fertility and finding love.

Young unmarried women make offerings, including ripe fruit, tea, flowers, and even make-up, to the weaver goddess. Farmers hang garlands of wild flowers on oxen horns as a nod to the legend’s cowherd, and dew, symbolizing the divine tears of the lovers at their reunion, is collected in basins for cleansing.

A mass wedding at a Confucian temple in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province, during Qixi 2016.
A mass wedding at a Confucian temple in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province, during Qixi 2016. / Photo: Xinhua

Today, these folk traditions have gone the way of the oxcart in urban China, where the preferred way to celebrate Qixi is the more conventional dinner date.

But if all else fails, there’s always a trip to the Museum of Broken Relationships, where you can commiserate with other lonely hearts who can’t catch a date on Qixi.

A man seeking a girlfriend to spend Qixi with in Urumqi, Xinjiang.
A man seeking a girlfriend to spend Qixi with in Urumqi, Xinjiang. / Photo: China Foto Press
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