Changing Course of Qixi Customs
The Qixi Festival, also known as the Double Seventh Festival and the Qiqiao Festival, is celebrated by Chinese people on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month on the Chinese lunar calendar. The festival closely connects to the tale of two lovers, Niulang and Zhinü (the cowherd and the weaver girl respectively). Explained in the modern-day context, the tale of Niulang and Zhinü describes the marriage between Niulang, the cowherd, and a fairy who descended as a weaver girl (Zhinü, the Vega) down to earth. The Queen Mother of the West (a goddess in Chinese mythology) separated them to opposite sides of the Milky Way, and the husband and wife could only meet once a year ever since.
However, this is only a part of Niulang and Zhinü folk tale’s evolution in extensive history.
Vega is the brightest star in the constellation of Lyra in the northern region of the Milky Way. Vega is also the second brightest star in the northern celestial hemisphere. In the “Xia xiaozheng” (The Small Calendar of the Xia), the earliest crop calendar written in China during the Spring and Autumn Period (770-467 B.C.), it describes Vega as: “Lunar 7th month, dusk, the weaver girl moves towards the East Village (The Chinese character for village is a homophone to the character that means ‘moving towards’ )” (In Lunar 7th month when the sky turns dark, Vega is moving towards the East). Upon the first appearance of this bright star, it associates with the name “Zhinü” and the Lunar 7th month. The reason is that the 7th month in the lunar calendar refers to August or September in the Gregorian calendar when the weather turns cold. During this time, the women had to begin weaving cloths during the 7th month to make new clothes that withstand the cold weather as the harsh winter arrives. Ancient Chinese people believed that stars in the sky are representative of the gods. Given the name of weaver girl, the star has been given sincere wishes and hopes from the start of its naming – To bless that everything would go smoothly and well for women’s textile production during the Lunar 7th Month.
During the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 A.D.), the first well-documented poem about Altair (the cowherd) and Vega appeared, named “Far, Far Away, the Cowherd”. Being the brightest start in the constellation of Aquila in the southern region of the Milky Way, Altair directly sits opposite to the Vega, separated by the Milky Way. “Clear and shallow the Milky Way, they are not far apart! But the stream brims always between. And, gazing at each other, they cannot speak”, which is ancient people’s imagination of the two stars. At this moment, the cowherd and the weaver girl symbolize a pair of parted lovers.
When it comes to today’s version of the cowherd and weaver girl story, it cannot be separated from another folk tale of Dong Yong and the weaver girl during the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420 A.D.). In Dong Yong’s story, the poor Dong Yong was very filial, and as a result, his story moved the Emperor, and he sent a weaver girl down to Earth. The weaver girl used her superb weaving techniques to solve Dong Yong’s difficulties in life and then left. Under folk dissemination, the weaver girl in Dong Yong’s story was crafted as the weaver girl in the cowherd’s story. As Dong Yong’s story was gradually improved, the cowherd and weaver girl story has also developed in a similar context to the story we know today.
Source丨Old Tales for New Times: Some Comments on the Cultural Translation of China’s Four Great Folktales in the Twentieth Century P35
Comic——”The Cowherd and the Girl Weaver”
Not only the story changed, the traditions of the festival also changed. Firstly, the eating customs has expanded, from cakes, pies, melons, and fruits to candies, there are endless varieties. Secondly, in ancient times, begging for cleverness was allowed in the first, eighth, and ninth lunar months. People prayed to the goddess of weaving for dexterous hands that could enable them to have remarkable weaving skills. As time passed by, begging for cleverness during the Qixi festival became popular. A fair that specialized in begging was even developed during the Song Dynasty (960-1279 A.D.).
Perhaps, the meaning of the festival lies not only on its historical origins but also on the special meaning given by every person who celebrates the festival. Tales and tradition are changing, but the joy acquired from celebration does not change. There are multiple ways to start the Qixi Festival: To commemorate the love of Altair and Vega, to beg for cleverness and pray to celestial beings, to participate and visit fairs with close friends……
This years’ Qixi Festival, why not celebrate with a sweet dessert? In August, a good choice will be our Shanghai Young Bakers’ new product, the Raspberry Tart.
Traditionally, raspberry is a midsummer crop. It needs sufficient sunlight and moisture to reach its most optimal growth. Raspberries that ripe during the summer are bright red with a slight tartness flavor. For every one hundred grams of raspberry, it contains 6.5 grams of dietary fiber, the highest in all foods. Besides, raspberry is a low glycemic index (G.I.) food, with a total sugar content at only 4%.
The central part of the raspberry tart is pistachio cream. Different from traditional cream, pistachio cream is less sweet, but is nuttier in aroma and taste. The taste is mellow and delicate, and when eaten with raspberries, it gives people a refreshing feeling.
Even the seemingly humble tart is not simple in any way, which includes the crispy tart edges and the subtle sweetness in the tart shell. It is achieved because, during our production process, we brushed a thin layer of almond paste at the bottom of the tart shell before scooping in the pistachio cream. The cream and the tart shell are separated to the greatest extent, which keeps the layering of flavors while not reducing the deliciousness of the raspberry tart. After cutting a small piece and biting into it, the refreshing sweetness and tartness of the raspberry, the delicate and mellow pistachio cream, and the crispy tart edge combined together is simply a delicacy ……
We also offer a special class on making Raspberry Tarts, from 1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on August 22nd. If you would like some hand-made sweet gifts to offer your loved ones, or enjoy the sugary sweetness of spending time with your partner, don’t hesitate — contact us and sign up!
Details of course
Date & Time: August 22, 13:00-16:30
Location: SYB’s Baking Centre, Suide Road, Putuo District, Shanghai, China
Price: 350 RMB per person
Visit our ordering page by scanning / recognizing the QR code:
For catering or sign-up enquiries, please contact Ms Eve Wu:
Tel: 136 8168 7194
Or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Have a nice Qixi Festival!