Why is Chinese Valentine’s Day Called Qiqiao Festival?

What is Chinese Valentine’s Day called? Falling on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, it is widely called Qixi Festival (Double Seventh Festival), although the festival has the traditional name of Qiqiao Festival (Qi Qiao Festival), literally the Ingenuity-Begging Festival, for it is a day for girls to plead with Vega for wisdom and skills.


Why is Chinese Valentine’s Day Called Qiqiao Festival?

Vega in Chinese culture is the star symbolizing Zhinu (Weaver Girl), a goddess in Chinese mythology who is good at spinning and weaving. On the seventh night of the seventh lunar month, girls wearing new clothes go to a local courtyard and plead with Zhinu to be skillful.

Here under are interesting facts about Chinese Valentine’s Day, showing how girls compete and plead for skills.

1. Competition of Threading Needles

This is the oldest way to plead for skills in the Qiqiao Festival, which originated in the Han Dynasty (202 BC - 220 AD). Women thread colorful line through sewing needles with five, seven or nine holes. The first one who threads all the needle holes is the winner, and is predicted to be skillful in all things. Girls losing the competition won’t be skillful, which is called “shu qiao” in Chinese.


2. Game of Spider Web

There are two versions of this Qiqiao Festival custom. One is that girls set a table with a basket filled with fruit to see whether there will be a spider weaving a web on the night of the festival. It is a sign that the girl will be skillful if a spider weaves a web. Another version is that a girl finds a spider and puts it into a little box for a whole night. If there is a round and dense net in the box in the morning, the girl who found the spider will be intelligent and skillful in the future.


3. Float a Needle to Prove One’s Ingenuity

Floating a needle to prove one’s ingenuity is a folk custom during Qiqiao Festival originating from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and Qing dynasty (1644-1911). On the sixth day of the seventh lunar month, girls took a bowl of water and left it overnight, and then exposed it to the sunlight for half a day on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month. Then it was time to prove one’s ingenuity by placing a sewing needle gently on the surface of the water. If the shadow of the needle in the bowl was bent or of other shapes, the girl would be intelligent and skillful, while a straight shadow was a sign that girl was unskillful.


4. Finding Objects on the Festival Night

The game originated in the palace of the Han Dynasty. There was a palace lady named Xu Jieyu, who sculptured raw lotus root into various birds and flowers and presented these to the emperor. The emperor put these figures on the table in the palace on the night of Qi Qiao Festival and made the palace ladies look for them in the dark. The girls who found more were predicted to be more skillful. This kind of game is called “dou qiao” in Chinese, literally meaning ingenuity competition.

 See also
Qixi Festival Traditions - 18 Folk Customs in China

- Last updated on Dec. 06, 2022 by Brenda Lian -
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