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Double Seventh Day

Updated: 2010-08-21 17:29
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The 7th day of the seventh lunar month is a traditional Chinese festival called Double Seventh Day, which is also considered China’s Valentine’s Day. Because main participants in this festival are women, and the main activity of the festival is to plead for skills, the festival is also called Qiqiao Festival, or Young Women’s Day. On May 20th, 2006, Double Seventh Day was put on the list of the first national intangible cultural heritage sites by the State Council of China.

 Double Seventh Day

I. Origins of the Double Seventh Day

1. Double-Seventh Day originated from nature worship According to historical literature, records about Altair (represented by the cowherd in the legend) and Vega (represented by the Weaving Girl) had come into being along with the increasing understanding of astronomy and weaving technology of the Chinese at least three or four thousand years ago. The first star of the Big Dipper is called the Kui Star (head star), or Kuishou. Later, the one who gained the first place in the highest imperial civil service examination was called "da kui tian xia shi" (literally, great head of the world scholars); and the Double-Seventh Day is also called "Kuixing (head star) Festival,” or "Shaishu (Basking books) Festival.”

2. Double-Seventh Day was also the product of time worship by the ancients In the Chinese language, "七" (seven) forms a partial tone with "期" (a period of time); the number "七" appears in both month and day, giving a strong sense of time. The number "seven" displays the periodicity of time in the folk wisdom, which usually sets "double seven" as the termination of time. Meanwhile, "七" forms partial tone with "吉,” therefore "double seven,” carrying the meaning of double auspiciousness, is a lucky day. In Taiwan, July is considered the month of most happiness and auspiciousness.

3. "Double Seventh Day" is also an outgrowth of number worship January 1, March 3, May 5, July 7, and September 9 along with February 2 and June 6, altogether seven pairs of date in the lunar calendar, were considered auspicious days by the ancient Chinese. "Seven" is also the number of the beads in each row of the abacus, romantic and precise, giving a mysterious aesthetic feeling. Furthermore, "七" bears the same pronunciation with "妻" (wife), thus the Double Seventh Day is to a great extent a festival related to women.

II. Various Double Seventh Day Customs in China

In Guangdong Province: the Seventh-sister Party In the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and the Republic of China period, the Double Seventh Day was given great importance in Guangdong Province. Many interesting customs prevailed then. One important custom was the Seventh-sister Party.

According to the recollections of some old people who attended the party during that period, only young women or young married women could take part in the activity, while men and old women could only watch and give salutes. The activity was organized by several good sisters in advance. They usually soaked some rice, kernel and mung beans in a china bowl with water and made them sprout. When the Double Seventh Day was coming, they got busy collecting some money and asking for their families help to make a magpie bridges and various beautiful handicrafts with paper.

On the eve of the Double Seventh Day, the young women would set an old-fashioned square table for eight people in their halls, and put beautiful needlework on the table to show their fine skills. Meanwhile, the young women usually were dressed up and seemed like fairies. They sat around the table playing games or reading poems. They also threaded needles to plead for skills.

In Taiwan Province: worshiping the Chuangmu Deity Worshiping the Chuangmu deity has similar meanings to worshiping the mother of the seventh sister. This custom helps women get rid of their fears and concerns as mothers. Chuangmu is the deity protecting children. The seventh of the seventh lunar month is her birthday. For families having children, they will worship the Chuangmu deity beside the child’s bed. The worship shouldn’t take too long, lest the Chuangmu deity spoil their children. People aim to pray for health and the quick growth of their children.

In Jiangsu Province: the Bridge of Joss Sticks There is a fair held in Gudoujing Village, Tanghui Town, Jiaxing City, Jiangxi Province every year on the Double Seventh Day. People all go there to build a bridge of joss sticks. The bridge is usually 4 to 5 meters long and half a meter wide. There are also handrails along the bridge which are decorated with flower ornaments. On the night of the Double Seventh Day, people pray for happiness and luck, and burn the bridge to imply that the Altair and the Vega have passed the bridge and met each other joyfully.

In Zhejiang and Hunan provinces: women wash their hairs and catch dew People believe that fetching water from rivers or springs on the Double Seventh Day is like fetching water from the Milky Way, which is extremely pure and magical. Therefore, washing one’s hair on that day has a special thing that women could get blessings from and protects them from the Weaving Maid. According to legends, dew on the Double Seventh Day is the tears of the Cowherd and the Weaving Maid. The dew could make people become sharp-eyed and quick-moving.

In Southwestern China: colorizing finger nails Coloring finger nails with flowers or grass on the Double Seventh Day is a popular custom among most women and children in southwestern China. It’s a hobby and closely related to the faith in procreating.

In Shanxi Province: making scarecrows In the loess plateau areas of Shanxi Province, many kinds of activities are held on the night of the Double Seventh Day to plead for skills. Women usually make scarecrows and name them “Qiaogu.” They not only offer fruits, but also plant bean seedlings and scallions. On that night, women of each family all carry a bowl of clear water and cut the bean seedlings and scallions into the water. One can predict one’s life whether with skills or not through the shadows under the moon. They also hold competitions of needle threading and paper-cutting.

In Guangxi Province: water storage There is a custom in some areas of Guangdong Province which is to store water on the Double Seventh Day. People believe that the water of the day can help dispel diseases and disasters. Children who are feeble and can easily get ill usually tie seven knots on a red string and wear it to pray for health and luck.

In Shandong Province: making “Qiaocai” and “Qiaohua” In Rongcheng City, Shandong Province, there are two kinds of activities conducted by young women on the Double Seventh Day. One is to make “Qiaocai,” which is to breed malt in wine glasses; the other is to make “Qiaohua,” which is food shaped in forms of flowers and made of flour.

In Shaoxing City: hearing the whispers under the pumpkin canopy In the countryside of Shaoxing City, it’s said that a young woman who can hear the whispers of the Cowherd and the Weaving Maid on the night of the Double Seventh Day can finally get a pure and eternal love.

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