Qixi falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month in the Chinese calendar. As the story goes, an orphan boy named Niu Lang had a magical talking ox. The ox told Niu Lang, "You are a nice person. If you want to get married, go to the river and your wish will come true." Niu Lang hit the river and met the seven fine daughters of the Emperor of Heaven*. They had just flown down from Heaven to take a quick bath.
(Heaven is an approximation. It's more like a sky court.)
Niu Lang quickly fell in love with the youngest, seventh daughter, Zhi Nu. Then he stole her clothes so she couldn’t fly back to Heaven with her sisters. "You can have your clothes back if you marry me", he told Zhi Nu. She agreed and they were happily married for several years and had two children.
One day, as that magical ox felt felt death creeping up, he told Niu Lang to keep his hide for emergencies. Shortly after, the Emperor of Heaven started missing his seventh daughter and sent Zhi Nu’s pesky grandma to Earth to bring her back to Heaven. Really mafan, this grandma. As she was whisked away, Niu Lang wore the ox hide and carried his two children in bamboo baskets with his wife’s old fairy clothes and followed her to Heaven.
But you can't keep a grandma away that easy -- they've got a lot of free time. To keep the lovers away from each other, Zhi Nu’s grandmother created the Milky Way between them and moved Zhi Nu to the Vega star and sent Niu Lang and their children to the Altair star. STAR-CROSSED.
Zhi Nu’s mother felt really bad for them, so she lets them meet once a year on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month. On that day, flocks of magpies -- the luckiest, happiest birds in China -- form a bridge across the stars so Zhi Nu can walk across the galaxy to meet Niu Lang and their children. People say that's why it's hard to find magpies on Chinese Valentine’s Day.
People also say that if it rains on Qixi, those are the tears of Zhi Nu and Niu Lang. Galactic love, purple rain.
So there you go. And if you're looking for a way to show your loved one how much they mean to you, check our tag page for all kinds of activities and dinner deals around town.
This article was originally published in 2014, with writing and research by Marilyn Cheong. It has since been updated several times.