Qixi Festival (七夕节), the seventh day of the 7th month on the Chinese lunar calendar, falls on 9th. August this year. It celebrates the annual meeting of the cowherd and weaver girl in Chinese mythology, so it is sometimes called the Chinese Valentine's Day.
The legend has been handed down for nearly 2 millennia. It says that on the evening, Niu Lang(牛郎) and Zhi Nv(织女) will meet on a bridge of magpies across the Milky Way. Chinese grannies will remind children that they would not be able to see any magpies on that evening because all the magpies have left to form a bridge in the heavens with their wings.
The Chinese people believe that the star Vega（织女星）, east of the Milky Way, is Zhi Nv and, at the constellation of Aquila（天鹰座）, on the western side of the Milky Way, Niu Lang waits for his wife.
Zhi Nv was said to be the youngest of seven daughters of the Queen of Heaven. With her sisters, she worked hard to weave beautiful clouds in the sky, while Niu Lang was a poor orphan cowherd, driven out of his home by his elder brother and his cruel wife.
Niu Lang lamented over his lonely and poor life with an old cow, his only friend and companion. The magical cow kindly told him of a way to find a beautiful and nice woman as his life companion.
Under the direction of the cow, Niu Lang went to the riverside on an evening, where the seven fairies slipped out of their heavenly palace to have a bathe.
He took one of the beautiful silk dresses the fairies had left on the bank. When the fairies left the water, the youngest couldn't find her clothes and had to see her sisters fly back to heaven without her.
Then Niu Lang came out with the dress and talked with the youngest fairy, Zhi Nv, about his story and hoped her to stay with him. The fairy was moved and she appreciated the hard-working cowherd so she decided to stay with him.
Several years passed on Earth, which were only a few days in heaven. Niu Lang and Zhi Nv lived happily together and had two children before the Queen of Heaven discovered Zhi Nv's absence.
She was so annoyed she had Zhi Nv brought back to heaven. Seeing his beloved wife flying in the sky, Niu Lang was terrified. He caught sight of the cowhide hanging on a wall. The magical cow had told him before dying of old age: "Keep the cowhide（牛皮） for emergency use."
Putting the cowhide on, he went after his wife with his two children.
With the help of the cowhide, Niu Lang was able to follow Zhi Nv into heaven. He was about to reach his wife when the Queen showed up and pulled off her hairpin to draw a line between the two. The line became the Silver River in heaven, or the Milky Way.
Zhi Nv went back to the heavenly workshop, going on weaving the clouds. But she was so sad, and missed her husband across the Silver River so much that the clouds she weaved seemed sad. Finally, the Queen showed a little mercy, allowing the couple to meet once every year on the Silver River.
Unlike St. Valentine's Day in Western countries there is not so much emphasis on giving chocolates, flowers and kisses. Instead, it is an important festival for young girls. Chinese girls prepare fruits, melons and incense as offerings to Zhi Nv, the weaving maiden, praying to acquire high skills in needlecraft, as well as hoping to find satisfactory husbands.
In the evening, people sit outdoors to observe the stars. Chinese grannies would say that, if you stand under a grapevine, you can probably overhear what Zhi Nv and Niu Lang are talking about.