Valentine’s Day in Taiwan
Most Western cultures, with a few exceptions, celebrate their Valentine’s Day on February 14th, but that is not the case in many Eastern cultures. For example, in South Korea, a holiday dedicated to lovers is observed every month, and in Miao, southwest China, March 15th is observed as a holiday for love.
In Taiwan, Valentine’s Day is observed as the Qixi Festival on the seventh day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar. Because its date is set on a lunar calendar, the holiday can fall anywhere from the beginning of August to the end of August on the Gregorian calendar each year.
The History of Valentine’s Day in Taiwan
Qixi, or Taiwanese Valentine’s Day, has been observed for over two thousand years. It was first created during the Han Dynasty in 206 B.C. It’s based on the folk tale of Zhinu (the seventh daughter of the God of Heaven, known as the Jade Emperor) and a cowherd named Niulang.
According to one version of the story, Zhinu came down to Earth and was bathing in a river when Niulang came across her and was immediately struck by her beauty. It’s said that he fell in love on the spot, so he decided to steal her clothes. Without her clothes, Zhinu was unable to return to heaven, so she decided to marry Niulang.
Zhinu and Niulang became a loving couple, with Niulang tending to his fields and herds, and Zhinu weaving and tending to their children. It’s said that Zhinu was so in love with him that she lost all desire to return to heaven.
Of course, the Jade Emperor wasn’t all that happy with their relationship when he learned about it, so he ordered the Queen Mother of the West to bring Zhinu back to heaven. Niulang was upset and wanted to reunite with her in heaven. This is when his ox, who was once the god of cattle, built a boat for him so he could take his children to heaven.
Just before Niulang and his children reached heaven, the Queen Mother of the West punished them by creating the River of Heaven — known to us now as the Milky Way. This separated the two lovers forever. Both of them were heartbroken, and Zhinu would become the star Vega, while Niulang would become the star Altair.
However, in a moment of mercy, the Queen Mother of the West decided to let the lovers meet once a year on the seventh day of the seventh month. This is when a flock of magpies swarms into the sky and builds a bridge for them to cross. This day is now celebrated as the Qixi Festival, otherwise known as China’s Valentine’s Day.
Observing Valentine’s Day in Taiwan
This holiday is observed in many of the same ways that Valentine’s Day is observed in other cultures. It’s also celebrated with the Qixi Festival, a festival that features parades, food, dancing, and fireworks.