Tomorrow is western Valentine’s Day.
It certainly has caught on to some extent in China, but many might be surprised to learn that the Chinese version of Valentine’s is held on another day of the year. In fact, it is held on the same day according to the Chinese lunar calendar, but like the new year, falls on different days using the Gregorian version.
In Chinese, Valentine’s day is called 情人节 (qing ren jie), which literally means ‘lovers’ day, and most Chinese tend to erroneously use this English translation when referring to this day.
Lovers’ day in China is called 七夕 (qi xi), and falls on the seventh day of the seventh month in the lunar calendar.
At this point, I would like to quote an English passage from Chinadaily under fair use that explains the origins and story behind this date;
The legend has been handed down for nearly 2 millennia. The story has been recorded as far back as the Jin Dynasty (256-420 AD). Poets composed hundreds of verses on the love story and many types of Chinese opera tell the story.
The Chinese people believe that the star Vega（织女星）, east of the Milky Way, is Zhi Nu and, at the constellation of Aquila（天鹰座）, on the western side of the Milky Way, Niu Lang waits for his wife.
Zhi Nu 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 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 asked the youngest fairy, Zhi Nu, to stay with him.
Several years passed on Earth, which were only a few days in heaven. Niu Lang and Zhi Nu lived happily together and had two children before the Queen of Heaven discovered Zhi Nu’s absence.
She was so annoyed she had Zhi Nu 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 Nu 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 Nu 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.
Source; Chinadaily.com.cn Qixi Legend
The commonly known Chinese proverb 牛郎织女 (niu lang zhi nv), the cowherd and weaving maid, originates from this legend, and is often used to describe couples who, for whatever reason, are forced to live much of the time apart.
520 = I love you
Mandarin is full of homophemes, characters or words that share the same pronunciation, and the same certainly goes for the numbers zero to ten.
In short, 5 is pronounced 五(wu), and sounds like the Chinese word for ‘I,’ 我(wo). 2 is 二 (er) which sounds a little like the word for love, 爱(ai), and stretching a bit further still, zero is 零(ling), sounding vaguely like 你(ni), the word for ‘you.’
我爱你 (wo ai ni) means ‘I love you’ in Chinese.
Double Valentine’s in 2017
Here, I’m not talking about double dating multiple flames, but the interesting phenomenon that took place in the year 2017, when the same Chinese Valentine’s Day occured twice in consecutive months.
Like the Gregorian calendar adds an extra day in February every leap year, the Chinese lunar calendar has a leap year闰年(run nian) by adding an extra month to that year’s calendar.
In 2017, the lunar calendar dictated that the seventh month was to be repeated, meaning that, interestingly, there were two Valentine’s Days that year, one in each of the two consecutive months.
Stories abounded in the media of diehard romantics who indeed celebrated the festival twice that year in equal earnest.
Chinese Valentine’s 2019
This year, you can make an impression by arranging a romantic surprise for August 7th, especially if you have a Chinese partner!