While the romantic story, “Romeo and Juliet,” is well known in western culture, the legend of “Cowherd meeting his Wife Weaver Maid” is equally famous in the oriental world. The date of the Qiqiao festival, which is on the seventh day of the seventh month on the Chinese calendar, is the folk celebration of the onetime meeting of the cowherd and weaver couple.
On the afternoon of August 2, 30 foreign and Chinese friends experienced the local folk festivities in Zhucun village, which holds the week-long festival annually. Invited by Lifeofguangzhou.com, @Guangzhou-China weibo and Tianhe district government, a delegation was called on to make a deeper exploration into the local tradition.
“We celebrate Valentine’s Day in February, and Qiqiao Festival is very interesting,” said a Britain named Will. The participants from the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, Portugal, Thailand, Indonesia and Burundi were curious about everything involving the traditional Chinese festival, and they simultaneously marveled at the large number of Chinese people attending the event.
An exhibition of Qiqiao handicrafts inside the gymnasium of Zhucun Primary School was the first event visited by the group. Hundreds of handicrafts made from basic ingredients like peanuts, rice, beans, red dates and longans and materials including wood, cloth, stone and iron were made by craftswomen and craftsmen from across China, including from villages in Guangzhou, Dongguan and Taiwan. “These handmade handicrafts are not for sale,” an interpreter told a Thailand girl, Huang Hong.
Participants appreciate the exhibits in the gymnasium
Then the delegation walked to the most interesting part of Qiqiaoyuan Garden, the first theme park featuring the Qiqiao tradition in China. The Qiqiao Festival originated from the Han Dynasty. Despite the extreme heat and humidity of August, the visitors’ enthusiasm overcame the oppressive weather. Jason from the United States, who had selected white Han clothing, and Will, in blue Han clothing, together learned how to bow and greet in the traditional way with the help of a volunteer of Zhuzun village.
Jason (center) and Will (right) learn how to bow and greet in the traditional way
The garden had organized a series of interesting games for the public to enjoy. Among them were throwing chopsticks into a vase, threading seven needles at one time and throwing red ribbon balls into a basket. Needlework skill was extremely important for girls in ancient China; at the Qiqiao Festival, it's a tradition for girls to thread needles under the moonlight as a requirement for finding a good husband. But today, needlework is not only for women. Lucas from Portugal attempted to thread seven needles simultaneously.
Lucas (Left) from Portugal attempts to thread seven needles simultaneously
Unlike throwing chopsticks into vase, throwing red ribbon balls requires good cooperation with a teammate, who stands at a certain distance. This time, Colin, a foreign friend from Burundi, showed off his excellent basketball skills. He and his Thailand partner, Huang Hong, threw four ribbon balls in the basket. Jason and his Chinese partner, Yao Xinhui, also did a good job.
Colin shows off his excellent basketball skills
Jason and his Chinese partner, Yao Xinhui, co-operate in the ball-tossing game.
At the Qiqiao Festival, youths often make a wish on pieces of red cloth and throw them on a Baiyan tree. Sasha, a Russian girl who speaks very good Chinese, wrote down "爱情甜蜜" (wish a sweet love) in Chinese on the wishing cloth. After a few attempts at throwing, her wishing ball was hanging on the wishing tree. Her wish may soon come true.
Russian girl Sasha writes down the Chinese characters "爱情甜蜜" (wish a sweet love) on the wishing cloth.
Not far from the Qiqiangyao Garden in the village, the Mingdetang Ancestral Hall was the venue for a Baiqiniang sacrificial ritual and a Qiniang Banquet. When the Portuguese friend, Lucas, entered the hall seeing girls wearing Chinese traditional costumes for the ritual, his camera never stopped clicking.
Participants cheer at the Qiniang Banquet.
"I have lived in Singapore for a long time, and they also have a lot of festivals and ceremonies," Lucas said. "But China surprises me. I wish I can find a good wife in China."
The wish on Lucas' wishing cloth is "an honest Chinese wife"
Will and Sarah hold the souvenirs of chopsticks.
Participants in Han Clothing pose for photos on Magpie Bridge.