The Sunday Mail
One day I was approached by a local friend who asked me what interesting traditions are followed by the Chinese that many Zimbabweans might not know of.
What immediately popped into my mind were the various festivals we celebrate as a nation. As such, this article looks at one celebration that falls within the month of August. It is known as the Qixi Festival and it is celebrated on the seventh day of the seventh Lunar months. In 2019 that’s on the 7thof August.
In China, all traditional festivals are narrated as fairy tales and everybody knows the romantic story of Qixi. In the Han Dynasty about 2200 hundred years ago, there was a poor orphaned herdsman, Niu Lang and the ‘weaving’ fairy-Zhi Nyu in Chinese, the youngest daughter of the Jade emperor of Heaven ( a god in Chinese mythology).
One day whilst she was bathing in a river, Niu Lang came across Zhi Nyu and they fell in love, angering the Jade Emperor. The Emperor forced Zhi Nyu to come back home and as she arrived, Jade Emperor separated the realm of heavens and Earth with a silver river in the sky, the Milky Way.
After much sadness from being apart from her love, the Emperor agreed to allow the lovers to meet one day every year, on the seventh day of the seventh Lunar month. The magpies voluntarily helped make this happen. They would fly Niu Lang upwards to the Silver River and make a bridge for the couple to meet. It is said that on this day it is hard to find magpies because they are all busy making the bridge.
Through this, the Qixi Festival came to be. Since then, Qixi is not only a special day for lovers, but also for teenage girls. It is also known as the “Daughters’ Festival.” For thousands of years, girls would hold a ceremony to beg the Zhi Nyu fairy for wisdom and a beautiful future marriage.
This festival has been commercialized in modern China, with domestic consumption increasing every year as the Qixi Festival approaches. The younger generation considers this festival as important as St Valentine’s Day on the February 14. The only difference is that the festival is a home-grown day for lovers. As such, theQixi Festival is also called“the Chinese Valentine’s Day”.
The modern celebration of this festival has been influenced by the western Valentine’s Day traditions. Couples often celebrate in the most romantic ways-roses, chocolates, jewelry and handbags are some of the preferred gifts.
Data provided by Chinese domestic online shopping mall site Tmall.com shows that the day before the Qixi Festival in 2018, over 120,000 handbags were sold online within 24 hours. Jewelry brands witness their sales rocketing as the festival nears, some as high as five-fold the sales on normal days.
For many Chinese residing out of China for work or study, it is hard being miles away from their loves ones, but there are other ways one can express their love. A common practice is sending electronic money- “red pocket “through WeChat to family and friends.
WeChat is a mobile application similar toFacebook, Whatsapp, and Ecocash combined. It functions as a messaging platform with photos sharing facilities, where one can book a taxi, have food delivered, unlock a community bicycle, read the news, play games, pay for groceries, all on the same application.
The “Red pocket” is done through the payment system the E-Wallet on one’s WeChat account. It is linked to one’s bank account and funds are kept in an escrow service whilst people can send or receive cash almost instantaneously.
An amount is attached to a message and is sent in form of a red pocket, with the option of displaying the amount on the screen. Just like that it is sent to and received by a loved one. The best amount to send is 520Yuan because the pronunciation of the numbers in Chinese sounds just like “I love you”.
Should one choose to send an undisclosed red pocket, it is then a surprise to the recipient. A group of friends or family members can form a group chat and besides having conversations, they can mass-send red pockets in the group chat and have so much fun opening it.
So, whatever the choice of gift or how one chooses to express their love, this day is all about cherishing the people in our lives, because of the special place they have in our hearts.
The writer is Vice President at Chamber of Chinese Enterprises in Zimbabwe (CCEZ)
Managing Director at Hengshun Zhongsheng Group Zimbabwe. CCEZ is a non-profit organization; its scope is to engage business and economic activities between China and Zimbabwe.