Qiqiao, or the Qixi Festival, is considered by many to be the Chinese equivalent of Valentine's Day. In fact, the festival began as a celebration for girls and specifically for single girls. And as the day approaches, CCTV reporter Shen Li has been at the opening of the 5th Qiqiao Culture Summit Forum in Beijing to find out about this ancient tradition.
Shen Li, Beijing, said, "Every year from the first day to the seventh day of the 7th month on the Chinese lunar year is the happiest times for the Qiqiao girls across China. That´s the time when they come together singing dancing and pleading with the Queen of Skills for intelligence, ingenuity, satisfying marriage and a happy life and that´s why we’re hosting this cultural forum, to promote this unique and fascinating culture."
This is the only traditional festival dedicated to females in China’s 5000 year history. Qiqiao literally means to be pleading with Qiao Niangniang, the Queen of Skills. For seven days and eight nights, unmarried girls would follow a set of seven different rituals from welcoming the goddess to bidding farewell.
This mystical culture owes its rich historical and cultural content to its home town, Longnan.
Sun Xuetao, Party Secretary, Longnan City, Gansu Province, said, "The forum provides us with an excellent opportunity to introduce Longnan to the outside world. Longnan is the birth place of Chinese human beings ancestor Fuxi and also the cradle for the Qin Empire that united China and control China for the first time. We sincerely hope that friends from outside will visit Longnan and enjoy the unique charm of our very beautiful city."
The worship of the Queen of Skills actually bears a striking similarity to the ancient Greeks worshipping the Goddess Athena, both pursuing an incarnation of beauty and wisdom.
And the girl’s festival which is celebrated in other parts of Asia all derives from the Qiqiao Festival.
Zhao Kuifu, Qiqiao Historian, said, "It’s truly the Chinese Girls Festival because only girls from 12 to 16 could participate. They’re not just hoping to be good at handiwork, but also for a happy life through their hard work and to take control of their own lives."
Indeed, the ancient festival has been a pioneer in woman’s empowerment and now it shoulders a more important mission.
Julia Broussard, Country Programme Manager, UN Women, said, "This forum is bringing us altogether to discuss how we can jointly overcome the still existing obstacles. To ensure that today’s girls, women of the future can be treated equal as men once they have grown up."
This year the festival falls on August 13. The local government has prepared a series of activities including the Qiqiao customs photo contest and demonstration of traditional handicrafts, all to keep the Qiqiao traditions alive and living on.