In the traditional Chinese calendar, the evening of the seventh day of the seventh month is named “the Seventh Evening” (七夕), and it is a traditional festival of Chinese people.
An old folk story said that, a cowherd and a weaver girl from the Heaven would meet in this day every year. Our ancestors named the Altair as “Cowherd” (牽牛), and named the Vega as “Weaver Girl” (織女). They said that, the two stars were the tragic couple who was separated by the Heaven River (the name that ancient Chinese called the Milky Way), and the Heaven God permitted them to meet in the seventh day of the seventh month every year.
In the book “Classic of Poetry”, there is a poem written in the Western Zhou Dynasty and named “Far East” (大東). It mentions the Cowherd and the Weaver Girl, but just regards them as two stars. It says, “The Weaver Girl is in the triangle, and moves seven times for a whole day. Though it moves seven times, it can’t weave a cloth. The Cowherd is bright, but it can’t drive a cart.”
The love story of the Cowherd and the Weaver Girl was formed in the Han Dynasty. A poem written In the Eastern Han Dynasty describes the Cowherd and the Weaver Girl as two lovers. The poem says, “The Cowherd Star is remote, and the Girl by the Heaven River is bright. She lifts her slim and white hands, and busily operates her loom. She can’t weave a cloth in a whole day, and her tears fall like rain. The Heaven River is so clear and shallow, and how far they are separated? Between such a clear river, they gaze at each other but have no chance to speak.”
The Seventh Evening Festival was a festival of women. In this evening, women sat outside and watched the Weaver Girl Star. There were some customs for expressing their good wishes.
“Memories of the Western Capital” (西京雜記) is a book written in the last days of the Western Han Dynasty and reorganized in the Eastern Jin Dynasty. It says, “In the seventh day of the seventh month, maids of the Han palace always threaded a needle with seven pinholes on the Kaijin terrace. All of them practised it.”
“Festivals of the Jing-Chu Area” (荊楚歲時記) is a book written in the sixth century AD. It says, “In the seventh day of the seventh month, the Cowherd and the Weaver Girl will meet at night.””In this evening, women make colorful silk threads, and thread a needle with seven pinholes. Some people use gold, silver or brass to make a needle. Women put melons and fruits in their courtyard, and pray for becoming clever and skillful. If a spider spins its web on a melon, it will be regarded as a divine response.”