Google has marked the 2018 Qixi Festival in China with a new Google Doodle for August 17, 2018.
Sometimes called Chinese Valentine’s Day, Qixi Festival in fact has an interesting mythological background that relates to the stars in the night sky.
The latest Google Doodle celebrates the Qixi Festival, often called Chinese Valentine’s Day
Here’s all you need to know about what the Qixi Festival is and what a Google Doodle is.
What is the Qixi Festival?
The Qixi Festival celebrates the annual meeting of the weaver girl and cowherd in Chinese mythology. It’s always held on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month of the Chinese calendar.
The mythology behind the Qixi Festival dates back to the Han Dynasty more than 2,600 years ago and describes the romantic meeting of two lovers, Niulang and Zhinu, represented by the cowherd and the weaver girl in Chinese mythology.
The daughter of the Jade Emperor, Zhinu, represented by the star Vega, was known as the most beautiful girl in the entire universe whose job was to weave the clouds of the heavens above. Represented by the star Altair, Niulang the cowherd was an orphan who lived in a rustic cottage with only an old ox by his side.
One day, the ox spoke to Niulang and said that he was in fact the star Taurus but was banished to Earth as a punishment. He also told Niulang about a pond near his cottage where all of the goddesses bathed.
Niulang went to visit the pond, ultimately meeting, falling in love and starting a family with Zhinu.
Zhinu’s parents, however, disapproved of their relationship and summoned her back to heaven. Niulang was devastated, but his old ox volunteered to sacrifice his life, saying that his hide could be used to help Niulang fly to Zhinu.
Niulang reluctantly sacrificed his old friend and used his hide to fly towards heaven, but the Jade Empress, Zhinu’s mother, cut the sky to create the Silver River, represented by the Milky Way, to keep Zhinu and Niulang separate.
However, a flock of magpie birds observed what happened and flew together to create a bridge allowing Niulang and Zhinu to briefly reunite.
This is said to occur annually on the day that the stars Vega and Altair appear to be closest together.
Qixi Festival celebrations
Traditional celebrations for the Qixi Festival typically include sewing and weaving, alluding to the Chinese mythology of Zhinu and Niulang. The event is also marked with gifts and chocolates shared by lovers and traditionally is particularly important for newlywed couples.
What is a Google Doodle?
A Google Doodle is a temporary change to the logo on Google’s homepage celebrating a notable individual, event, accomplishment, anniversary and the like.
First created by Google cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin to celebrate the Burning Man festival in 1998, they were later produced by the company’s top PR officer Dennis Hwang and outside contractors before an in-house team known as Doodlers was established to publish them on a more regular basis.
Google Doodles nowadays are generally used to mark major holidays such as Christmas and St. Patrick’s Day as well as to recognize specific individuals such as Ebenezer Cobb Morley and Mary G. Ross.