Those who wish to learn more about the origins and customs of the Seven Sisters Festival, a traditional Chinese festival that this year will be celebrated tomorrow (August 6, the seventh day of the seventh lunar month), should visit the exhibits newly set up at "The Hong Kong Story", the permanent exhibition of the Hong Kong Museum of History.
The Seven Sisters Festival, also known as Qixi or the Qiqiao Festival, has its origins in the myth of the lovers Niulang (the cattle herder) and Zhinu (the weaver girl). Legend has it that they are only allowed to meet on Magpie Bridge in heaven once a year on the night of the seventh day of the seventh lunar month. As people built on the myth, this day developed into a festival during which young women pray to the deities for embroidery skills and a good husband.
To enable the public to recall the origins of this traditional festival, which have been forgotten by many people, the Hong Kong Museum of History has set up a corner in the "Folk Culture in Hong Kong" gallery of its permanent exhibition, "The Hong Kong Story", to feature a small-scale exhibition on the Seven Sisters Festival.
Traditionally, celebrations of the Seven Sisters Festival begin on the night of the sixth day of the seventh lunar month and last one or two nights. Rites and rituals vary from place to place, but in general spinsters set up an altar with small hand-crafted items, qijiepan and qijieyi (paper accessories and kits and paper clothes for the Seven Sisters), fruit, flowers and cakes on a table at home or on the roadside during the night. Then, at the most auspicious time, they burn incense and pray to Altair and Vega, the stars of Niulang and Zhinu respectively.
The new exhibits in relation to the Seven Sisters Festival include paper offerings, which are qijieyi and qijiepan, along with some miniature objects. When making offerings, spinsters prepare paper clothes for Zhinu, Niulang and Guanyin (according to folklore, Guanyin appears during the rendezvous of Niulang and Zhinu during the Seven Sisters Festival) that are burned after the rituals. Qijiepan comes in two variations - bowl-shaped paper craft and flat paper prints - but either variation includes seven sets of paper decoration representing gold and silver accessories, jade ware, combs and paper fans for Zhinu. In the past, spinsters would set out miniature furniture along with embroidered table and chair covers, shoes for bound feet, silver vases, cups and so forth when making offerings to the Seven Sisters, so that deities visiting could rest comfortably and review the handicrafts.
The Hong Kong Museum of History is located at 100 Chatham Road South, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. It opens from 10am to 6pm from Monday to Saturday and from 10am to 7pm on Sundays and public holidays. It is closed on Tuesdays except public holidays. For details, please call 2724 9042.
Ends/Friday, August 5, 2011
The Seven Sisters Festival corner in the "Folk Culture in Hong Kong" gallery of the Hong Kong Museum of History's permanent exhibition, "The Hong Kong Story", featuring qijieyi and qijiepan, along with some miniature objects.
Miniature objects used during the offering to the Seven Sisters. According to legend, the Seven Sisters would descend to earth on the night of the sixth day of the seventh lunar month and review the handicrafts that spinsters had left displayed on a table. In addition to the offerings of flowers, fruit, blusher, powder and handkerchiefs for the Seven Sisters, tables and chairs would also be set out so that the Seven Sisters could rest comfortably while inspecting the spinsters' work.