Taiwanese Valentine’s Day: Culture Meets Romance

QiXi Festival (七夕節), also known as Taiwanese Valentine’s Day, is a celebration that merges folklore with romance as the country celebrates the legend of the Weaver Girl and the Cow Herder. The celebration is held on the 7th day for the 7th month in the Lunar Calendar (this year it will be on August 4 of the Gregorian Calendar). The name translates as “The Seventh Night” and it is based on a tragic love story.

The Legend

If you are unfamiliar with this story, it is a tale of forbidden love. Niulang was a cow herder who befriended an ox after saving him. As a reward, the ox—who was actually the god of cattle, banished from heaven—assisted him in meeting Zhinu. She was the daughter of a goddess and the Jade Emperor who grew bored with life in Heaven and so she escaped to find happiness on earth.

The two fell in love and had two children, but the goddess did not approve of her daughter’s secret marriage to a mortal. Zhinu was forced back to heaven, to the devastation of Niulang. The ox offered himself in sacrifice, allowing Niulang to kill him and wear the hide of the god in order to get into Heaven. But the goddess did not like this and used her daughter’s hair pin to draw a river we now know as the Milky Way to drive a barrier between them.

Niulang and his children were devastated that they could not get their beloved Zhinu back. So much so that the magpies took pity on them and all moved to form a bridge over the river. The goddess, moved by their love for one another, allowed for them to meet only once a year on that day, the seventh day of the seventh month, in order to be reunited.

Thus, on this day—the only day of the year when the lovers can be reunited—love is in the air, and this has become known as the Eastern Valentine’s Day.

Photo by Jael Herrera

How to Celebrate

Xiqi is a day of love, but not everyone has someone to celebrate with. For those who are single, this day is a day to visit the Temple of the Matchmaker and pray for a good partner. People also set up an alter to Zhinu with a food offering of sticky rice (油飯 yóufàn), sesame oil chicken (麻油雞酒 máyóujījiǔ), and soft rice cake (軟粿 ruǎn guǒ). It is also common for people to go on blind dates around this time, as they are known to give good luck with romance.

The city comes alive with celebration. The business district near Taipei 101 is a popular dating hot-spot, where promotions are held at several of the restaurants and shops in honor of the holiday. In addition, Taipei 101 itself will have a special lighting display to honor the day.  The Ferris Wheel of Neihu is another popular attraction that symbolizes romance to the Taiwanese. Other popular attractions include the Rainbow Bridge in Songshan, where couples can sign and lock a lock to the fence to symbolize the longevity of their relationship, and a romantic stroll along the fisherman’s wharf of Tamsui.

If you are interested in this ancient Chinese legends well as others, I highly recommend picking up a book on Chinese fairy tales or Mythology, such as this one:


Picture of K. Straub-Kuo

K. Straub-Kuo

K has been writing since she was in middle school. She has always loved telling stories and loves to do research on topics that fascinate her even more. K developed an interest in cultures at an early age, but it wasn't until high school that she became fascinated with East Asia's rich cultural heritage that blends seamlessly with the rapid advancements that cause their cities to thrive. Her interest only grew more when she met her Taiwanese-Native husband, whose expansive travel experiences have encouraged her wanderlust. She takes every opportunity presented to her to try something new and is always thrilled to share her experiences with her readers.
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11 Day Back roads of Japan Tour with Project Expedition

***Note: meals are largely excluded on this tour and are the responsibility of tour members***

Days 1-2: Tokyo

There is no itinerary upon arrival until the welcome meeting which will take place in the evening. The first day will consist of learning more about your tour and meeting your guides. Day two is a walking tour of the fashion district of Harajuku. This eclectic district is popular for its eccentric fashion and youth culture. In the afternoon you will get a chance to visit Sensoji Temple, Meiji Shrine, and the surrounding attractions. 

Day 3: Nagano

You will take Japan’s famed bullet train to Nagano before checking into your accommodations. The highlight of this trip is the Jigokudani Monkey Park, where you will get to observe Japan’s bathing snow monkeys enjoying a bath in the natural hot springs.

Day 4: Matsumoto/Nagano

Enjoy a day trip to visit one of Japan’s most beloved castles: Matsumoto Castle. Afterwards, return to Nagano to venture off to Zenkoji Temple, one of Japan’s last standing pilgrimage sties. 

Day 5: Ōtsu 

Travel in the morning to Ōtsu for some stunning views of Japan’s largest lake: Lake Biwa. Top off the night with a delicious ramen dinner. 

Day 6-7: Hagi

Enjoy a quick breakfast before an extended drive to Hagi. You will then check into your local homestay. Pack for two nights as your remaining luggage will be sent to the next destination by your tour company. Make sure you pack comfortably for outdoor activities. This is a chance to experience life like a local as you meet your host family and take part in a welcome ceremony and dinner. 

Day two is an active day as you take a guided cycle tour around Hagi Castle. Afterward, you will have time to participate in seasonal activities with the locals. You will enjoy a homecooked dinner with your host family.

Day 8-9: Tottori

After breakfast with your host family, take a scenic trip by train on your way to Mihomisumi. There, enjoy learning the art of Washi paper making before hopping on another train to Tottori. 

In the morning, explore the unusual Tottori Sand Dunes along the Sea of Japan’s coastline. After that, make your way to the local fish market for some fantastic seafood lunch options. End the day with a trip to Kyoto to check in to your accommodations. 

Days 10-11: Kyoto

Take a morning trip to the well-known Fushimi Inari-Taisha, one of Kyoto’s many beautiful local shrines. This is where you will find the mystical  trail of torii gates along its trails. After this, you will have free time to explore what Kyoto has to offer. Recommended sites include a walk through the geisha district of Gion, exploration of Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion, and a visit to Kiyomizu Temple. 

The next day marks the end of the tour. Public transit is available to the airport, or you can speak to your guide to help find accommodations if you wish to extend your stay. 

Sample of an 11-Day Intrepid Tour

Days 1-2: Taipei City

Take the first day to relax and unwind after your travels before joining your group for dinner. After a good night’s sleep, enjoy learning about Taiwan’s love of sweet potatoes at Sweet Potato Mama for some spud-filled activities. Check out Shilin Night Market to enjoy Taipei’s variable food culture.

Days 2-3: Hualien

Enjoy nature at Danong Dafu Forest Park before spending the evening enjoying even more street food at the local night markets (you may have noticed a trend). Visit Qingshui cliff before venturing off to the famous Taroko Gorge.

Day 5: Yilan

Visit one of Yilan’s well-known onion farms to learn about the agriculture behind them before learning to make a Taiwanese favorite: scallion pancakes!

Day 6: Turtle Island and Jiufen

Set out on a 3-hour cruise around Turtle Island before travelling off to Jiufen, famed by Hayao Miyazaki as the inspiration for Spirited Away. You will be able to explore Old Street on your own. My suggestion: Eat everything ,try lots of samples, and make time for tea at the famous Teahouse.

Days 7-8: Sun Moon Lake

You’ll get to hike from the base of the mountainous area through the trails that snake up the mountain. You can then climb the Pagoda which marks the end of your trek for some incredible views. The next day you will get to explore the Chung Tai Chan Monastery for a unique, cross-cultural experience.

Day 9: Taichung

Visit Taiwan’s “Breadbasket”, where you can go oyster picking, bird watching, and exploring the water-life of the area. Try some incredible seafood and maybe even go out after returning to you accommodations near — Oh look, it’s near another night market!

Days 10-11: Taipei

Visit the Rainbow Village before heading back to the city you started in. You’ll get to see the massive collection of traditional art and artifacts contained within the National Palace Museum before taking the evening for yourself. After breakfast in the morning,  Your tour will end.