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七夕节 The Double-Seventh Festival

(2010-05-04 16:39:35)
标签:

杂谈

分类: Chineseculture
七夕节 The Double-Seventh Festival

 

农历七月初七,是中国传统节日中最具浪漫色彩的一个节日,俗称“七夕节”、“乞巧节”、“女儿节”。

 

The seventh day of the seventh lunar month is the most romantic traditional Chinese festival, commonly known as the double-Seventh Festivalthe Begging Festival or the Daughter’s Festival.

 

为什么人们会对这个节日产生如此浓郁的兴趣呢?话还得从遥远的星空说起。

 

Why do people hold such a great interest in this festival? The story begins with the remote starry sky.

 

七夕,正是夏日,夜晚凉风轻拂,星光闪烁,人们抬头便看到星空里有一条横贯南北的天河。在天河东边,你可以找到一颗织女星,在一颗大星边上有四颗小星,看上去就像一只织布机。天河西边还有牵牛星,跟它遥遥相望,一大二小,看上去就像一副扁担。老人说,那就是牛郎挑着扁担,一前一后装着他的两个孩子,正急匆匆地去追赶他心爱的妻子织女,却被狠心的王母娘娘用一条天河把他们给隔开了。七夕的夜晚有这么一则凄哀动人的爱情故事相伴,怎不令人怦然心动!

 

On the night of the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, with cool summer breeze caressing the face and stars twinkling overhead, you may gaze up to where the Milky Way, or Heavenly River in Chinese, traverses the night sky from south to north. On the east bank, you will spot Vega, also called the Weaving Maid or Zhi Nu, with four small stars around; this constellation looks like a loom. Opposite to her, on the distant western bank, is Altair, one big star and two small ones, which looks like a shoulder pole. The elderly says that it is Cowherd or Niu Lang, who carries the shoulder pole with his two children on each end chasing his beloved wife Zhi Nu, but is separated by the cruel empress of Heaven with the heavenly River. With such a tragic but beautiful story lingering in your mind on the Double-Seventh’s Day, how can you suppress your upsurge of emotion?

 

和许多有关节日的传说一样,这则脍炙人口的《牛郎织女》也并非一蹴而就的。这中间有着一个萌生、孕育、发展、成熟的过程。据学者考证,早在春秋时代,《诗经》里就已经有歌咏“牵牛”与“织女”这两颗星的诗歌了。那时候的人很喜欢观看天上的星辰,他们发现了天河两边的这两颗星,分别给取了拟人化的名字,并且已经朦朦胧胧地要想为他们之间的某种情景编织故事了。这在《古诗十七首》中又一次可以找到证据,其中有一首是这样的:“迢迢牵牛星,皎皎河汉女;纤纤擢素手,札弄机杼;终日不成章,泣涕零如雨。河汉清且浅,相去复几许,盈盈一水间,脉脉不得语。”他们为什么被隔开,具体细节似乎还不清楚。不过这种恋人间的相思情却已经深深地打动了每一位读者。

 

Just like many other legends related to festivals, this popular story of Niu Lang and Zhi Nu is not accomplished overnight. It has undergone the process of embryo, breeding, growth and maturity. According to scholars, early in the Spring and Autumn Period(770BC-476BC) in Chinese history, there were poems about the two stars Niu Lang and Zhi Nu, collected in Shi Jing (The Book of Songs). People at that time liked to observe the stars; they detected these two stars across the Heavenly River, gave them personified names and subconsciously began to make up stories of their romance. Such evidence can be found in Gu Shi Shiqishou (The Seventeen Ancient Poems). It is described in one poem as follows:

 

Eagerly pining the Cowherd,

 

Brightly shining the Weaving Maid.

 

Fine fingers working on the loom,

 

All heard is lonely sound.

 

Within one day no bolts made,

 

Only sorrowful tears are shed.

 

Clear and deep the Heavenly River

 

On earth where does it lead?

 

Affection carried and filled,

 

Whispers of love cannot be heard.

 

Specific explanations as for why they are separated remain unknown but their interwoven love has stirred the heart of every reader.

 

在汉代应劭的《风俗通义》里,我们可以读到织女七夕渡河,喜鹊为她搭桥的情节。在晋代葛洪的《西京杂记》里,又记下了汉代有七夕彩女穿七孔针于开襟楼的习俗。一直到南朝粱任的《述异记》,我们终于读到作者记下来的牛郎织女传说的完整情节。当然,与后世人们所讲述的故事相比,那段文字还是显得有些简略粗糙。

 

We may come across the story of the Weaving Maid crossing the Heavenly River on the Double-Seventh Festival with the help of magpies to form a bridge with their wings so that Zhi Nu might cross and meet her husband in Fengsu Tongyi(Annotation of Literature and Customs) by Ying Shao of the Han Dynasty(206BC-220AD). We may get to know the convention of weaving maids threading seven-holed needles at the Kaijin Building in the Han Dynasty in Xijing Zaji(Miscellaneous Records of the Western Capital) by Ge Hong of the Jin Dynasty(265AD-420AD). And eventually we may get the whole tale of Niu Lang and Zhi Nu in Shuyi Ji(Record of Marvels) by Liang Renfang of the South Dynasty(420AD-589AD). Of course, the account is by no means delicate, to compare with the stories told by people afterwards.

 

在底层民众中,这则口头故事世代相传,不断被加工润色,时至今日,它的情节已经发展得相当感人了。

 

The folktale is passed from generation to generation, polished and enriched among the lower populace; so far, its plot has been fully developed and heart-touching.

 

都说牛郎是个苦命的孩子,父母早逝,哥嫂又虐待他,只有一头牛与他相依为命。一天,老牛给他出了个主意,说是天上的仙女要下凡来洗澡,你去偷走她们中间一个女子的衣裳,就可以娶她为妻了。到时候,天上果然飞下七只鸽子,一眨眼功夫变成七个漂亮的女子,在一个水池里洗澡。牛郎把其中最小的一个女子的衣服给藏了起来。另外六个女子变成鸽子飞回天上。最小的女子是织女,她没法飞走,就跟牛郎做了夫妻。

 

It is said that Niu Lang was a poor orphan, parents dead long ago, ill-treated by his elder brother and sister-in-law, with the only company of an old ox. One day, the old ox worked out a good idea for Niu Lang. He told Niu Lang that some fairies would descend to the earth to have a bath and Niu Lang would marry one of them if he could steal her dress. As predicted by the old ox, seven pigeons descended from the heaven, turned into seven beautiful fairies and came to bathe in a brook. Niu Lang concealed the youngest fair’s dress as told. The other six fairies turned into pigeons after the bath and ascended to the heaven, leaving the youngest, Zhi Nu, on the earth. Unable to join her sister without her dress, Zhi Nu married Niu Lang.

 

牛郎织女相亲相爱,男耕女织,又生下了一儿一女,小日子过得蛮好。后来老牛要死了,叮嘱牛郎,把它的皮留着,遇到急难只要披上牛皮,就有办法解救。老牛死后,牛郎忍痛剥下牛皮,把老牛埋在山坡。

 

Mutually in love, Niu Lang worked on the farm, Zhi Nu wove cloth, and later they had a son and a daughter. Theirs was a happy family. Before passing away, the old ox exhorted Niu Lang to keep its hide after his death so that it would be helpful at crucial moments so long as Niu Lang put it on. After the death of the old ox, with a heavy heart, Niu Lang peeled off the ox’s hide and buried the ox at a hillside.

 

天上的王母娘娘终于发觉织女私自下凡,勃然大怒,当即派天兵天将下凡,把织女抓了回去。牛郎那天正在耕地,回家一看,可不得了,马上披上牛皮,用扁担把两个孩子也挑上,急匆匆去追赶织女。牛皮有魔力,牛郎一下子就腾空飞了起来,眼看要追上织女啦。

 

In the event, the Empress of Heaven got to know Zhi Nu’s secret marriage to Niu Lang. Flying into a rage, she sent the heavenly solders to arrest Zhi Nu. Niu Lang was ploughing in the field that day when Zhi Nu was taken away. When he returned home, he was taken aback and put on the ox hide immediately with his two children carried by a shoulder pole. The magic of the ox hide enable him to fly up and soon he was about to catch up with Zhi Nu.

 

王母娘娘急了,拔下头上的金簪一划,顿时在织女身后出现一条天河,浊浪滔滔,谁也过不去,牛郎被隔在天河的对岸,急得双脚跳,却毫无办法。牛郎的两个孩子有志气,就蹲在天河边上舀水,下决心要把天河水舀干,过河去见娘。

 

The Empress was quick enough to take off her gold hairpin to draw a line. At once, behind Zhi Nu emerged a heavenly river with roaring waves, too dangerous for anyone’s attempt to cross. Separated on the opposite bank, Niu Lang could do nothing but stamp his feet with anxiety in vain. Niu Lang’s two children were so ambitious that they squatted by the river starting to ladle the water, determined to ladle out the water to meet their mother.

 

王母娘娘也被牛郎织女一家人的真挚情感打动了,只好准许他们每年七月初七相会一次。这一天,人间的喜鹊全都会飞上天,互相咬着尾巴,在天河上搭桥。牛郎织女踩在一只只喜鹊的头上走过去聚会。你去看喜鹊的头顶总是光秃秃的,为啥?据说就是踩出来的。人们还说,这一天夜深人静的时候,如果躲在瓜果架下,兴许还能听到牛郎织女相互诉说的脉脉情话哩。

 

The family’s true feeling moved the Empress too and she had to permit them to meet every seventh day of the seventh lunar month. On that day, all the magpies on the earth would fly up to the heaven, holding each other’s tail in the mouth, to make a magic bridge over the Heavenly River. Niu Lang and Zhi Nu would walk towards each other on the magpies’ heads to meet. You may notice that the head tops of magpies are always bald. Why? It is said that is because of the trampling. People also say that in the still of that night, if you hide yourself under the fruit trellis, you might overhear the sweet conversations between Niu Lang and Zhi Nu.

 

鹊桥相会的故事自然是编出来的,不过它传达出来的人们对爱情生活和自由幸福的渴望,却是真是的,又是强烈的。千百年来,《牛郎织女》传说伴随着七夕节,走进千家万户,也被许多文人不断传诵,留下了无数优美篇章。

 

There is no doubt that their meeting on the magpie bridge is a made-up story but the conveyed messasge of people’s desire for life of love and happiness of freedom is real and strong. Over thousands of years, the tale of Niu Lang and Zhi Nu, together with the Double-Seventh Festival, has been familiar to a great number of families and inspired many men of letters to compose elegant proses.

 

七夕节的主要民俗活动是乞巧。妇女们在这天夜里总要聚在一起,十分认真地祭拜牛郎星和织女星。据说织女心灵手巧,是个纺织能手,所以妇女们总是要向她祈求,让自己也能心灵手巧,俗称“乞巧”。也有乞富、乞寿、乞子的,各人可以有所选择。不过俗信以为,不能兼求,只可求其一。说起来。传说中的织女是个苦命人,别无所长,只是心灵手巧而已,所以更多的人在这时候是乞巧。

 

Skills-begging is he main folk custom for the Double-Seventh Festival, on which night women would get together to pray to Vega and Altair. Zhi Nu is said to be clever and deft, good at handicraft, so women always pray to her for the special gift, which is called skills-begging. There are also those who pray for wealth, long life or sons, each having her own preferable choice, but only one wish can be prayed for according to the folk belief. As the folktale goes, Zhi Nu is a wretched maid , nothing but clever and deft; there fore more women tend to pray for her special gift.

 

祭祀牛郎织女的供品也别具一格,一般都用瓜、花、菱、藕、桃、李、莲蓬一类,显得清新纤巧,与通常由男子主持的那种祭祀仪式中所常见的大鱼大肉形成了鲜明的对比。

 

The sacrifice offered to Niu Lang and Zhi Nu are distinctive-melons, flowers, water chestnuts, peaches, plums, lotus seedpods, etc.-----fresh and dainty, in remarkable contrast to the usual fish and meat offered at those common memorial ceremonies hosted by male masters.

 

乞巧的形式也有多种。较常见的是穿针。一群女孩子,手拿丝线,对这月光比赛穿针,看谁先穿过就是“得巧”,这是一种颇受人欢迎的柜中游戏。传说唐代有个郑彩娘,在七夕夜祭拜织女,向织女祈求。织女问她,你求什么?她说我要乞巧。织女便送她一枚一寸多长的金针,插在一张纸上,you2说三天之内不得告诉任何人,即可得巧,还可变为男子。两天后,她忍不住把这事说给母亲听,母亲去看金针,却没了踪影,只留下有着针迹的一张纸。而郑采娘死后,据说果然托生成了一个男孩。后世的女子纷纷仿效,穿针乞巧便蔚然成风。

 

Skill-beging takes varied forms; the common one is threading the needle. A group of unmarried girls, with threads in hand, perform a small contest of threading the needle in the moonlight and the one who first threads the needle will win the special gift from Zhi Nu. It is a very popular game among maids. There is a story about a maid named Zheng Cainiang who prayed to Vega on the night of the Double-seventh Festival. Zhi Nu asked her what she desired and she answered “weaving crafts”. Zhi Nu then gave her a one-inch gold needle and stuck it in a piece of paper, saying that within three days without letting anybody know Zhen Cainiang would receive the special gift and could also change into a lad. Two days later, Zheng Cainiang could not help but reveal the secret to her mother who went to see the gold needle out of curiosity, only to find nothing but the paper with the needle hole in it. After her death, Zheng Caining was said to be reincarated to a baby boy. Afterwards, maids followed suit and thus threading the needle to beg for the special gift has become a popular practice.

 

《开元天宝遗事》这本书记载了唐玄宗时候的不少掌故,其中则提到,当时的宫中流行另一种“乞巧”,七夕,人们都去捉来蜘蛛,放进一个小盒,第二天清晨打开小盒,比谁的蜘蛛结的网更密。密的为巧多,稀的为巧少。后来民间也竞相仿效,颇具情趣。

 

One of the anecdotes kept in the book Kaiyuan Tianbao Yishi [Bequeathed Matters from the Kaiyuan (713AD---741AD) and Tianbao (742 AD---756AD) Periods]about the time of Emperor Tang Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty (618AD---907AD), mentions that there was another form of “skills-begging” in the palace at that time: On the night of the Double-Seventh Festival, the palace maids would each get a spider, put it into a small box, and open the box the next early morning to see whose spider had woven a thicker web; the thicker web showed the owner’s being bestowed on more weaving skills, the thinner fewer. Accordingly, the folk populace contended to take the practice, which was of great appeal.

 

在江南一带,老人们回忆,她们小时候的“七夕乞巧”则又是一番风味。早在七夕前一天,人们就要取来雨水,并水各一半。盛在一只碗里,放在露天,承接一夜露水,再放在太阳底下晒半天,到了中午,水面便会生成薄薄的一层水膜。再将一枚绣花针,或一根极细的竹丝、松针,轻轻放入,让它浮在水膜之上而不下沉,再来看针在水底映出的影子。由于种种偶然因素,再加上人们的想象,那针影常会变幻无穷,如果象龙凤,像云彩,像花卉,就以为乞得了巧,预兆这个女孩将来一定心灵手巧,事事如意。这种活动往往是许多女孩聚在一起进行的,俗称“乞巧会”,欢声笑语,格外愉悦。

 

In the south area by the Changjiang River, according to the memories of the elderly women, the beggingactivity in their childhood had a different aspect of interest. Early on the day before the double-seventh’sfestival, people would fetch rainwater and well-water in equal quantity and put the mixed water and well-water in equal quantity and put the mixed water in a bowl in the open air for a whole night. The next morning on the Double-Seventh Festival, the bowl of water which contained night dew too would be put under the sun for half a day till the noon when a thin film emerged on the surface of the water. Then an embroidery needle, or an extremely thin bamboo strand, or a pine needle would be put on the surface slightly enough that it would float but not sink. Judgment would be made according to the needle shadows reflected from the bottom of the water. Due to accidental factors, coupled with people’s imagination, the needle shadows would change constantly and magically. It was taken for granted that the form of a dragon, a phoenix, or clouds or flowers was a sign of receiving the special gift, a prediction that the girl would be clever and deft and get whatever she aspired after. Such an activity was always performed when lots of girls gathered together, known as “the Begging Gathering”, which was full of delightful laughter and cheerful exchanges of conversations.

 

在广州民间,女子们在七夕夜祭拜的同时,还会在供桌上展示各自的“女红”,诸如她们亲手做的绣花鞋、虎头帽、香荷包、剪纸窗花和各色手工艺,琳琅满目,美不胜收,让亲友和过往行人观赏评论。

 

Among the folk populace in Guangzhou, while worshipping on the night of the Double-Seventh Festival, girls will display their own needlework on the offering table, such as their hand-made embroidered shoes, tiger-head hats, scented purses, paper-cuts and many other articles of handicraft art, which is a feast for the eyes, too much to enjoy. Friends, relatives and passers-by cannot help stopping to appreciate and comment.

 

在一些地方,还有七夕看巧云的风俗。人们认为这一天的云彩特别会变幻,看云彩变幻成什么形状,来猜测自己的命运。这似乎有点玄,和前面说的看针影有相似之处,往往是心理作用在左右着人们。农村里的老人,据说还要在七夕夜看天河,说是倘若这一年天河出现得早,就预兆米价要上涨,俗称“探米价”这是一种古老的占卜术,如今也已淡出了人们的记忆。

 

In some areas, there is a custom of gazing up at clouds on the Double-Seventh Festival. People presume that day’s clouds tend to take special magic changing forms and they like to conjecture about their fates in accordance with the changeable clouds. This seems somewhat mysterious as the above-mentioned needle shadows, under the influence exerted by people’s

 

psychology. The elderly in the countryside are said to observe the Heavenly River whose early appearance is said to predict a harvest year with a low corn price; otherwise, a high corn price. People call it “An Inquiry about Corn Price”, an old practice of divination, which so far has faded out of people’s memory.

 

江南的村姑还有七夕洗头发的习俗。她们相约到野外采摘七种野草,揉出青汁,拿来洗头发。后来一般又都是采摘一种槿树叶,泡水洗头,再去见牛郎。于是凡间的女子也都学她的样,要在这一天洗头。

 

The country girls in the south of the Changjiang River have the custom of washing hair on the Double-Seventh Festival. Originally, they went to the field to collect seven kinds of weeds from which they rubbed juice out for hair washing. Later, hair was washed with water mixed with hibiscus leaves to substitute for weeds. It is said that Zhi Nu will wash her hair by the riverside that day and go to meet Niu Lang when her hair takes a glossy black look. Thus girls on the earth wash their hair too on that day.

 

还有一种节日点心也必须提到。用面粉加些糖,糅合,压成薄片,切做小方块,稍加扭曲,放到油里去炸,就跟麻花似的,甜脆可口,不过更加小巧玲珑,又有着一个很好听的名字,叫“巧果”,似乎暗含着乞巧的意思在里头。许多人家都会自己做,也有的商店专门做这种生意,销路总是蛮好的。

 

We cannot miss mentioning one snack for the festival . Dough is mixed with sugar, kneaded, pressed into a thin piece, cut into small squares, twisted slightly and put into boiled oil resembles Mahua( a fried dough twist), but more dainty and has a nice name Qiao Guo” with the implication of “skills-begging”. It is usually home-made; some stores run this business as well and it sells well.

 

如今,七夕乞巧的风俗似乎正在淡化,不过牛郎织女的传统却依旧在人们的口耳间广为流传。有人说,外国有情人节,中国人也应该有自己的情人节。而在传统节日里边,把七夕节当做情人节来过,那倒是蛮合适的,你说呢?

 

Till now, the begging mores on the Double-Seventh Festival seem to fade out, but the legend of Niu Lang and Zhi Nu is still on the lips of people. Since Valentine’s Day is celebrated in foreign countries, some say, the Chinese should observe their own Valentine’s Day too. Among the traditional festivals, the Double-Seventh Festival is better suited to Valentine’s Day. Won’t you agree?

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