During the Southern and Northern Dynasties, the legend of Human Day was considered one of the most important celebrations in China. Unfortunately this deep and meaningful tradition has been forgotten in China today, although this tradition continues in Japan.
Origin of Human Day
During the Han Dynasty, observing Human Day became part of the Chinese New Year tradition, and it was set on the seventh day of January.
“The Book of Divination” says, “first day is about fowls, second day dogs, third day hogs, fourth day sheep, fifth day oxen, sixth day horses, and seventh day humans.”
After the Wei and Jin dynasties, a new legend emerged regarding Human Day. According to China’s mythology, Goddess Nu Wa used clay to create humans on this day; therefore, humans regarded Jan. 7 as their birthday.
Nu Wa came to be known as the Goddess of Creation and Master Goddess. As an almighty goddess, she is able to create and transform all matter. She created a group of small people modeled after her own appearance. In this way, the land was quickly covered with traces of humanity.
Nu Wa also set forth the marriage system, so that humans could continue family lines. Therefore, she was China’s first matchmaker and was later espoused as the Master Goddess of marriage.
Childless married couples prayed to Nu Wa for children. So, Nu Wa was not only the goddess of marriage, but also the goddess of childbearing.
Later, Nu Wa fixed the broken sky by melting down stones, saving humanity from extinction. So, she is also worshipped as a Protector Goddess for human beings.
The ancients believed that the seventh day of the first month was best if it was a sunny day, symbolizing longevity and prosperity, as well as world harmony.
Dongfang Shuo of the Han Dynasty wrote “The Book of Divination“ in which he explained: “On the seventh, which is human day, fine weather from dawn to dusk and a bright moonlit night with visible stars (is the most desirable) and signals people’s safety. The monarch and his officials are united in harmony.”
However, if the seventh day is “severe chilly weather, it means diseases and weakening of health.”
Every year, people made a string of paper figures, connected together, to honor the Goddess who created human beings, praying to her for abundant descendants.
Seven Treasure Soup
Human reproduction is very important for mankind, so people placed particular emphasis on the Human Day Festival, which led to various festival activities.
On the south side of Yangtze River, one of the Human Day customs was to make a seasonal soup with seven kinds of vegetables. In Chinese, the pronunciation of the word soup (Geng) is the same as the Chinese word for renewal or start over, so having this customary soup symbolized renewal. It was believed that the soup helped to remove evil influence and heal many diseases.
If New Year’s Day (Yuan Dan) symbolizes the restart of everything, Human Day represents the rekindling of human life.
Human Day Costume
Ancient Chinese also wore a special costume, a headdress known as Ren Sheng or Cai Sheng. Starting from the Jin Dynasty, people began to cut paper into flower shapes and human shapes, or engrave gold foil with human shapes to decorate folding screens and to wear in their hair.
The purpose of cutting a human shape is to represent the spiritual renewal of humans. In fact, the custom was not only based on wishes for reproduction, but more importantly, based on the ancient Chinese society’s view of human life—that people have souls, which must be constantly renewed.
Human Day Hiking
Up until the Tang Dynasty, people hiked in groups on Human Day, symbolizing the first spring outing after a long winter. Ancient scholars hiked up high mountains, where they wrote poetry and created paintings.
Human Day: Humankind’s birthday—a day to show gratitude to the mother of the great Chinese nation, who created humankind, protected the human race, and ensured its endless reproduction.
Written in English by Arleen Richards.
Read the original Chinese article.