The Legend of the Magpie Bridge and the Qixi Festival of Love

What is the Qixi Festival of Love? How does an ancient Chinese legend about birds explain a tongue position for spiritual and sexual vitality? 

This timeless poem links many metaphors for health, longevity, and sexuality by connecting the Yin Yang meridians. The poem reveals an acupuncture point at the bridge of the upper palate that connects the meridians. 

Ascend to the Magpie Bridge
Descend from the Magpie Bridge. 
In Heaven it responds to the stars, 
On Earth it responds to the tides


When Does the Qixi Festival Happen?

The date is based on the Chinese lunar calendar, roughly between July 28th to August 28th. Unfortunately, the Qixi Festival is not officially recognized as a public holiday in China. However, it is still widely celebrated among young couples and lovers.

Year Date
2023 August 22
2024 August 10
2025 August 29

What does the poem mean? Where is the Magpie Bridge? 

In Qigong and spiritual practice, the masters say we must “Ascend to the Magpie Bridge” which means connecting earth and sky within the body.

The metaphor of connecting earth and sky, Yin and Yang, has a very different and deeper meaning in Daoist Qigong practice. The Magpie Bridge called Da Qiao 搭橋, means bridge or bypass. In Qigong it refers to placing the tongue on the roof of the mouth to connect the Yin and Yang channels of the body. These two channels are the Du Mai (Governing Vessel) and the Ren Mai (Conception vessel). They are two extraordinary meridians in Chinese medicine that flow up the back of the body and down the front respectively. The Du Mai and Ren Mai are the first meridians to form in an embryo immediately after conception; and they give rise to all the other meridians. Their function is to connect the body to Earth and Heaven. Note the tongue position.

These two body channels, representing Yin and Yang, meet at the upper palate behind the top teeth.

Microcosmic-OrbitIn Qigong practice it is a traditional practice to rest the tongue lightly against the upper hard palate just behind the teeth. This connects the Yin and Yang channels in the body and completes the microcosmic orbit, promoting higher energy flow in the body. In turn, the enhanced energy in Du Mai and Ren Mai channels supports all the other channels, and builds optimum health.

The practice of connecting the Yin and Yang meridians promotes the Breath of Life observed in Western Craniosacral therapy, which is the flow of the cerebro-spinal fluid up and down the midline of the body. Cerebrospinal fluid can be likened to a river in the body. 

This deepest vital force is often called the tide. The tide is the essence of life. The Breath of Life in cerebrospinal fluid stimulates healthy brain function, assists musculoskeletal alignment, promotes freedom of movement in the body, supports all organs, and connects to spirit.

“Within the cerebrospinal fluid there is an invisible elemental force that I refer to as the ‘Breath of Life.’ I want you to visualize this Breath of Life as a fluid within the fluid, something that does not mix, something that has potency as the thing that makes it move. Is it really necessary to know what makes the fluid move? Visualize a potency, an intelligent potency, that is more intelligent than your own human mentality.” Dr. William Sutherland, father of Cranial Osteopathy.

A fluid within a fluid. It is beautiful to see unity between ancient and modern wisdom. Although we use different language, words, and images, the metaphor of connecting the physical body to spirit is the same.

The Legend of Two Lovers and the Magpie Bridge

magpie-bridge-legendThe Magpie Bridge refers to a sacred tongue position and a sad legend of two lovers separated in the two worlds above and below. Every year a flock of magpies create a living bridge between Heaven and Earth so the lovers can meet for one night.

This is called the Night of Sevens Magpie Festival, the Qixi Festival (or Qiqiao) to celebrate the annual meeting of Zhinü and Niulang in Chinese mythology. The festival is celebrated on the seventh day of the seventh lunisolar month on the Chinese lunisolar calendar. This day is celebrated much like Chinese Valentine’s Day.

Once upon a time, a young cowherd Niulang met a beautiful weaver girl Zhinü, daughter of the Heavenly Goddess. Zhinü had just escaped from her boring life in heaven to look for fun on Earth. Zhinü soon fell in love with Niulang, and they got married without the knowledge of her mother the Heavenly Goddess. Zhinü proved to be a wonderful wife, and Niulang to be a good husband. They lived happily and had two children.

But the Goddess of Heaven found out that her daughter Zhinü, a young fairy goddess, had married a mere mortal. The Goddess was furious and ordered Zhinü to return to heaven, to her former duty of weaving colorful clouds, a task she had neglected while living on earth with a mere mortal. She sent cruel warriors to drag the girl home up into the clouds.

Left alone on Earth, Niulang was very sad that his beautiful wife had been taken away. Suddenly, his ox began to talk, telling him that if he killed it and wrapped himself in its hide, he would be able to go up to Heaven to find his wife. Crying bitterly, Niulang killed the ox, put on the skin, and carried his two beloved children off to Heaven to find Zhinü. The Goddess discovered this and was filled with rage. Taking out her sharp hairpin, the Goddess angrily scratched a wide river of stars, a long hole in the sky to separate the two lovers forever, thus forming the Milky Way that extended all the way between the two distant stars Altair and Vega.

Ever after, Zhinü must sit forever on her side of the river of stars, sadly weaving clouds on her loom, while Niulang watches her from afar, looking after their two children, represented by the stars Hè Gu 1 and Hè Gu 3.

But once a year all the magpies in the world take pity on the lovers and fly up into heaven to form a bridge 鹊桥, the Magpie Bridge over the star Deneb in the Cygnus constellation, so the family can unite, and  Zhinü and Niulang can be together for a single night.

The magpie is one of the most intelligent birds on Earth, a symbol of love. In China the Qixi Festival celebrates the annual meeting of the cowherd and weaver goddess in Chinese mythology. It always falls on the seventh day of the seventh month on the Chinese calendar. It is a festival of love, sometimes called Night of SevensMagpie Festival, or Chinese Valentine’s Day.

Tongue Diagnosis Takes it up Another Level:

Chinese doctors and Qigong masters will always look at a patient’s tongue. The tongue reveals everything. For example, if the tongue is too red there is too much fire and Yang in the body and this affects the heart. If the tongue is too dark the kidneys and many other organs are suffering. A healthy tongue is pink and red color, moist and full of saliva. Too white also indicates too much fire too, esp in the lungs and stomach. When it is too yellow means that the spleen needs support.

Areas of the Tongue

Even more important than the tongue color, we look at different areas of the tongue. See the diagram, and it will tell you which meridian and which points to focus to create vital balance in the body. Any area of the tongue which is not normal shows that the organs have a problem.

For Dan Tien Breathing, Tongue must be placed on roof of mouth.
The three Positions of tongue on roof of mouth.
1. Beginners, just behind front teeth.
2. Intermediate, in center of palette.
3. Advanced, curled towards rear of mouth. 

Try it now in your own body…

Place your tongue lightly behind the upper teeth, and allow the tongue to relax completely. Take a breath. Feel the increased connection between your spine and the top of your head. Feel a connection between the top of your head and your tailbone. Notice a flow between your upper and lower body. Try using this tongue placement as you meditate, study, sleep, or move. You will find it subtly connects your energetic body from head to toe and promotes optimum wellbeing. You will feel more refreshed, relaxed and calm. This is the ancient secret of health and longevity.

Daoism is full of metaphors and secret meanings!
Forgive me for the simplistic explanation. In reality there is a bit more to it. The Yin and Yang exchange is reflected first in the Du Mai and Ren Mai channels. It follows to connect all eight extraordinary meridians. These in turn vitalize the twelve organ meridians in Chinese medicine. Similarly in cranial osteopathy, the Breath of Life permeates the Tide of craniosacral fluid in the brain and spine, vitalizing the crystalline liquids, tissues, organs and bones, to promote health in every body function.

“True Water is inside Water. True Fire is inside Fire. If Fire and Water are connected, you will never get old. Water can flow down. Fire can flame up. The True Water rises through the Dumai channel, reaches the Magpie Bridge, goes down through the Renmai channel and sinks into the lower Dantian. The stream through Ren and Du is the Small Heavenly Circuit. We are melting the elixir and perfecting the Tao.”

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