Cowherd & Weaver Myth

Posted by Charlie @ Discovering Mandarin Wednesday, 26 August 2009
Qixi Fesitval (七夕 qī xī "The Night of Sevens") sometimes called Chinese Valentine's Day, falls on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month of the Chinese calendar
and thus its name. The traditions of the Qixi Festival day follow this legend:

On the night sky of the late summer days the stars Altair and Vega are high in the night sky and the Chinese tell the following love story, of which there are many variations:

A young cowherd named Niu Lang (牛郎, "the cowherd", the star Altair) happens across seven fairy sisters bathing in a lake. Encouraged by his mischievous companion the ox, he steals their clothes and waits to see what will happen next. The fairy sisters elect the youngest and most beautiful sister Zhi Nü (織女, "the weaver girl", the star Vega) to retrieve their clothing. She does so, but since Niu Lang sees her naked she must agree to his request for marriage. She proves to be a wonderful wife, and Niu Lang a good husband, and they are very happy together. But the Goddess of Heaven (in some versions Zhi Nü's mother) finds out that a mere mortal has married one of the fairy girls and is furious. (In another version, the Goddess forced the weaver fairy back to her former duty of weaving colorful clouds in the sky because she could not do her job while married to the mortal.) Taking out her hairpin, the Goddess scratches a wide river in the sky to separate the two lovers forever (thus forming the Milky Way separating Altair and Vega).

Zhi Nü must sit forever on one side of the river, sadly weaving on her loom, while Niu Lang watches her from afar and takes care of the two kids (his flanking stars β and γ Aquilae).

But once a year all the magpies in the world take pity on them and fly up into heaven to form a bridge (鵲橋, "the bridge of magpies", Que Qiao) over the star Deneb in the Cygnus constellation so the lovers may be together for a single night, the seventh night of the seventh moon.

Picture Source: AsiaThings
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