family met on the magpie bridge on the seventh day of the seventh
month on the Chinese lunar calendar.
introduction to popular Chinese religion is conducive to the understanding
of the legend.
Like ancient Greeks, the Chinese also believe in polytheism - a multi-god
religious system. Gods are thought to be ubiquitous: above, upon and
beneath the mortal world, consisting of Buddhist and Taoist figures
as well as Confucius scholars who became deified. The Chinese believe
that each of the worlds, namely, Heaven, Earth and Hell, is governed
by a monarchical hierarchy with the Celestial Emperor being the supreme
popularly believed that the heavenly royal parents have seven beautiful
daughters. Of them all, the youngest is the prettiest and brightest.
There are quite a few legends about her. The one retold here is the
a time, there was a boy, clever, diligent and honest. Orphaned, his
wicked big brother drove him out of home, giving him nothing but a decrepit
buffalo. The animal, however, proved to be very loyal to the boy, trying
its best to relieve him of the toil in the fields. The two friends are
seen together all the time. Eventually the boy became known as the Cowherd....
are the Aquila and the Lyra constellations. Altair, the brightest
of the Aquila stars, with a smaller but still very bright star striding
on each of its shoulders, is believed to be the Cowherd carrying
his two children. Vega, the most brilliant of the Lyra constellation
is believed to be the Weaving Girl and the four smaller stars in
a diamond pattern to be her weaving shuttle. It appears to the Chinese
that she is ceaselessly working on her fabric, perhaps for her two
children whom she has a chance to see only once a year, on the evening
of the seventh day of the seventh Chinese Lunar month.
on the seventh day of the seventh month on the Chinese lunar calendar,
the birds would manage to gather enough force in number to form a bridge
so that the family may at least have a brief reunion.
the occasion has since become the Chinese Valentine's Day. Moreover,
the magpie has been regarded as a messenger of good tidings.
of the story must have drawn inspiration from the astronomical observation:
the most prominent feature in the sky of a mid-summer night on the northern
hemisphere is the Milky Way flanked by the Lyra and the Aquila constellations*.
in turn has been an inspiration for Chinese literary creation generation
after generation. The two poems quoted below are but a few examples.
|Tiáotiáo qiānniúxīng, jiǎojiǎo
Xiānxiān zhuó sù shǒu, zhāzhā nòng
Zhōng rì bù chéng zhāng, qì tì líng
Héhàn qīng qiě qiǎn, xiāng qù fù
Yíngyíng yì shuǐ jiān, mòmò bù dé
star of the Cowboy high above; the star of the Weaving Girl clear and bright,
Her fair and dexterous hands busy, she weaves and weaves on the loom,
A day went by with no cloth finished; only tears rained down her cheeks
in great volume.
The Silvery River clear and shallow, how far could they be apart?
Yet, separated by the sparkling waters, they could but face each other with
unknown (around 210)
|Xiān yún nòng qiǎo, fēi xīng chuán
hèn, yínhàn tiáotiáo àn dù.
Jīn fēng yù lù, yì xiāng féng, biàn
shèng què rénjiān wú shù.
Róu qíng sì shuǐ, jiāqī rú mèng,
rěn gù quèqiáo guī lù.
Liǎng qíng ruò shì jiǔ cháng shí, yòu
qǐ zài zhāo zhāo mù mù.
she dexterously weaves; her grief of separation the shooting stars transmit;
and in secrecy, across Milky Way the river vast, they reunite.
Admidst golden wind and silvery frost, their yearly rendezvous proves more
affectionate than many a worldly trysting night.
With feelings tender as water and after a date fleeting as a dream, they
could hardly turn and embark on their homebound journey.
After all, when love is genuine and perpetual, it really matters not if
a couple are always in each other's sight.
Qin Guan (1049-1100)
Picture courtesy of Li Yu, Future Publishing House, China
First created: 1995
Latest update: August 17, 2004
©Haiwang Yuan. All rights reserved. University Libraries, WKU
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Last updated: July 20, 2015