Today is August 13 and it is also Valentine’s Day in China. It is called QiXi （七夕）. While it is not like our holiday with little cupids aiming their little bows at our hearts, the Chinese have their own story of lovers. I have really enjoyed the learning of Chinese folklore. It is fascinating and rich with history and tradition. Would you like to hear it? I will do my best to translate it for you.
Long ago, there were seven daughters of the Queen of Heaven. The youngest was very beautiful but more importantly, she was diligent and hard working. She was exceptional at weaving. It had become her task to weave clouds and rainbows to make the world more beautiful.
On Earth, a poor cowherd was banished from his father’s house by his cruel brother and his evil wife. He had only been allowed an old cow, who was his only friend and companion. He wandered the roads in despair. However, it turned out that the old cow was a magical cow. The cow gave the poor cowherd some advice. “Find a good and beautiful wife as your companion for your life.”
One day, the youngest daughter and all of her sisters flew to Earth in their magical robes so that they might relax and bathe in one of the rivers. The poor cowherd happened upon the sisters while they were bathing. Remembering the old cows advice, he snuck down to the bank and stole the youngest sister’s clothes. One by one, the sisters finished their bathes, donned their robes and flew back to Heaven. The youngest sister finished last but she could not not find her robes! Her robes gave her the power to fly back to Heaven! Without them, she could do nothing.
The poor cowherd approached the youngest sister. He presented her with her robes and asked that she might stay on Earth and marry him. She agreed.
Seven years on Earth passed before the princesses absence was discovered. You see, time is very short in Heaven while time on Earth is very long. It had only been a few days in Heaven. But during that time on Earth the princess and the cowherd had been very happy. They had even had two children!
The Queen of Heaven was very angry and brought her daughter and her daughter’s children back to Heaven. The poor cowherd was terrified as he watched his wife and children fly through the sky towards Heaven. But he remembered the magical cow. Just before the magical cow had died, she had made the poor cowherd to promise to keep the hide for it would become useful in an emergency.
The poor cowherd ran to the family cottage to collect the cowhide. He wrapped it around shoulders and was able to pursue his wife and children on their way towards Heaven. The Queen of Heaven saw this and became enraged. She pulled a hairpin from her head and scratched a line in the sky creating the Silver River or what we call the Milky Way.
The young princess returned to her work of weaving clouds and rainbows for Earth but they lacked their former beauty and luster. She was so devastated by absence of her husband. Finally, the Queen of Heaven showed a small token of mercy. The young princess and the poor cowherd would be allowed to meet one day a year.
A bridge of magpies is formed over the Silver River so that the lovers may meet. During the rest of the year, they wait on the banks of the Silver River, each tending to their work and waiting for the one day that they may meet.
What do you think of the story? I find it romantic and sad. The Chinese believe that being able to be patient like that shows the true dedication and love for the other person. Do you agree?