Written by Stefania Miletti
All of us have a soft spot for love stories. Let’s admit it, deep inside we all want to believe that true love concours all. This believe is deep rooted in all culture and has prevailed though time till nowadays.
Well, the other day I stumbled across this fascinating story and wanted to share it, hoping that it will make you smile.
The cowherd and the weaver girl (牛郎与织女)
This is one of the most famous Chinese folklore stories, believed to date back to the 6th century B.C.
The two main characters, the cowherd and the weaver girl are stars, the first one denotes to the Altair star and the second one to Vega star.
The two stars fell hopelessly and deeply in love with each other.
Unfortunately, according to the rules of the Heavens, for stars and deities it is forbitten to have passionate relationships. So, when the word of their tender love reached the Empress of the Heavens (plot twist: also the grandmother of the Weaver Girl) she was outraged and, as a punishment, she banned the Cowherd star to earth as a mortal. On the other hand, the weaver girl was bound to weave forever without rest. In fact, according to Chinese mythology, the clouds were “weaved” with magical silk threads of different colors according to the time of day or season.
But one day, thanks to the pleads of a group of fairies that wanted to pay a visit to the Bi Lian lake, the Heavenly Empress let the Weaver Girl join them. At the same time, the Cowherd Star, was reborn into a farming family, and was named the Cowherd. Unfortunately, after his parents died, he was left alone with his siblings, who treated him badly and after some time, they chased him out the house with only a cart and an Ox. Together with the old animal, the brave protagonist was able to overcome great hardships, and managing to rebuild their life and live happily in a tiny house.
What the Cowherd didn’t know, is that the Ox was no ordinary animal, in fact he was a Golden Ox star.
One day, the Ox spoke to the Cowherd, much to his surprise. The animal said to him: “You have to go to the Bi Lian lake today, there you’ll find fairies. If you steal the red dress, while they are in the water bathing, the fairy will become your wife”. The Cowherd, not quite believing what he had just heard, took the advice since he was feeling lonely and yearned a partner.
He went to the lake, and hold and behold, he found the fairies. Once they were all in the water, he took the red dress. But the fairies, realizing that there was a human around, left the lake, all but the one whose red dress was missing. Gathering his courage, the Cowherd walked forward and asked the Weaver girl if she was willing to marry him in exchange for her dress. The girl immediately realizes, upon seeing him, that he was her long lost love so, hesitantly, she accepted.
From that day, their life together was perfect. They had a daughter and a son and were really happy as a family. But it was too good to be true, their happiness was not long lived. In fact, when the Heavenly Empress heard the word that the two were reunited, she was simply furious! Blinded with rage she sent the heaven guards to retrieve the Weaver girl.
Back on earth, the old Ox sadly passed away, but before he died, he spoke again telling the Cowherd to keep his ox hide because he will need it to fly to the sky. Once the Weaving Girl heard this story, she realized that the old Ox was indeed the Golden Ox Star that was sent to earth because he tried to plead in favor of the Cowherd Star.
Unfortunately, the heavenly guards found the two lovers, they took the Weaving Girl and run away. But right when she was flying away, the Cowherd shouted: “Weaver girl, wait for me!”. When she looked back, she saw the Cowherd following her and the guards wearing the magical ox hide and carrying their two children, each of them in a basket. They came closer and closer, the Cowherd almost managed to catch up with the heavenly guards, when the Heavenly Empress appeared. Raging with fury with a wave of her hand, she created the Milky Way between the two spouses, creating an impassable barrier.
Now the only thing they could do is gaze at each other for eternity, knowing that they are so close yet so far apart. They cried and cried, all of the celestial being felt sorry for them, hence a flock of magpies build a bridge between the lovers. Eventually even the Heavenly Empress pitied them and finally allowed the family, mother, father and the two little children, to stay in the sky and let them meet each other once a year on the 7th day of the 7th month.
After this story, the 7th day of the 7th month of the traditional Chinese lunar calendar, is known as “the Chinese Valentine’s Day” (七夕节)
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