The Weaver Girl and the Cowherd

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The reunion of the couple on the bridge of magpies. Artwork in the Long Corridor of the Summer Palace, Beijing

The Weaver Girl and the Cowherd is a Chinese folk tale.

The general tale is about a love story between Zhinü (織女; the weaver girl, symbolizing Vega) and Niulang (牛郎; the cowherd, symbolizing Altair).[1] Their love was not allowed, thus they were banished to opposite sides of the Silver River (symbolizing the Milky Way).[1][2] Once a year, on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, a flock of magpies would form a bridge to reunite the lovers for one day.[1] There are many variations of the story.[1] The earliest-known reference to this famous myth dates back to over 2600 years ago, which was told in a poem from the Classic of Poetry.[3]

The tale of The Weaver Girl and the Cowherd has been celebrated in the Qixi Festival in China since the Han dynasty.[4] The story is now counted as one of China's Four Great Folktales, the others being the Legend of the White Snake (Baishezhuan), Lady Meng Jiang, and Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai. [5]


The tale has been alluded to in many literary works. One of the most famous one was the poem by Qin Guan during the Song dynasty:

Cultural references[edit]

The tale is also celebrated in the Tanabata festival in Japan and in the Chilseok festival in Korea. Reference to the story is also made by Carl Sagan in his book, Contact. Marking the occasion of the Qixi Festival, Google published several doodles alluding to this tale in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, and 2014.


  1. ^ a b c d Brown & Brown 2006, 72.
  2. ^ Lai 1999, 191.
  3. ^ Schomp 2009, 89.
  4. ^ Schomp 2009, 70.
  5. ^ Idema (2012), p. 26.
  6. ^ Qiu 2003, 133.


Further reading[edit]

  • Mao, Xian (2013). Cowherd and Weaver and other most popular love legends in China. eBook: Kindle Direct Publishing.