The Cowherd and the Weaver Girl
|The Cowherd and the Weaver Girl|
|Literal meaning||Cowherd [and] Weaver Girl|
|Vietnamese||Ngưu Lang Chức Nữ|
The Cowherd and the Weaver Girl is a Chinese folk tale.
The general tale is a love story between Zhinü (織女; the weaver girl, symbolizing the star Vega) and Niulang (牛郎; the cowherd, symbolizing the star Altair). Their love was not allowed, thus they were banished to opposite sides of the Silver River (symbolizing the Milky Way Galaxy). 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. There are many variations of the story. 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.
The tale of the Cowherd and the Weaver Girl has been celebrated in the Qixi Festival in China since the Han dynasty. It has also been celebrated in the Tanabata festival in Japan, and in the Chilseok festival in Korea.
Meeting across the Milky way
Influence and variations
The story with differing variations is also popular in other parts of Asia. In Southeast Asia, the story has been conflated into a Jataka tale detailing the story of Manohara, the youngest of seven daughters of the Kinnara King who lives on Mount Kailash and falls in love with Prince Sudhana.[page needed] In Sri Lanka, another version of the Manohara legend is popular where Prince Sudhana is a kinnara who is shot before being revived by Śakra, the Buddhist equivalent of the Jade Emperor.
In Korea, it revolves around the story of Jingnyeo, the weaver girl who falls in love with Gyeonu, the herder. In Japan, the story revolves around the romance between the deities, Orihime and Hikoboshi. In Vietnam, the story is known as Ngưu Lang Chức Nữ and revolves around the story of Chức Nữ and Ngưu Lang.[context?]
Reference to the story is also made by Carl Sagan in his book Contact. The tale and the Tanabata festival are also the basis of the Sailor Moon side story entitled Chibiusa's Picture Diary-Beware the Tanabata!, where both Vega and Altair make an appearance. The Post-Hardcore band La Dispute named and partially based their first album, Somewhere at the Bottom of the River Between Vega and Altair, after the tale. The JRPG Bravely Second: End Layer also uses the names Vega and Altair for a pair of story-important characters who shared a love interest in each other years before the game's story began, Deneb being their common friend. South Korean girl group Red Velvet's song One of These Nights from their 2016 EP, The Velvet, also references the legend of the two lovers. The novel Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart is centered around the tale, but incorporates many more Chinese folk stories while retelling the tale.
Zhinü crossing the River of Heaven, as painted by Gai Qi, 1799
Zhinü and Niulang, by the Japanese painter Tsukioka Yoshitoshi.
- Brown & Brown 2006, 72.
- Lai 1999, 191.
- Schomp 2009, 89.
- Schomp 2009, 70.
- Idema (2012), p. 26.
- Qiu 2003, 133.
- Cornell University (2013). Southeast Asia Program at Cornell University: Fall Bulletin 2013. Page 9. "It is generally accepted that the tale of Manora (Manohara) told in Southeast Asia has become conflated with the story of the cowherd and the celestial Weaver girl, popular in China, Korea, and Japan. This conflation of tales, in which Indian and Chinese concepts of sky nymphs cohere, suggests a consummate example of what historian Oliver Wolters refers to as “localization” in Southeast Asia.
- Jaini, Padmanabh S. (ed.) (2001). Collected Papers on Buddhist Studies ISBN 81-208-1776-1.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to The Cowherd and the Weaver Girl.|
- Brown, Ju; Brown, John (2006). China, Japan, Korea: Culture and customs. North Charleston: BookSurge. ISBN 978-1-4196-4893-9.
- Idema, Wilt L. (2012). "Old Tales for New Times: Some Comments on the Cultural Translation of China's Four Great Folktales in the Twentieth Century" (PDF). Taiwan Journal of East Asian Studies. 9 (1): 25–46. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-10-06.
- Lai, Sufen Sophia (1999). "Father in Heaven, Mother in Hell: Gender politics in the creation and transformation of Mulian's mother". Presence and presentation: Women in the Chinese literati tradition. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-0312210540.
- Qiu, Xiaolong (2003). Treasury of Chinese love poems. New York: Hippocrene Books. ISBN 9780781809689.
- Schomp, Virginia (2009). The ancient Chinese. New York: Marshall Cavendish Benchmark. ISBN 978-0761442165.