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. 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.
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.
Zhinü and Niulang, by the Japanese painter Tsukioka Yoshitoshi.
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