The 7 Best of: The Legends of the Weaver Girl and the Cowherd
The 7 Best of: The Legends of the Weaver Girl and the Cowherd
The Girl Weaver and the Peasant (China)
This story is about the Girl Weaver and a Peasant who is named "Lang". They can only see each other once a year, at the day of July the seventh of the Chinese calendar. Now the people called the Vega and the Altair.
Long time ago, when people still believe there were god and goddess in the heaven, one was believed as the Taoist God. He rules everyone and everything in the heaven and the earth. He has seven daughters. However, he only favors his seventh daughter. She is the most incredible one. She is the most intelligent, the prettiest and has the most skillful weave talent among her other six older sisters. Since she has the most outstanding weave skill, people called her the Girl Weaver. The Girl Weaver love to spend her time with her sisters in the heaven until she was a teenage.
One day, the seven daughters of the Taoist God felt that is boring to stay in the heaven. Therefore, they decided to go down from the heaven for a walk. That was a humid day. When the seven ladies got down to the earth, the first thing they saw was a beautiful pond with clear and cool water, with colorful flowers, singing birds, green and lively grass around. They were attracted by nature, so they decided to take a bath in the pond. As they really enjoyed their bath, the sky turned to grey and dark, wind blew very strong, and rain fell like pouring water. The seven ladies realize this is a signal that their father is calling them home. They rush to dress up and flew back to the heaven. However, they lost their youngest sister, the Girl Weaver. Since the wind was so strong, her cloth had been blown to a grass land. But a young, handsome and strong peasant picked them up and gave her cloth back in a very gentle manner. At this very first second, these two fell in love each other at first sight. Since then, the Girl Weaver carefully observed this young peasant from the heaven. She found that he is very hard working and honest and named "Lang". He has a cow that he led out to the grass land everyday. She discussed her feelings with her older sisters. She decided to go to the earth and marry him. Finally, she married to " Lang".
After they married, Lang goes to the farm, and the Girl Weaver cooks, cleans and weaves. They really enjoy their life. However, the happy moment didn't last for long. The Taoist God finally discovered the Girl Weaver's secret. He was seriously mad. He sent four soldiers to earth this time. When they were trying to guard the Girl Weaver back to the heaven, Lang came home. However, he can´t do anything, because the soldiers are very powerful. Suddenly, the cow talks. He said "Take my horn, it will help you to chase your wife back. Put your kids in the bamboo basket and carry them with you. I was one of the gods in the heaven. Because I broke one of the rules, the Taoist God punish me by sending me down to the earth to suffer, go and hurry." Lang followed what the cow said. Suddenly, the weather changed, a storm was coming. It was so strong that it caused a great flood on the earth. They followed the soldiers calling each other's name. When there was only one feet distance between Lang and the Girl Weaver. The Goddess wove her fade clasp. Suddenly, the rain between the couple broke into two sides. Each of the couple looked like standing on the side of an ocean. Lang's ox horn couldn't flew to the other side. They were separated.
At this moment over a million of birds flew from far and near, they build a bird bridge. This bridge was long enough and strong enough for Lang to walk onto and catch his wife. The Goddess saw it, and she was impress by the birds and the strong love between her daughter and Lang. Finally, she made an announcement that since the goddess cannot be with the people on earth. She allowed her daughter, the Girl Weaver and Lang to see each other once a year one day. That was July seven of the Chinese calendar. Also, birds are volunteer to be their bridge for them to see each other.
Since then, Lang and the Girl Weaver meet each other on that day.
When Jade Emperor was drunk (China)
The God in the heaven, Jade Emperor had seven beautiful daughters, with whom he was very strict. He forbade his daughters of any entertainment and had them weave silk cloth at home everyday. The cloth was sent to make the rainbow, and the princesses were called Zhinu (literally girl weavers).
One day, Jade Emperor was drunk on his wife, Queen of the Heaven's birthday banquet. Realizing that no one could wake him up for a couple of days, the seven sisters decided to go down to the earth and have some fun.
After having a great time on the earth, the girls were so hot and tired that they decided to take a bath when they found a lake in a beautiful valley. They took off their clothes and swam happily in the lake.
Just at that time, a young cowherd was feeding his ox nearby. He was amazed in seeing so many goddesses and wanted to know them. So he sneaked up to where the girls left their clothes and stole a red one from among them and hid away. When the girls came up from the lake to put on their dresses again, one of them cried out that hers is missing. They searched for it in vain. But time was up and they had to return to the Heaven. The one who had lost her dress had to remain behind. She was the Zhinu, the youngest and prettiest of them all.
The cowherd just meant to make a joke, but he felt very sorry seeing the girl crying. He came out from hiding and returned the dress to the girl. Since it was too late, he let the girl stay in his small shelter. They fall in love, and the story continues as it is commonly known...
The Story of Dong Yong (Tung Yung) (China)
In the mortal world, Dong Yong is in dire poverty. When his father dies, he sells himself as a slave to get the money for his father's proper burial.
In heaven, the seven daughters of the Jade Emperor are playing on the Magpie Bridge and they take a peek at the mortal world below.
The Seventh Fairy Maiden is tired of the cold and bloodless days in the Palace of Heaven. Her sympathy for Dong Yong turns to love, so in defiance of the rules of heaven, she descends to the world of man. She meets Dong under the huai tree (Japanese scholar tree). The two are soon in love and become husband and wife.
Having sold himself into slavery, Dong becomes a servant at the family of the rich man, Mr Fu. The Maiden goes with him. But Fu accuses him of a breach of contract because he is now married, whereas he was not when he sold himself. In recompense, the Maiden must weave ten rolls of silk overnight. If she can do it, Dong's term of service will be shortened, and if not, it will be doubled. The Maiden seeks the help of her sisters and the silks are woven overnight. Three years of slavery are now only one hundred days.
When the hundred days are over, Dong and the Maiden return to his home. Just as they are looking forward to the happy days ahead, a decree comes from the Jade Emperor demanding the Maiden to return to the Palace of Heaven immediately, or Dong would be in peril. The Maiden cannot but obey, and the couple bid each other a tearful farewell.
The legend of Orihime and Kengyuu (Japan)
Orihime was the daughter of Emperor Tentei (traditionally said to be centred in the North Pole of the heavens) and was known to be adept at weaving fine clothes. One day while sitting by the side of the river (Milky Way), she felt forlorn and lonely, as she had been busy all her life weaving for her father and did not have the time to fall in love. So her father taking pity on her arranged to get her married to Kengyuu who lived across the river. Their married life was one of happiness and sweetness that Orihime neglected her weaving. This so enraged her father Tentei that he separated them and bade them to live on either banks of the celestial river, permitting them to meet each other only once each year on the 7th day of the 7th month. Ever since Orihime by taking the help of the boatman who comes from the mouth of the river to ferry her across to her beloved Kengyuu goes to meet him on that day. It is said that sometimes if her weaving has not been good or has not been finished her father causes rain to fall and flood the river and it is upto the Kasasagi (magpies) to fly and form a bridge across the river for her to cross. Since this is difficult she is said to pray for improving her skill in order to make it easier for her to meet her beloved.
The Milky Way, Kengyu and Orihime (Japan)
Once upon a time, there was a place called the the Milky Way. There, the world was divided into two. Humans lived on one side and on the other side, lived gods. The humans' world was in the west and the gods' in the east, and they never met each other.
In the west world, there was a young beautiful boy called Kengyu. He lived with cows as a herdsman.
In the east world, where the gods lived, were the Orihime sisters (weaving princesses), who weaved very beautiful clothes. The youngest daughter was especially beautiful and had excellent skill in weaving. They were living on the each side of the vast Milky Way.
One day, when Kengyu was taking a walk with his cows, he came to the east of the Milky Way. There, the Orihimes had taken off their silk clothes and were bathing. Kengyu was fascinated by the beautiful sisters' figures without knowing they were goddesses. It was such a beautiful view. He was especially fascinated by the youngest sister. His eyes were the ones of someone who had awoken with his first love.
One of the cows, who was watching him, whispered him, 'Kengyu, take her clothes away.' Kengyu, who heard it, pulled her clothes from a tree branch as the cow had suggested and hid them behind a rock.
Orihime came out from the river, looked for her clothes and became flustered, realizing that her clothes were missing. 'I'll catch up with you later.', she said to her sisters. She crouched there naked as she could not fly without her silk clothes. Then, somebody called her from her behind. 'Here are your clothes. But I would like to ask you a favour.' When she turned back, she saw a young man standing, showing his back to her. 'I would like you to be my wife.', he said. 'I must go back to the sky.' The young man turned to Orihime who had hidden herself behind a rock. 'I would like you to be my wife.' When she saw his face, she was startled. The valiant figure, the beautiful gaze. She decided to accept his proposal. In her mind, she also thought if he returned her clothes somehow ...
Before long, a girl and a boy were born between them. They had been living together and Orihime hadn't gone home even once. Kengyu was happy, so was Orihime, and the children were happy with them, too. But a goddess who lived in the mountain of Kong Long ground her teeth with fury when she heard that Orihime was living in the human's world and with children by Kengyu. She was jealous. 'I will never allow it. Bring her back as soon as possible!' She sent a man from the heaven and took her back by force.
Kengyu and the children who were left lived on, crying. But they couldn't go on like that. One day, he put a basket on his back with the children in it, and kept walking to the east of the Milky Way. After days of walking, he finally arrived at the Milky Way. Then strangely, the river vanished into the air. When he looked around for it, it was seen further away. The goddess had moved the river to a higher place to prevent Kengyu from seeing her and to sever them. Kengyu and Orihime were weeping far from each other. The father and the children went home, crying and looking at the Milky Way, which had moved far away. When they kept crying at home, a cow who felt sympathetic to them whispered, 'Kengyu, when I die, make clothes from my skin. You will be able to climb up to the Milky Way in them.' And he died after his words. Kengyu cried again, this time, to know that the cow understood him and tried to realize his wish by his death. He made a jacket from his skin, put it on, and left for the Milky Way with his children in a basket on his back.
They arrived at the Milky Way. The stars were shining all over. It was such a beautiful view. Kengyu was excited with the hope of seeing his wife and the children called out for their mother. The goddess, who was watching, went mad with jealousy. She divided the river into two with her hairpin and made it unable for them to cross the river. Water of the river increased and flooded with her rage. The father and the children were soon drawn into the big wave and were almost drowning. But they did not give up. 'Dad, let's ladle the water and empty the river. Then, it's gonna be shallow and we'll be able to see our mum somehow.' So he started fighting against the river, ladling out the water. When he got exhausted, the girl took his place, and when she got exhausted, the boy took over. They took turns and kept on ladling.
The goddess watched them and took pity. She said, 'Stop ladling the water. The children can live with their mother from now on. Kengyu can see her on July 7. But, it's only once a year.' When he heard that, he knelt down and thanked her. Since then, Kengyu and Orihime can see each other in the middle of the river on July 7, meeting each year with tears of joy.
Translated from Japanese by Sanae Ueda.
Kyun-woo and Chik-nyo: The Herdboy and the Weaver (Korea)
Long, long ago, a lovely princess, who was the only daughter of the King, lived in a kingdom near the stars. She liked weaving silk most of all, so she was called Chik-nyo (weaving maid.) Everyday she wove beautiful patterns of flowers, birds and animals. This made her parents happy. One day when the King visited his daughter, he was surprised to see the face of a young man in the daughter's weaving. At first the King was angry, but quickly he realized that the daughter had reached a marriageable age. The King called all the wise men of the kingdom together, and debated what the best way would be of finding a suitable husband for the young princess. The oldest advisor suggested a certain young prince from a neighboring kingdom, who would be the perfect match for the King's beautiful daughter. The advisor praised the boy, saying that he was handsome, and took good care of cows. He was called Kyun-woo, one who raises cows. The fortune tellers said that a herder and a weaver would be a perfect combination. Kyun-woo's father, the ruler of a large kingdom, was pleased to hear the offer. He set the wedding day. Both Chik-nyo and Kyun-woo were instructed by their parents how they should behave as a devoted wife and a good husband. Without doubt they became the happiest married couple in the kingdoms near the stars. Wherever they went, they went together,. Soon they forgot their parents' advice about hard work and diligence. Instead they played all day long. That is, Kyun-woo deserted his cows and the cows became skinny. Chik-nyo's weaving loom became rusty, as it was hardly ever being used. Eventually the king found out about this, and reprimanded the couple sternly, "From this day on you must live separately. I will exile you, Kyun-woo, to the west country to tend to your cows, and Chik-nyo, to the east country where you will weave." The stunned couple begged the King's forgiveness, but they were forced to live separately. The King did promise that only if they worked hard would they be permitted to see each other one night a year. Because they were so sad, they wept for many days. Their falling tears caused the earth to flood. The princess and prince missed each other so much, they couldn't keep their minds on their work. Finally, a year passed. It was July 7th (Chilsok on the lunar calendar,) the one night of the year they were allowed to meet, but they could only see each other from a great distance, crying out in desperation, "The Milky Way is too deep and too wide!" Meanwhile, the animals on earth were beginning to worry about the floods caused by the couple's weeping. To solve this problem, all the magpies got together to become a bridge for the couple on that day. From that year on, each July 7th, the Magpies cannot be seen on earth, because they are undoubtedly forming a bridge over the Milky Way for the two lovers to meet. Every year on that day, some rain will sprinkle, because they still weep when they must part for another year of separation.
From: The Herdboy and the Weaver by Kyong-Hi Lee
The Weaver Fairy & the Buffalo Boy (Vietnam)
In a palace beside the Silver River lived Chuc Nu, the Weaver Maiden. She was the most beautiful and most skilled of Jade Emperor's daughters. Dusk till dawn she sat weaving the silk robes that the fairies wore. None could surpass her works. Every day when she finished washing her new silks she draped them across the heavens spread into white clouds to dry.
While spreading out her silks in the sky one afternoon, a breeze caught the corner nearest to her revealing a beautiful stream and grass covered hill on the earth below. She was captivated by its beauty and with the water buffaloes as they bathed in the stream. As she watched she heard music. Beside the stream sat a young buffalo boy playing a buffalo flute. She was enchanted by the music and the striking good looks of the young man. Even though he was a simple country boy he stood as strong and proud as the finest of princes. She watched the seen below until he had called the buffaloes and led them away and out of sight. She returned to her work but was caught in a dream.
The next afternoon she again heard the music of the flute. She ran outside and looked down to watch the buffalo boy once again. This time she watched as he lead the buffaloes home. As he went into his hut she noticed that no one came out to greet him. She wondered if he could be lonely. Day after day she abandoned her work as soon as she heard the bamboo flute until one night she decided that she would go down to meet him. She dropped down cloud by cloud until she was just outside the hut.
As he approached she explained that she lost her path and needed to get to the Silver River. He realized that since there was no road near his hut that she must have wandered for hours. He invited her to have dinner with him. They shared in cooking the meal and she discovered that he was alone having lost his parents. He had only the hut and the meager wages earned by being a buffalo boy. During the course of the evening they began to fall in love. Chuc Nu and the buffalo boy, Nguu Lang sat under the stars while he played his flute. Nguu Lang inquired about her home along the Silver River. She replied that it was not nearly as beautiful as the hillside. He asked her to marry him. Chuc Nu became upset and began to cry. She revealed to him that she was a fairy and had been watching him. She told him that she loved him but that they would both be punished if she stayed. After a fleeting argument she decided to stay.
Chuc Nu and Nguu Lang lived together as man and wife. Each morning they led the buffaloes to the stream, he played his flute and she sang. After a year she gave birth to twins, a boy and girl. Another year passed and the young family was happier than ever but Chuc Nu that it could not last. One afternoon a thunderstorm came over the horizon and lightening began to crash all around the young family. Chuc Nu, with tears running down her face told Nguu Lang that her father had at last come for her. Thien Loi, the Thunder Spirit was sent to kill Nguu Lang unless she returned. She bid farewell to her family and with a horrendous clap of thunder, jumped onto a cloud and rode up to heaven.
Every night since she had left, Nguu Lang laid by the stream hoping to catch a glimpse of his wife. Chuc Nu spent the days in tears and the nights wandering the gardens sobbing as she heard the cries of her babies. She finally decided to confront her father. She begged his forgiveness and pleaded for him to punish her not Nguu Lang and her children. She asked for one mortal lifetime with her husband and then she would accept any punishment he deemed fitting. Jade Emperor was moved but told his daughter that as she was the most talented of all the fairy weavers there was no way they could allow her to go. After explaining that she could not weaver because of the tears in her eyes, she asked if Nguu Lang could become a fairy rather than her becoming a mortal.
Jade Emperor considered this proposal for a while. Finally he said that since Nguu Lang was a buffalo boy, he could tend their buffaloes. His offer, however, came with the condition that they both take care of their responsibilities. Not long after Nguu Lang and Chuc Nu were reunited. Their love only strengthened by the time apart.
Soon, however, the looms sat unused and the buffaloes roamed unattended. One evening as they herded the buffaloes back to the stables, they noticed one was missing. As they searched they discovered that the animal was headed straight toward the Jade Emperor's palace. They ran to catch it but were to late. It had made its entrance into the palace gates and all the way into the throne room. When Chuc Nu and Nguu Lang caught up to it, they were greeted with the laughter of the fairies. The Jade Emperor, however, was not laughing. He reprimanded the young lovers for neglecting their responsibilities for the past several months, a violation of the original agreement. He decided that the best way to solve this was to separate the pair. Chuc Nu was to stay in her room and weave on the east bank of the Silver River which Nguu Lang was to tend the buffaloes on the west bank. The two begged for another chance but the Jade Emperor had made his decision. He further decided that they would only be able to see each other once a year but only if they had carefully tended to their responsibilities. It was decided that on the seventh day of the seventh month, Chuc Nu would be allowed to cross the river and spend one week with her husband.
With that the Emperor now had to build a bridge across the Silver River, as none existed. He gathered all the architects, engineers, and mason on earth and ordered them to work on it. He instructed them that it must be finished by the seventh day of the seventh month - one year. As the year passed, the various groups spent little time building and more time arguing as to how it should be built. On the sixth day of the seventh month the bridge was not yet completed.
That night, Chuc Nu set down her shuttle and walked to the river to see the bridge. To her horror there was no bridge but many workman arguing. She ran to her father and told him what she had seen. The Jade Emperor was so furious that flames shot from his eyes. He stormed down to the river bank and found the men still fighting. In his anger he declared that the men didn't deserve to be men and transformed them into crows. He declared that in the morning they would span the Silver River wing to wing so that Chuc Nu could cross on their backs. The birds became so angry that they pecked each other bald.
The next morning Chuc Nu went to the river and the crows lined up wing to wing. She crossed over and into Nguu Lang's arms. The entire week they wept with the joy of being together and the sorrow of being separated another year. This is why each year as the seventh day of the seventh month the crows disappear from the countryside and return several days later stripped of their feathers. For each year they still peck each other bald, blaming each other for their plight. It is said that if you look up in the sky on these nights you can see two stars come together - they are Chuc Nu and Nguu Lang, the reunited lovers. If there are unexpected rain showers, it is because of the tears of sorrow and joy from the pair. If a rainbow appears it is because Chuc Nu has tossed aside her skeins of brightly colored silk to trail the sky in her haste to be with her husband.
From: The Sky Legends of Vietnam by Lynette Dyer Vuong. HarperCollins Publishers. ©1993
Source: unless stated, the texts are taken from numerous websites / tanabata & chinese festival pages. This compilation is non-commercial and intended for artistic and private use only.
ZHINÜ - Project 2005
© 2004 s.holzbauer