Chinese Valentine’s Day Story - Cowherd and Weaver Girl

Chinese Valentine’s Day, also called Qixi Festival, is a festival about love. The Chinese Valentine’s Day story about the Niulang and Zhinu (Cowherd and Weaver Girl) is widely known in China. The two lovers were separated on two ends of the Milky Way. Every year, only on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, they can get together by the magpies bridge. To extol the sad and beautiful love between Niulang and Zhinu, later generations make the seventh day of the seventh lunar month the Chinese Valentine’s Day.

​Who are Niulang and Zhinu?

In ancient Chinese constellation, Niulang is a star called Altair and Zhinu is a star called Vega. The Milky Way lies between them. It was not until Zhou Dynasty (1046 - 256 BC) people started to tell Niulang and Zhinu story as a Chinese Valentine’s Day story. In Chinese mythology, the two are gods in the heaven. Niulang is responsible for the celestial herds. Zhinu is the daughter of the Heavenly Queen Mother and the Jade Emperor. She is good at weaving and responsible for weaving beautiful and colorful clouds.

​The Two Fell in Love and Niulang Was Exiled to the Earth

Niulang was attracted by Zhinu and the two fell in love, which offended the law of Heaven and made the Jade Emperor and the Heavenly Queen Mother angry. Then Niulang was exiled down to the earth by the Heavenly Queen Mother. The Niulang and Zhinu story in the heaven comes to an end temporarily.

Niulang became a cowherd on earth who lost his parents at a young age and lived with his older brother and sister-in-law. His brother didn’t care about him and treated him harshly. So he left his brother and lived with an aged cow as his only companion.

Zhinu was punished by the Heavenly Queen Mother and forced to weave colorful clouds all day long. She suffered from losing her beloved man, missed him and wept every day.

​Cowherd and Weaver Girl Meet and Fell in Love Again On the Earth

One day, the other six daughters of the Heavenly Queen Mother asked permission to go down to the earth to take a bath in the river with Zhinu. They were agreed. When they were bathing, Niulang was passing by the river and he saw Zhinu. He was extremely happy and stole away Zhinu’s clothes and said to Zhinu, “If you agree to marry me, I’ll give it back to you. I promise.” Zhinu suddenly figured out that he was the man she felt in love with and agreed to marry him. They got married and lived a happy life on earth and gave birth to two lovely children.

​Niu Lang Zhi Nu Separated by Heavenly Queen Mother Again

Good times always don’t last long. After knowing their marriage, the Queen Mother was furious and immediately sent heaven troops to catch Zhinu and bring her back.

On that day, Niulang returned from the field and told Zhinu: “The old cow died and he asked me to peel off his cowhide and said it can help me to fly to the sky when I put on it.” Actually, the old cow was a God in the heaven; he spoke for Zhinu and Niulang which annoyed the Heavenly Queen Mother, who changed him into an old cow and exiled him down to the Earth. Niulang and Zhinu cried and peeled off the cowhide and buried the aged cow.

The next day, the heaven troops caught Zhinu and flew her back to heaven. Niulang put on the cowhide, took his two children and flew to the sky to save his lover. Seeing this, the Heavenly Queen Mother removed her golden hairpin and created a river, the Milky Way, between Cowherd and Weaver Girl. The poor couple was separated again.

​Meet Only Once a Year by the Magpie Bridge

Unable to cross the Milky Way, Niulang could only cried with his children for Zhinu on the opposite side. Their deep love moved a flock of magpies. Countless magpies then flew up and formed a colorful bridge across the Milky Way, allowing Niulang and Zhinu to unit. The Queen Mother was also moved and allow Niulang and two children to stay on the heaven, and the family to reunite via magpie bridge once a year on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month.

This is all about the sad but beautiful Chinese Valentine’s Day story. Nowadays, this Qixi Festival story is also used to compare to long-distance relationships.

​Actual Distance between Altair (Niulang) and Vega (Zhinu)

The Altair and Vega are far away from us! The Altair is 16 light years from earth and the Vega is 27 light years. The distance between the two stars is 16 light years.
- Last updated on Dec. 05, 2019 -
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