ESSAY: Valentine’s Day in China

DOWNEY – A Chinese member of the Downey Toastmasters Club recently gave a speech describing Chinese Valentine’s Day. The speech is reprinted with permission: Does anyone know which day Chinese Valentine’s day is on?  Chinese Valentine’s Day is on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month in the Chinese calendar. Do you know what date it was on this year? It was August the 2nd.  Do you know why it was raining that day? Because it was the tears of the Weaving Maiden and the Cowherd’s falling on earth. It resembles the story of “Romeo and Juliet,” but the Chinese version. The Weaving Maiden was forced to move to the Vega star and the cowherd was moved to the Altair Star. They were only allowed to meet once a year on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month - Chinese Valentine’s Day.

The festival originated from the romantic legend of two lovers, the cowherd and the seventh daughter of the Emperor, also known as the Weaving Maiden. The story begins with a handsome but poor orphan who lives with his older brother and sister-in-law. After his parents passed away, the boy’s brother inherited the house and the land. The boy only had an old ox. As a cowherd, the boy had to work hard on the fields every day with his ox.

The Weaving Maiden, was good at handcrafting. Especially weaving clouds. The Emperor particularly appreciated her skills of weaving clouds with rainbows, to make the world more beautiful. One day she fled from the boring heaven with her sisters to look for fun on earth.

The cowherd’s ox, was actually an immortal who made a mistake in heaven and was reborn as an ox to toil on earth. One day, the ox was suddenly able to talk and said to the cowherd: “You are a nice person. If you want to get married, go to the brook and your wish will come true.”

The cowherd went to the brook and asked the seven pretty daughters of the Emperor take a bath. Fascinated by the youngest and the most beautiful one, the cowherd hid her clothes. When the other six sisters went back to heaven, the youngest could not fly back without her fairy clothes.

The cowherd then appeared and told the Weaving Maiden that he will keep her clothes until she agreed to be his wife. It was love at first sight, so the maiden accepted the handsome man’s proposal. The couple was then married, lived happily, and had two children two years later. They proved to be a wonderful family.

One day, the old ox was dying and told the cowherd that he should keep his hide in case of an emergency.

Meanwhile, up in heaven, the Emperor found that the skies were not as beautiful as before. He found out his daughter had married a mere mortal and he was furious. He ordered his daughter’s grandmother to go find her and bring her back. As the seventh daughter was forced to fly back to heaven, the cowherd put on his old ox hide and he put their children into two bamboo baskets laced with his wife’s clothes to chase after her.

But the grandmother created the Milky Way in the sky with her hairpin, to kept the lovers apart. The seventh daughter was moved to the Vega star in the Lyra constellation. And the cowherd and their two children stayed on the Altair star in the Aquila constellation. The daughter begged her father not to separate them. In the end, the Emperor allowed them to meet once a year.

The distance between those two stars is sixteen light years.

The Vega star of the Weaving Maiden is the fifth brightest star in the sky and is sixteen times larger than the Sun.

The Altair star of the Cowherd is the eleventh brightest star in the sky and is four times bigger than the Sun.

The Magpies were touched by the their story and they gathered together and formed a bridge for them to meet. That is why they say that it is hard to find a magpie on Chinese Valentine’s Day. Now you understand why it was raining Saturday 2.

This famous myth dates back to over 2600 years ago. In today’s China, people also call this day “Daughter’s Day” because young unmarried girls will go to the local temple to pray for their luck of love. Married people also hope that their marriage is as happy and true as the lovers’ were. After hearing this story, will you look at the night sky differently?



Published: Sept. 18, 2014 - Volume 13 - Issue 23