Monday, August 16, 2010
China has a lot of really cool stories that explain natural phenomena in alegory. This time we have the story of Zhi Nü (织女) & Niu Lang (牛郎) to explain why we see the Milky Way in the sky.
As the story goes, once upon a time, a beautiful goddess fell in love with a mortal. They lived happily for many years & had two children together, but eventually the goddess's mother caught wind of the marriage & decided she didn't like her daughter being married to a mortal, so she whisked her daughter back to heaven & away from that low-life. Mom was so angry, in fact, that she took her hairpin & swept it across the sky, creating the Milky Way to separate the two.
However, every year on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month (qi1 xi1 jie2 七夕节 means "Night of Sevens"), a whole bunch of magpies fly up to the sky to form a bridge to connect the two. The crotchity old mother graciously turns a blind eye, allowing the lovers to be together for one day out of the year.
The Night of Sevens fell on August 16th this year. According my own very unscientific survey of Chinese people, it seems that not many of them celebrated Qi Xi Festival. Instead, they prefer to celebrate the Western Valentine's Day on February 14th. The karaoke bar in the mall where I work hung hearts to decorate the lobby & a couple of stores had sales, but other than that, the day seemed to pass here without much notice.
You can read a more detailed version of the story here & here.