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Cowherd and the Weaving Girl

The fairy tale of the Cowherd and the Weaving Girl is one of the four most famous folktales of ancient China.

It is a classic love story between a fairy girl and a human boy. The fairy girl came down to the earth and encountered with the cowherd, and gradually they fall in love with each other and get married. After the Queen Mother knowing the truth, they were forced to separate and blocked by the Milky Way. Out of compassion for them, they were allowed to meet each other one time every year. So that on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month each year, swarms of magpies fly to form a bridge for them with their bodies over the Milky Way.

Naturally, the seventh day of every seventh month of the lunar calendar was called Qixi Festival and has become Chinese Valentine's Day. This fairy tale has made the Qixi Festival the most romantic traditional Chinese festival. On that day, Chinese women customarily look up into the night sky, searching for the Weaver Girl Star and the Cowherd Star on both sides of the Milky Way and hoping to see their annual gathering. Meanwhile, girls on the ground also pray for a happy marriage of their own.

Countless poems in Chinese history are in praise of the story. In addition, traditional Chinese operas have plays about the Cowherd and the Weaving Girl.

The fairy tale also contains Chinese people's understanding about star images. After their death, the cowherd and the weaving girl became the stars named Weaver Girl Star and Cowherd Star across the Milky Way respectively. In modern astronomy, they are the Vega and the Altair respectively. The Weaver Girl Star, the brightest star in the Lyra, faces the Cowherd Star, the brightest star in the Aquila.