August 20th, 2010 | 5 Comments »

I was born in August 19th in the year 1969 according to the western, solar calendar system. In Chinese lunar calendar system, my birth date was on the 7th Day of the 7th Month, which according to a folk legend was the birthday of a fairy, princess of the King of Heavens called Zhinü (the star Vega, literally means the ‘weaver girl’). She was the youngest and most beautiful of the King’s 7 daughters. She was kind hearted and very skillful with her hands. She was the one who wove the beautiful clouds in the sky, often employing the most magnificently colored silk threads.

One day the 7 fairy princesses flew down to the earth to take a bath in a river near a forest. A poor orphaned cowherd accidentally caught sight of them bathing in the river. His name was Niulang and he had an old ox with him, the only worldly belonging that his parents left him when they died years ago. Niulang was a good man, he was hardworking and gentle. He was transfixed by the sight of seven beautiful fairy princesses bathing in the river, like any normal man would – don’t you think? :) But there was a particular fairy princess that he just couldn’t take his eyes off of her. It was Zhinü, the youngest one, the weaver of the clouds.

He hid behind the bushes and kept quiet while the fairy princesses finished their bathing and started to collect their fairy clothes that they left laying around on the rocks by the river. He saw them putting the glimmering clothes back on and how they then flew off to the sky, with their silky garment trailing and bellowing softly behind them. He was mesmerized. That night, he couldn’t sleep thinking about what he saw that day, and especially, about Zhinü. He has fallen in love with her.

Everyday after that he came back to the spot by the river, always at the same time of day when he saw the fairy princesses, hoping to see Zhinü again. Finally they came back for another bath. This time, Niulang hid closer to the rocks where the fairy princesses left their fairy clothes. Stealthily, he crept closer and took hold of Zhinü’s clothes, and moved further away. When the fairy princesses ready to fly back to heaven, Zhinü was left alone because she couldn’t find her fairy clothes. Her sisters had no choice but to leave her there by the river. Niulang approached her and lent her some clothing that he has prepared earlier on and offered her to come home with him. Well, she promptly feel in love with him! They got married and had 2 cute children: a boy and a girl. Niulang worked in the field and Zhinü wove beautiful tapestries to be sold on market days. They lived very happily together although they were not rich.

One day, when Niulang was away at work in the field, while cleaning the house Zhinü found a wooden box hidden in the corner under their bed. Out of curiosity, she opened it and was surprised to find her fairy clothes in it! She was overjoyed as she has been missing her parents and her sisters all these years. Without thinking, she put them on and before she knew what she was doing, she has flown back to the Heavens leaving her children behind! Uh oh!

Up in the Heavens, The King and the Queen Goddess were very happy to have their youngest daughter back and they forbid her to come back down to the earth. Back down there, Niulang was devastated when he got home to find the hidden box was now opened and Zhinü was nowhere to be seen. He immediately understood what had happened. He took their children with him to the river and waited there, hoping that Zhinü would come back. The old ox who was waiting with them finally told him that the only way for him to get Zhinü back was to take off his skin and use it to fly to the heavens. The old ox said that his time has come to leave the earth anyway, and that he has been very grateful of how well Niulang has treated him even when he has gotten so old and useless. He wanted to repay this kindness. And so he requested that Niulang took his skin off.  With heavy heart, Niulang sent the children to play further away and gently skinned the old ox and buried him.

Then he put on the old ox skin, gathered the children and flew off to the heavens to fetch Zhinü home. The Queen Goddess saw him approaching and she quickly drew a giant river in the sky with her pin to separate Niulang and Zhinü forever. Neither of them would be able to cross that river.  Zhinü pleaded and pleaded until finally the King took pity on her. Every year on her birthday which was the 7th Day of the 7th Month, he let the birds formed a bridge across the river so Niulang and Zhinü could be together again for a night. Once a year, on the 7th Day of the 7th Month.

This fairytale refers to constellations in the night sky. Zhinü is the star Vega in the constellation of Lyra east of the Milky Way, and Niu Lang is the star Altair in the constellation of Aquila west of the Milky Way. Under the first quarter moon (7th day) of the seventh lunar month (around August), the lighting condition in the sky causes the Milky Way to appear dimmer, hence the story that the two lovers are no longer separated in that one particular day each year.

The 7th Day of the 7th Month in lunar calendar is a festival day in China called QiXi Festival, also known as The Festival To Plead for Skills or The Night of Skills and fairly recently, as Chinese’s Valentine’s Day.

Now, some interesting coincidental bits:

  1. 1. According to Numerology, my life-path number is 7.
  2. 2. I am skillful with my hands – like Zhinü, I am good with various arts and crafts. I love to make things!
  3. 3. My husband’s last name is O’Leary, which means ‘shepherd’, close enough to ‘cowherd’!
  4. 4. When I was in my late 20’s, my uncle who lived in China told me that my birthday indicated that I would be separated a lot from my future husband.
  5. 5.  Well, turned out that my husband has to travel a lot for various reasons, so yeah, we got separated quite a lot every year. But fortunately not as bad as Niulang and Zhinü!
  6. 6. So far, we’ve been living very happily together although we are not rich. My husband teaches philosophy at the university while I create art, design stuff and make things.

In 2006, my solar and lunar calendar birthday were in alignment once again: it was my 37th birthday. But I wasn’t thinking about it then, I didn’t know it! I wonder if it only happens once every 37 years?

So there! A fairytale with nice coincidences :). I hope you enjoyed reading it!

Source: Wikipedia, and similar tales I have heard throughout my childhood – not knowing it was the story about my birthday!

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Posted in Daily Bits, Musing