Double Seventh Day
Today (Aug. 26) is Chinese traditional festival, The Double Seventh (Day) (Lunar calendar the seventh day of the seventh month). People now tend to name it Chinese Valentine’s Day. The tradition tells that today young girls may find their future husband in dreams. Naturally, there is legend or myth behind this. I wrote of this before in two poems ("Double-Seven Eve" and "Queen of Heaven")
The Weaving Maid was a fairy in the Heaven who loved the Cowherd on the human world, so she descended. They lived together for a few years, happily, with two children. The Queen of Heaven was angered and called back the Maid. The Cowherd put their children in the baskets and shouldered them with a pole, so he began chasing her. The Queen of the Heaven saw that the Cowherd was fast approaching, she pulled out her hair clasp and drew behind her a deep gut. It became the Heavenly River. The Cowherd could do nothing but stationed there, staring at the Weaving Maid who stared herself into a star too. The Queen of the Heaven allowed them to meet, once for a year, on the Seventh day of the Seventh (Lunar) Month, which is today The Double Seventh (Day or Festival). They could meet each other only on the river without a bridge, and fortunately magpies use their wings to build a bridge. The name of magpie in Chinese is “Happy Bird” (an auspicious bird) and that is why there are always magpies as a motif in Chinese paintings.
The existing earliest poem and perhaps one of the most famous is this poem:
迢far 迢far 牵lead牛cow星star
皎white, bright皎 河river汉the Galaxy女maid
盈full盈 full 一one 水water间between
脉脉deeply affectionate不no 得can语say
Far and distant in the Sky hangs the Cowherd Star
Far and distant in the Sky hangs the Cowherd Star,
Bright on the Heavenly River floats the Weaving Maid:
Graceful and delicate her snowy hands pull out
The shuttles that make tedious scrunching sounds.
The day’s ended, and she can weave not a piece,
Her tears falling like broken rain-strings.
How clear and shallow the Galaxy River looks,
But how they are kept away from each other:
There is only a river between them, and yet
No words can get across despite their deep love.
The Chinese celebrate this day for a long long time, and this song was written during the Han Dynasty and collected into “19 Antique Poems”, which was the second known collection of poems after The Book of Songs (edited by Confucius). It was believed that Han Wu Emperor Liu Che (156BC-78AD) ordered the officials to collect fold songs, and later became the Music Bureau poems. It was during this time that the poem came to be recorded.
By the way, this Liu Che was known to the westerners perhaps by Ezra Pound’s famous poem of the same title "Liu Ch'e," which was a rewriting of this emperor’s poem entitled "AN Elegy of a Weeping Cicada for Fallen Leaves" (落叶哀婵曲). Pound’s poem reads:
The rustling of the silk is discontinued,
Dust drifts over the court-yard,
There is no sound of foot-fall, and the leaves
Scurry into heaps and lie still,
And she the rejoicer of the heart is beneath them:
A wet leaf that clings to the threshold.
BTW, I find a pretty handicraft (not a paper-cutting, but a paper-tearing). This retired teacher from Henan is making his paper artwork by tearing with his bare hands. In the artwork, you can see the Ox with two children, the lovers on the bridge of magpies.