The Moral of Chinese Patterns of the Cowherd and the Weaving Maid

“The Cowherd and the Weaving Maid” is one of the four folk love stories that were the most popular and influential in ancient China. The cowherd’s parents died when he was very young so he had to live together with his elder brother and sister-in-law. His sister-in-law often abused him. On one occasion, his cruel sister-in-law wanted to evict him from the house and gave him a task that was unlikely to be completed. She gave him nine head of cattle and asked him to pasture the cattle on the mountain and to bring back ten. The desperate cowherd found an ill old ox and took good care of it. It turned out that the old ox wasn’t an ordinary ox but a god in the heaven. With the help of this god, the cowherd met the weaving fairy who had a tour in the mortal world and they fell in love. The cowherd and the weaving maid got married, gave birth to a son and a daughter and lived a happy life.

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However, the Queen Mother soon knew about this and came down to the earth personally to arrest the weaving maid. With the old ox’s help, the cowherd covered the ox’s skin on him and caught up with the weaving maid carrying a load with their son and daughter sitting at the ends of the load. When he was about to catch up, the Queen Mother unplugged the gold clasp in her hair and drew the turbulent Milky Way to separate the cowherd and the weaving maid completely. Since then, the cowherd and the weaving maid could only see each other in great distance across the Milky Way. Their love touched magpies that flew over to make a bridge for them to meet. Later, the Queen Mother allowed them to meet on 7th day of the 7th lunar month every year.

The pattern “The Cowherd and the Weaving Maid” is created based on the touching story. It usually represents the scenes that the cowherd and the weaving maid meet each other on the Milky Way or that the weaving maid coming to the immortal world and getting engaged with the cowherd. This pattern had the symbolic meaning of the mutual love and loyalty between the husband and wife.

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