Cowherd and Weaver Girl(牵牛织女)

Cowherd and Weaver Girl

Headword

견우직녀 ( 牵牛织女 , Gyeonujiknyeo )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Folk Literature > Folk tales > Legends

Writer LeeJiyoung(李志映)

The legend“ Gyeonujiknyeo ”narrates the origins of Chirwolchilseok (Seventh Day of the Seventh Lunar Month), the one day of the year, according to folk belief, when Gyeonu (Cowherd) and Jiknyeo (Weaver Girl) are allowed to meet.

Each year on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, two stars, with the Silver River (Milky Way) between them, move very close to each other, from which this legend originated. The legend is believed to date back to China’s Former Han Dynasty (BCE 296–CE 8), based on the stars Niulang (Cowherd Star; Altair) and Zhinu (Weaver Girl; Vega) found in the painting of the three-legged crow in the stone memorial hall on Mt. Xiatong, constructed during Later Han (25-220). The Milky Way was discovered in China during the Spring and Autumn period (BCE 771-476) and a line of verse, believed to be the earliest reference to the legend, appears in the“ Xiaoya (Lesser Odes) ”section of the anthology Shijing (Classic of Poetry). It was towards the end of Later Han that a folk narrative came to be formed through the personification of the two stars, and in the Six Dynasties period (265-589), it grew into the legend of“ Weaver Girl Crosses the Silver River to Meet Cowherd. ”The earliest form of this narrative is found in the book Jingchusuishiji (Record of the Year and Seasons of Jingchu). In Korea, the earliest reference to this tale is the depiction of the Cowherd and Weaver Girl with a dog and the Silver River between them in the Goguryeo murals (409) in Deokheung in the district of Gangseo, now a part of North Korea.

Jiknyeo (Weaver Girl) was the granddaughter of Haneunim (Celestial Emperor), who was known for her weaving skills and diligence. The Celestial Emperor loved her very much and arranged her to be wed to the cowherd Hadong from the opposite side of the Eunhasu (Silver River). Weaver Girl and Cowherd, however, became lazy in the sweetness of their honeymoon, and this greatly angered the Celestial Emperor, who separated them to live on opposite sides of the Silver River, allowing them to meet only once a year, on Chirwolchilseok (Seventh Day of the Seventh Lunar Month). When the Silver River kept them from uniting even on Chirwolchilseok, the crows and magpies of the terrestrial world flew up to the sky and formed a bridge for them by lining up head-to-head. This bridge came to be called Ojakgyo (Bridge Formed by Crows) and it is believed that each year, after the Seventh Day of the Seventh Lunar Month, all the crows and magpies fly back to earth with their heads turned bald from constructing the bridge. Rain on Chirwolchilseok (Chilseoku) is believed to be the reunited couple’s tears of joy, while rain on the following day is believed to be the parting couple’s tears of sorrow.

The lesson of this narrative is about the duties of a newlywed couple. The yearlong separation and waiting imposed on the couple as punishment can be seen as a rite of passage, while the repetition of parting and uniting between man and woman signifies the law of universal order. This legend, along with other folk customs related to Chirwolchilseok, is evaluated to be a story of great impact on the sentiments of the Korean people.

Cowherd and Weaver Girl

Cowherd and Weaver Girl
Headword

견우직녀 ( 牵牛织女 , Gyeonujiknyeo )

Location of the encyclopedia

Korean Folk Literature > Folk tales > Legends

Writer LeeJiyoung(李志映)

The legend“ Gyeonujiknyeo ”narrates the origins of Chirwolchilseok (Seventh Day of the Seventh Lunar Month), the one day of the year, according to folk belief, when Gyeonu (Cowherd) and Jiknyeo (Weaver Girl) are allowed to meet.

Each year on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, two stars, with the Silver River (Milky Way) between them, move very close to each other, from which this legend originated. The legend is believed to date back to China’s Former Han Dynasty (BCE 296–CE 8), based on the stars Niulang (Cowherd Star; Altair) and Zhinu (Weaver Girl; Vega) found in the painting of the three-legged crow in the stone memorial hall on Mt. Xiatong, constructed during Later Han (25-220). The Milky Way was discovered in China during the Spring and Autumn period (BCE 771-476) and a line of verse, believed to be the earliest reference to the legend, appears in the“ Xiaoya (Lesser Odes) ”section of the anthology Shijing (Classic of Poetry). It was towards the end of Later Han that a folk narrative came to be formed through the personification of the two stars, and in the Six Dynasties period (265-589), it grew into the legend of“ Weaver Girl Crosses the Silver River to Meet Cowherd. ”The earliest form of this narrative is found in the book Jingchusuishiji (Record of the Year and Seasons of Jingchu). In Korea, the earliest reference to this tale is the depiction of the Cowherd and Weaver Girl with a dog and the Silver River between them in the Goguryeo murals (409) in Deokheung in the district of Gangseo, now a part of North Korea.

Jiknyeo (Weaver Girl) was the granddaughter of Haneunim (Celestial Emperor), who was known for her weaving skills and diligence. The Celestial Emperor loved her very much and arranged her to be wed to the cowherd Hadong from the opposite side of the Eunhasu (Silver River). Weaver Girl and Cowherd, however, became lazy in the sweetness of their honeymoon, and this greatly angered the Celestial Emperor, who separated them to live on opposite sides of the Silver River, allowing them to meet only once a year, on Chirwolchilseok (Seventh Day of the Seventh Lunar Month). When the Silver River kept them from uniting even on Chirwolchilseok, the crows and magpies of the terrestrial world flew up to the sky and formed a bridge for them by lining up head-to-head. This bridge came to be called Ojakgyo (Bridge Formed by Crows) and it is believed that each year, after the Seventh Day of the Seventh Lunar Month, all the crows and magpies fly back to earth with their heads turned bald from constructing the bridge. Rain on Chirwolchilseok (Chilseoku) is believed to be the reunited couple’s tears of joy, while rain on the following day is believed to be the parting couple’s tears of sorrow.

The lesson of this narrative is about the duties of a newlywed couple. The yearlong separation and waiting imposed on the couple as punishment can be seen as a rite of passage, while the repetition of parting and uniting between man and woman signifies the law of universal order. This legend, along with other folk customs related to Chirwolchilseok, is evaluated to be a story of great impact on the sentiments of the Korean people.