Author Archives: Rachel Liu

Cowherd and Weaver Girl


Y is my other parental figure of mine who grew up in China and is currently living in California. 

This conversation took place over a weekly phone call with my parents after I asked them about stories that they knew from China. This particular conversation followed a couple previous tellings of other stories from my other parent. 


Y: The Cowherd and the weaver girl, you should know this one, it’s very famous-

Me: Wait what was it?

Y: The Cowherd and weaver girl, Zhong Guo Zen ( Chinese People) call it Niúláng Zhīnǚ. I’ll send you the spelling.

Me: Isn’t there another story about the crane and the weaver?

Y: There is another crane, but this one is about the stars. Remember, there’s – Cause chinese people watched the stars and they saw those stars separated from each other so they made up the story so that’s the Niúláng Zhīnǚ. Niúláng  is the guy who herds the cows, that’s called cowherd and Weaver girl is the girl who weaves. The weaver girl is actually a goddess, she’s the daughter of the god, the god in charge in heaven, and she’s the seventh daughter. And her job was to weave the rainbows, and she had to weave the rainbows all the time. 

One day she got tired of it and she decided to. This version is different from the one we heard. We heard that one day she and her sisters, seven of them, decided to come down to earth and swim in the river. And Niúláng actually saw them swimming and he was actually bad (laugh). He stole the seventh girl, the Zhīnǚ’s clothes so she couldn’t go back to heaven. So she stayed and married him. But this other version is a little nicer, Niúláng isn’t such a bad guy. 

This one says that since Zhīnǚ’ was tired of weaving rainbows, she decided to come down to earth and she saw this Niúláng, the boy, and fell in love with him and decided to marry him. Okay? They lived happily together but when her dad found out about it, that she escaped, he actually sent people and his men to bring him- her back, to heaven. And he banned her from visiting Earth until like once a year. He only allows her to visit or see this Cowherd once a year. 

And because the magpies, magpies are considered birds that bring good luck. Magpies heard about it and they felt sorry for the two and they decided to form a bridge to reunite them. So every year, during July 7. July 7 is called which festival? Zhong qiu jie? Is it Zhong qiu jie? July 7 is what jie? Which festival? (asking other informant).

H: Chinese Valentine!

Y: Chinese Valentine but I think there’s a special festival time. Anyways, on July 7th every year, they form – another story is that they reunited on the rainbow. Rainbow is like a bridge.

Me: Ohhhh.

Y: They reunite on the bridge made by a rainbow, but anyways the magpies were the story here. 

Me: I feel like I’ve heard this one before.

Y: yeah, it’s a very famous one. 


I had heard this story when i was younger from my parents from a storybook and only recognized it when my mom told me the part about the magpie bridge! I think it’s also interesting because this directly demonstrates the multiplicity of folklore and how different versions of a story may interact with each other. I also think it is intriguing that in one version, it is more censored so that the story is more of a true love tale rather than the main love interest being creepy and being rewarded for his answer. This story reminds me of the Hades and Persephone Greek Myth with the trope of only being allowed to see your lover at a certain time of the year rather than all year. This story also directly ties into a festival that is celebrated in China as a representation of love: Chinese Valentine’s Day.

Chang’e: The Moon Goddess


Y is my other parental figure of mine who grew up in China and is currently living in California. 

This conversation took place over a weekly phone call with my parents after I asked them about stories that they knew from China. 


Y: Chang’e is the one we see the shadow in the moon, and the shadow looks like a lady there.

Me: Oh yeah.

Y: But the story goes that there’s a beautiful woman who’s married to a famous archer, and his name is Hou Yi. The guy is the one who, when in Ancient Times, they had 10 suns. The sun in the sky, not the kids. The sun in the sky, when there was 10 of them, the sky was so hot that the earth, the crops couldn’t grow because of the squelching from the sun, and the soil is cracked and everyone was dying from the heat. So Hou Yi, the husband, because he’s a famous archer, he decided to shoot the nine suns down and just leave one of them left.

Me: Uhuh.

Y: So he pulled his legendary, he had this bow that was a legendary sun and succeeded in shooting down nine of the suns. So the earth was back to normal.

Because of what he did, he met the like, goddess, the goddess decided to reward him with some kind of medicine that will make him live forever. The goddess name is… the jade- no, the Wángmǔ Niángniáng, yeah. Hou Yi felt very, unsure about whether he should take the elixir or the medicine because he didn’t want to live forever after his wife dies. Wife is mortal so if he becomes immortal he’s going to be living alone without his wife. So he just put the medicine underneath the bed or in a closet, wherever, but the wife found out about it and she decided to steal it. And after the husband fell asleep, she took the medicine and drank the medicine, all of it. And after, she felt her body get light and she started to float in the air. Then the husband woke up and saw the wife floating away. He saw her floating away and tried to grab onto her but couldn’t because she was already in the sky. He tried to call her to stop but she couldn’t really stop it. When she saw the moon, she tried to land on the moon and she stayed there forever. Because she couldn’t move after and the husband really missed her so he put out her favorite food, dessert like the mooncake, out every night to hope she will see it and return. But she couldn’t return.

After that, on the moon festival, everyone would eat moon cakes and look at the moon where Chang’e lives. And the moon shadow suggests there’s a rabbit called the jade rabbit to keep her company on the moon. So poor Hou Yi put out the food until he died, basically, but she couldn’t return. She became immortal but he was mortal so he died, eventually. 


This is another story that I was told when I was a kid. I remember distinctly looking up at the moon and imagining the lady on the moon and her rabbit. This origin story is interesting because Chang’e is seen as the moon goddess yet the reason why she is up on the moon is for selfish reasons. Additionally, this plays into the traditional view of the moon as a feminine symbol while the sun is a masculine symbol. While the sun is not her husband, her husband was the one who shot down the other suns in order to restore peace to Earth. I think it is also interesting how the tale affects the food that we consume during the festival as the egg yolks in the mooncakes are meant to represent the moon in the sky. Some versions of the story also explain her reasoning for taking the medicine because they portray her as someone who previously worked in heaven in the Jade Emperor’s palace before she was sentenced to earth for breaking a vase. 

“The Legend of Chang E.” The Legend of Chang E,

Master Dongguo and the Wolf


Y is my other parental figure of mine who grew up in China and is currently living in California. 

This conversation took place over a weekly phone call with my parents after I asked them about stories that they knew from China. 


Y: Master Dongguo and the Wolf – this is a little like the story, uh what’s the story? The farmer and the snake! Remember the farmer and the snake, the farmer found a frozen snake and put him into his, next to his chest inside his jacket and the snake was warmed up and woke up and bit the farmer and killed the farmer. 

Me: I don’t remember that one.

Y: It’s an Aesopp’s fable. Anyways, this one is a similar one but in Chinese. Master Dongguo is a teacher, who’s a little bit stubborn but not very wise. He felt he was a kind person and willing to help out people or anything because he thinks he should do the right thing because of whatever he learned. One day he was walking in a mountain and came upon a wounded wolf. The wolf was being pursued by someone who was, I think a hunter. The hunter was chasing after the wolf so the wolf asked Master Dongguo for the help. Master Dongguo was carrying a bag of book so he pulled out the books and told the wolf to get inside the bag and then he put some of the books into the bag to make it look like a bag for books. The hunter was able to catch up and see Master Dongguo. So he asked him if he saw a wolf and he lied and said he didn’t see a wolf. After the hunter left, he let the wolf out. The wolf was, at first, thankful but then he said oh if you’re such a kind person maybe you can do another good deed by letting me eat you because I’m hungry.

Me: Ah??

Y: And he also said, while I was in the bag, you put books on me and I nearly suffocated. I almost died from suffocation. So you need to compensate me-

Me: Ungrateful wolf (laugh).

Y: Yeah, so that’s why I said it’s like the farmer and the snake story. Anyways, Master Dongguo was upset so he didn’t know what to do. He actually told the wolf we should ask other people for their opinions so he went to a big tree and told the tree about the story and asked what he think. The tree said I was a big food tree and I was able to produce fruits every year for my owner, but after they ate all the fruits and I grew old and could no longer bear fruit, they decided to chop me down for the wood and make me into furniture. So what do you think the treatment I endured was unfair?

Because Master Dongguo said I saved him and he tried to eat me. And he said my experience was also unfair, so I can’t help you. So then they went along and saw a cow, and asked the cow for his help. And the cow heard the story and said sorry I can’t help because I was treated unwell by my owner. I- I helped to plow the fields and worked hard for many years and when I got old I couldn’t work hard anymore so my owner wanted to eat me. Okay? So I can’t help I have to run away.

And then finally, they came across an older man. An old man heard the story and said I don’t believe either of you. The bag seems awful small and I don’t think the wolf can fit in there. But the wolf said I curled up and hid my tail and I can fit just fine. He told the wolf I don’t believe your story either because I don’t know how the books made you suffocated, so I have to see for myself. So can you get into the bag and show me? So the wolf gladly got into the bag and the old man immediately grabbed the bag and tied it up-

Me: Ahh?

Y: He told Master Dongguo you need to kill him because he’s an ungrateful wolf.

Me: What’s the moral of the story??

Y: The moral of the story is don’t be kind to bad people, like…

Me: The wolf.

Y: The wolf. 


The informant immediately began by referencing a different fable in order to explain and preface this tale, which I thought spoke directly to the globalization and multiplicity that has been brought on even more by the printed word. This story is one that takes a more aggressive point in proving a moral, a warning to children and others to look out for people like this wolf. Additionally, this story has a bit of a humorous note at the end in which the other man is very blunt after tricking the wolf again. This story also echoes the stereotypical portrayal of a wolf as a creature that deceives humans and is planning on eating humans. It perpetuates this evil typecast of the wolf, even towards his savior.

Qing Ming Jie (Tomb-Sweeping Festival)


B is a 17 year old Taiwanese-American high school student who is from Northern California.

This happened online through a zoom call after I reached out to them about sharing any folklore that they may have. For more context, their grandfather had recently passed away and they had gone to visit his grave recently for the holiday described below. 


B: The thing is just known as Qing Ming Jie, otherwise known as the Qing Ming Festival. And in English it kinda just means like… tomb sweeping day. And it’s a Chinese tradition, I’m Taiwanese but we hold a lot of the same traditions as China. But basically, during this festival or Qing Ming Jie, you clean your ancestor’s tombs. I think it’s pretty well known but like Asian cultures are very big on familiy and honor and like respecting the dead like especially your ancestors. So this is like a part of that and it’s basically like the most important thing for like, one of the most important things about honoring your an cestors. You clean their tombs and then like make offerings to them, like give them food typically. You can also, we don’t do this here because I’m not in Taiwan right now, but in American we do it in an easier way. But I know you can also, it’s kinda like also a festival, Qi Ming Festival-

Me: Yeah

B: So I know you can also fly like kites. I know flying kites is pretty popular. Americans don’t do that I realize. I thought Americans flew kites but they don’t.. Or at least not commonly. Basically you just eat food and honor the dead. It’s just very… respect.

Me: Do you guys like, because I know when I visited my Grandpa’s grave when I was in China, it wasn’t on Qing Ming Je, because it was just when I was visiting, but we like burnt the offerings? At least some of them.

B: Yeah. So like for us, you can visit the grave anytime, it doesn’t have to be on Qing Ming Jie, but everyone or most people do go on that specific day because it’s special. My mom goes every sunday or so, obviously because its her father so she goes to see him. But all of us went on Qing Ming Jie, to like honor the specific day. And for offerings, we burn the paper that we make. I don’t know if thats specific, I think it might be specifically buddhist.

Me: is it like, I know I burnt like paper money?

B: Yeah, paper money but we also like fold origami paper like.. You know how gold nugget dumpling things? Those are like specifically for the Buddha. I mean not just Buddha but also just money, currency whatever. But it’s a very specific paper that we have to buy that’s like a specific material thats like very thin and like in the middle has fake gold or fake silver. And we fold it into the shape, its really easily to fold, or at least for me because I’ve had to fold so many. But at the grave we just burn all of it so they can use it in the afterlife and stay rich. So we fold like a lot of many so our grandpa can spend to his liking.

Me: I remember burning the money because we bought it at like the graveyard place because they had a stand for it. But I think it’s also like in China they’re probably more likely to have it because more people are doing it.

B: Yeah over here, we don’t have that. On Qing Ming Jie specifically they had like Buddhist stands, they didn’t sell paper but they sell flowers. Which is fair because the place he was buried is not for Asians, it’s majority asians, but its just flowers being sold there. 


Qing Ming Jie is a holiday that embodies the values of Chinese traditions of respecting your elders and honoring your ancestors who came before you. While the informat is Buddhist and therefore had specific traditions that tie their religion and the holiday together, these rituals that are conducted on Qing Ming Jie are a common practice in order to honor our ancestors who helped us. This also brings up how many Eastern cultures like China and Taiwan are primarily focused on the past because of its impact on the future and the present. While I have never explicitly celebrated Qing Ming Jie, it was interesting to see the connection between my experiences visiting my Grandfather’s grave in China and the informant visiting their grandfather’s grave for this particular holiday in the US. The festival is one that is celebrated in order to show respect for your ancestors by cleaning up the tomb leaving offerings that the person enjoyed in the living for them to enjoy in the afterlife. Paper money and incense are also often burned together in order to reach the heavens for the person to use in the afterlife. 

Meredith, Anne. “What Is Qingming Festival and How Is It Observed?: Tomb Sweeping Day.” CLI, Chinese Language Institute, 1 Apr. 2022,

Step on a train track, kill one of your loved ones


D is a 20 year old college student living in Los Angeles, California who was originally from the Philippines. 

This conversation took place in my room as a group of my friends were hanging out and I brought up if they knew any folklore or proverbs that they wanted to share.


D: So like my cousin told me they were like walking on the train tracks and like he said if you step on one of the train tracks one of your loved ones will die or something. So now whenever I go across the train tracks, even in the car, I like put my feet up.


I think this superstition is very interesting because it is from a familial source, therefore seen as reputable, and has affected the informant to the point that he avoids it even in the car. To me, the superstition seems to mirror the one that I learned to not step on a crack in the sidewalk, otherwise, your mom would break her back. It’s possible that this superstition stems from the fact that railroad/trains are a main source of transportation in the Philippines and therefore are bound to have accidents associated with them. It may have also been a superstition told to kids by adults and parents in order to deter them from wandering on train tracks in the hopes that they would not get into an accident.