Tag Archives: Chinese narrative

The Story Behind Chinese Valentine’s Day

The story is as follows: On the 7th Day of the 7th Lunar Year, two lovers, who can only see each other on that day (once a year), meet through the help of magpie pigeons. The pigeons form a bridge across the skies, heavens, and earth to enable the man and woman to meet and spend the day together in-love. The woman lived in the heavens and the man was a cowherd. They could only meet once a year because the woman’s father, an emperor, did not approve of the relationship. Magpies made it possible for them to meet once a year, a condition that the emperor father agreed to. Legend has it that you don’t see magpies in China on this day because they would be too busy building, or acting, as the bridge between the emperor’s daughter and the cowherd.

Background information: “I heard this story while I was in Beijing. It interested me because I heard the story during the actual Chinese Valentine’s Day itself, and I saw quite a few couples on the streets that day (more so than on Valentine’s Day anywhere else). My Chinese colleagues teased with me and asked if I had a girlfriend to go on a date with in China, and whether or not she was Chinese. It was a fun day with lots of learning and lots of laughs.

“At that day’s evening, my Chinese teacher, named Boya Lin, shared the story with me and my classmates. It was by far one of the most entrancing and beautiful tales I had ever listened to, though it might be thanks to Boya’s great storytelling skills.”

Context: The informant told me this story in a conversation about folklore.

Thoughts: It is interesting to see a story that connects to a legend – two categories of folklore helping to create one piece of folklore. It is a sad, romantic story, one of two lovers who cannot be together all the time due to parental interference. I especially like how it connects itself to the present with the legend about the magpies.

Chinese Legend General Zhuge

Note: The form of this submission includes the dialogue between the informant and I before the cutoff (as you’ll see if you scroll down), as well as my own thoughts and other notes on the piece after the cutoff. The italics within the dialogue between the informant and I (before the cutoff) is where and what kind of direction I offered the informant whilst collecting. 

Informant’s Background:

My parents and I are from Central China, but I grew up in Kentucky.


My parents told me about this general from China, who lived however many dynasties ago but he was just known for being very clever. And like one of the smartest, most cunning generals out there. He was fighting out there, with I don’t know exactly who, but he was talking to one of his lieutenants and he said that in order for them to have a successful battle, they were going to need 100,000 arrows. There was no way to get that many, so they were as good as done. But the general said he could figure something out. So he concocted a plan, his name was General Zhuge. So General Zhuge found a day where it was especially foggy. He had a plan to kind of trick the enemies into giving them their arrows. On that day, the enemies were prepared and on edge because at any moment General Zhuge’s troops would storm the beach. Zhuge had boats sent across the river. It was foggy so they couldn’t see anything so the general freaked out on the other side and ordered the enemies to start shooting arrows at these boats. What was clever, what the general did was that he filled these boats with straw people instead of men. So the arrows got stuck in the straw and as the straws got stuck, Zhuge started pulling the boats back. By the end of the day, he had more than 100,000 arrows, and all from the enemies. And I guess the kind of like moral of the story is that you have to be cunning if you want to win a war.

Piece Background Information:

I don’t know if it’s true or not but it was kind of to frame how clever and how cunning this general was back in that dynasty. They told me one day when I was out with my parents and my dad wanted to share Chinese folklore with me. I was in high school, in like sophomore or junior year. He learned that from his parents, and I guess also from the culture because it’s a pretty famous story.


Context of Performance:

In person, during the day at Ground Zero, a milkshake shop and cafe on USC’s campus in Los Angeles.

Thoughts on Piece: 

I enjoyed the informant’s story on the legendary General Zhuge. While this story about collecting the arrows with straw may or may not be true, General Zhuge existed. The Wikipedia on General Zhuge Liang states that this particular event is not documented in the official dynasty history and is purely fiction.