The Story Behind Chinese Valentine’s Day

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Arab American
Age: 22
Occupation: Law student
Residence: Silver Spring, MD
Date of Performance/Collection: April 22, 2017
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Arabic, Turkish

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.