Throughout this semester, our class “Gods, Ghosts, and Ancestors” taught by Kerry Noonan focused on the region of China. We discussed just that but got into some great in-depth political discussions along the way in which Communism really affected the Chinese people.
We floated from subject to subject throughout the semester which was one of my favorite ways to learn a subject. One of the most intriguing topics for me was the history the women play within the Chinese folklores and religions.
As a strong dominate woman, I enjoy finding out that an entire culture fears (or used to) a lone woman in society. To find out that men actually feared woman was surprising to me. Mostly because of the folklore that surrounded women in society.
One of my stories that I really enjoyed was about Zhi Nv (Weaving Lady).
“It tells the story of Altair and Vega. Vega, the weaving lady was Queen mother of the west’s favorite weaving girl. The fabric she made was so delicate and pretty, Queen mother couldn’t get enough of it. As a result, Weaving lady had to work all the time to produce more clothing. Once in a while, the heavenly fairy maidens got a break and was allowed to take bath in a beautiful pond in human world. And one of those times, a young herder stole a glance of the beautiful Weaving lady, and just couldn’t forget about her.
He went to seek counsel from a wise man, and was explained that these girls are fairy maidens from the heavenly court. If Herder want to keep the girl he loved, he needed to steal and hide her clothing while she’s bathing, without her magical clothing, she won’t be able to fly back to heavenly court.
Herder did as told, and Weaving lady remained behind. Herder treated her well, and they fall in love eventually. Weaving lady give birth to a boy and a girl, the family lived a happy and quite live. Until Queen Mother found out (heaven time passes slower than human time) and was enraged with such rebellions. She sent the heavenly guards to take Weaving lady back, even she begged to remain with her family. The Herder was devastated, when his old ox came and talk to him. The ox told Herder: I’m old and sick and you and the lady has always been nice to me, kill me and use my skin to make a cloak, wearing it, you’d be able to fly to the heavenly court and get your wife back.
Herder felt sad, for he really loved his old ox, but he harden his heart and killed him. He carried his two children in baskets, wearing the leather cloak and fly to heavenly court. Queen Mother found out, in order to separate the two, she draw the milky way. The weaving lady (Vega) was on one side, while the herder (Altair) was on another, forever looking at each other yet could never meet.
The magpies sympathize the lovers, so every year on the night of July 7th (lunar calendar), all the magpies gathered around and created a bridge for them to meet. ”
Even though it is a love story with a some what sympathetic ending, it still shows the impact that woman have on Chinese folklore.
At this point in my life, I would rather enjoy a love story with somewhat happy ending. Even though this does not indicate some of the more aggressive “ghost stories” like Fox Ghosts, it does indicate how strong of a story that folklore from generation to generation can have. The impact of these stories is surreal!