The Weaver Girl and the Cowherd is an old legend, one of the most famous folktales in Chinese culture. It is the love story between Niulang (牛郎), the Cowherd, symbolized by the star Altair, and Zhinü (織女), the Weaver Girl, symbolized by the star Vega. Their love was forbidden, for Niulang is a mere mortal, and Zhinü is the fairy responsible for weaving colorful clouds for the sky. They were forcibly separated by Xi Wangmu (西王母), the Queen Mother of the West, with the Celestial River (銀河), known as the Milky Way in English. Mortals cannot cross the Celestial River, so Niuland remained on the other side, weeping and calling out for Zhinü. Eventually, Xi Wangmu was moved by their genuine love and allowed them to meet once a year.
So, every year, on the seventh day of the seventh moon, magpies would form a bridge across the Celestial River. Niuland and
Zhinü would reunite once more. This day is celebrated as the Qixi (七夕) Festival, the Chinese equivalent of Valentine’s Day.