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Korean Chilseok Festival: The Love Story of Gyun Woo and Jik Nyo
What is commonly known as the Chilseok or Qixi Festival (七夕 “The Night of Sevens”) in Chinese falls on the seventh day of theseventh lunar month. It has sometimes been called Oriental Valentine’s Day since the late 1990s, which is, strictly speaking, an inaccurate depiction of the festival.
In late summer, when the stars Altair and Vega are high in the night sky, Koreans tell the following love tale, of which there are many variations:
<The Love Stars>
Once upon a time, there was a king of heaven. He had a young daughter name ’Jik Nyo’ (a woman who weaves cloth). She grew up to be a good-hearted and beautiful young woman, so all the angels in heaven loved her.
On a flowery spring day, Jik-Nyeo went out of the palace and met a young man called ’Gyun Woo’ (a cow herder). They fell in love at first sight and promised to marry each other. However, when the king of heaven found out he was very angry. How could a princess be with a cow herder?
"You two must be punished," said the king. "Gyun Woo, you must go live in the faraway lands in the east and Jik Nyo, you must go live faraway lands in the west, across the Milky Way." Jik Nyo cried and begged the king. But the king did not change his mind. The king let them see each other once a year across the Milky Way on ‘Chil Seok’, the 7th day of the 7th lunar month.
They loved each other so much and it was heart breaking for both of them to live so far apart. Gyun Woo and Jik-Nyo both shouted out their names across the river. But the Milky Way was the deepest and longest river in the heavens, so they could barely see each other. Gyeon Woo and Jik-Nyeo cried and cried and their tears fell in the Milky Way and it soon turned into a big rain storm. Their tears made the river overflow and people and animals living on earth lost their homes.
The birds soon became worried and said to one another, "My goodness, we are in big trouble. If we don’t do something, everything will wash away." "Maybe we could make a bridge across the Milky Way and help Gyun Woo and Jik Nyo cross the river."
The animals said "Crows and magpies can fly very high – would you please build a bridge across the Milky Way?" "Yes, we will try," said the crows and magpies. A year passed and again it was the seventh day of July. All the crows and magpies in the world gathered and flew high up to the Milky Way. They lined up across the river, and flapped their wings to make a bridge.
At last Gyun Woo and Jik Nyo came and saw the birds gathering around the Milky Way, holding one’s tail in another’s mouth. Finally, Gyun Woo and Jik-Nyeo were able to cross the Milky Way so they rushed to each other and met.
From then on every year on the seventh day of July on ‘Chil Seok’, the crows and magpies built the bridge across the Milky Way and there were no more floods. This bridge was called "Ojack kyo" – a bridge built by crows and magpies.