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Her august father, the Sun, would have the accomplished Chih Nü turn her footsteps towards his bright gardens or appear in his celestial halls. But Chih Nü would not leave her loom. All day and every day the maiden sat by the River of Heaven weaving webs that were endless.

The Sun thought in his august mind that if the maiden were wedded she would not permit herself to be a slave to the loom. He thought that if she had a husband she would depart a little from her exceptional diligence. Therefore he let it be known that he would favourably consider a proposal involving the marriage of the accomplished Chih Nü. Then one whose dwelling was at the other side of the heavenly river drew his august regard. This was Niu Lang: he herded oxen, and he was a youth who was exceedingly amiable and who had accomplishments that matched the accomplishments of Chih Nü.

They were united, the Weaver Maiden and the Herdsman Youth; they were united in the palace of the august Sun. The omens were favourable, and the heavens made themselves as beautiful as a flying pheasant for the ceremony. The guests drank of that sweet heavenly dew which makes those who drink of it more quick-witted and intelligent than they were before. The Sun, the Weaver Maiden, the Herdsman Youth, and all the guests who were present sang in mutual harmony the song that says "The Sun and Moon are constant; the stars and other heavenly bodies have their courses; the four seasons observe their rule! How responsive are all things to the harmony that has been established in the heavens!" The august Sun expected that after this auspicious marriage his daughter would moderate her diligence and be more often at leisure.

But Chih Nü was as immoderate in her play as she was in her industry. No more did she work at her loom; no more did she attend

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to her inescapable duties; with her husband she played all day, and for him she danced and made music all night. The heavens went out of harmony because of this failure in right performance, and the earth was greatly troubled. Her august father came before Chih Nü and pointed out to her the dire consequences of her engaging in endless pastimes. But in spite of all he said to her the Weaver Maiden would not return to her loom.

Then the august Sun determined to make a separation between the pair whose union had such dire results. He commanded the blameless Niu Lang to go to the other bank of the River of Heaven, and to continue there his herdsman's duties. He commanded the accomplished Chih Nü to remain on her own side of the river. But the august Sun showed a spirit of kindliness to his daughter and his son-in-law. They could meet and be together for one day and one night of the year. On the seventh day of the seventh month of every year they could cross the River of Heaven and be with each other. And to make a bridge by which they might cross the river a myriad of magpies would come together, and each by catching the head-feathers of the bird next him would make a bridge with their backs and wings. And over that bridge the Weaver Maiden would cross over to where the Herdsman Youth waited for her.

All day the Weaver Maiden sat at her loom and worked with becoming diligence. Her father rejoiced that she fulfilled her duties. But no being in the heavens or on the earth was as lonely as she was, and all day the Herdsman Youth tended his oxen, but with a heart that was filled with loneliness and grief. The days and the nights went slowly by, and time when they might cross the River of Heaven and be together drew near. Then a great fear entered the hearts of the young wife and the young husband. They feared lest rain should fall; for the River of Heaven is always filled to its brim, and one drop would cause it to flood its banks. And if there was a flood the magpies could not bridge the space between the Weaver Maiden and the Herdsman Youth.

For many years after their separation no rain fell. The magpies came in their myriad. The one behind held the head-feathers of the one before, and with their backs and wings they made a bridge for the young wife to cross over to where the young husband waited for her.

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[paragraph continues] With hearts that were shaken like the wings of the magpies she would cross the Bridge of Wings. They would hold each other in their arms and make over again their vows of love. Then Chih Nü would go back to her loom, and the magpies would fly away to come together in another year.

And the people of earth pray that no drop of rain may fall to flood the River of Heaven; they make such prayer when it comes near the seventh day of the seventh month. But they rejoice when no rain falls and they can see with their own eyes the magpies gathering in their myriad. Sometimes the inauspicious forces are in the ascendant; rain falls and the river is flooded. No magpies then go to form a bridge, and Chih Nü weeps beside her loom and Niu Lang laments as he drives his ox beside the flood of the River of Heaven.

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