China is a nation of romantics. Chinese people adore love stories and have communally passed down many ancient tales of romance and love through the generations. Though there are literally hundreds of love stories in Chinese culture, there are several that are remembered most often and considered beloved tales.
Among the most famous of China’s love stories is the tale of Niulang the cowherder and Zhinv the nympth, which is traditionally told during Qixi, or ‘The Seventh Night’, China’s lovers’ holiday. Since it was forbidden for a peasant and a fairy to be together, they must persuade a goddess to allow them a chance at their romance. She does, and they are granted one night each year to see each other: the seventh night of the seventh lunar month. Thus, this holiday has come to be known as Chinese Valentine’s Day.
Another Chinese love story is the tale of Yeh-Shen, the Chinese Cinderella, though this story is much older than the classic fairy tale, Cinderella. In this story, Yeh-Shen is orphaned and left to live with her unkind stepmother. Yeh-Shen’s only friend was a fish that lived in the nearby river. One day, her stepmother killed the fish and Yeh-Shen was distraught. However, a wise old man visited her and told her the bones of her fish friend were very powerful and would transform her into a beauty when she spoke to them. Eventually, Yeh-Shen went to a festival at the king’s palace and, when she went before the king, she spoke to the bones and was transformed into a beautiful woman wearing lovely robes. The king saw her beauty and decided to marry her.
Tales of love like these are extremely common in Chinese culture and are joyfully recounted around family dinners or by parents to their children. Especially on romantic holidays, such as Qixi or Western Valentine’s Day, these stories are remembered with fondness.