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   The Qixi Festival is one of the most romantic traditional festivals in China. It is called Chinese Valentine’s Day.

It is celebrated on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month in the Chinese calendar, hence its name.

   That night the population can contemplate the meeting of two stars called “herder of cows” and “maiden who weaves”. These stars are the protagonists of several stories that are part of the Chinese oral tradition.

What is one of the most traditional stories told?

 The story of the muleteer and the weaver.

   At the end of summer, the stars Altair and Vega rise in the night sky, and the Chinese people tell the following love story, of which there are different versions:

   A young muleteer named Niulang (niú láng: “the muleteer” or “cow herder”, the star Altair) meets seven fairies bathing in a lake on his way. Encouraged by his mischievous companion the ox, he steals their clothes and they wait to see what happens. The fairy sisters choose the youngest and most beautiful sister, Zhinü (Zhï nü, “the weaver,” the star Vega), to retrieve her clothes. She does, but since Niulang has seen her naked, she is forced to accept his marriage proposal. She turns out to be a wonderful wife and Niulang a good husband, and they are very happy together. But the Goddess of Heaven (who in some versions is Zhinü’s mother) discovers that a mere mortal has married a fairy, provoking her wrath. (In another version, the Goddess forces the fairy to go back to her task of weaving colorful clouds in the sky, as she was unable to do so while married to a mortal.) Taking her pin, the Goddess opens the sky forming a wide river to separate the two lovers forever (and thus forming the Milky Way, which separates Altair and Vega).

   Zhinü remains forever by the river, sadly weaving his loom, while Niulang watches her from afar, and takes care of his two children (the two stars that surround him (β and γ) of the constellation of the Eagle).

   But once a year, all the magpies in the world take pity on them and fly up to the sky to form a bridge (“the bridge of magpies”, Que Qiao) over the star Deneb in the constellation of Cygnus, so that the lovers can meet for a single night, on the seventh night of the seventh moon.

   But where the epidemic hits, many couples don’t have time to spend together or give each other gifts. They can’t even get to know each other up close.

   They fight side by side on different fronts in the fight against the epidemic.

   This is the case of Luo Jinwu and Xiangka, a couple of doctors from the Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital in Zhangjiajie City, Hunan Province. The image shows Luo Jinwu walking down a country lane, visiting villagers with reduced mobility for a nucleic acid test.