The stone statue of Niulang.
The images of the most authoritative statues of Niulang the cowherd and Zhinyu the weaver girl in Chinese folklore set off heated discussion recently, with netizens complaining they are disappointed by their appearance.
The discussion was triggered by a Weibo post with illustrations regarding the Qixi Festival, which said, "the most standard statues of Niulang and Zhinyu are located at Doumen town in Shaanxi province, where the Emperor Wudi in the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220) dug a Kunming pool" .
While the pictures show quite a rough carving style of the stone statues, totally contrary to the beautiful story of Niulang and Zhinyu, some netizens complained that "I don't even want to meet once in a year, with such an appearance".
In the romantic legend, Niulang and Zhinyu, separated by the Heavenly Queen, are allowed to meet once a year on the seventh night of the seventh month, on a bridge across the Milky Way formed by magpies. This is celebrated in the Qixi Festival, or the Seventh Night Festival, which can be traced back to the Han Dynasty.
In the photos on Weibo, the faces of Niulang and Zhinyu are large and round, with large noses, which look quite funny. Some netizens jokingly said that, "No wonder that they are separated by Heavenly Queen; if they stay together every day, maybe their eyes won't adapt to it", or "It destroys how I imagine Zhinyu".
According to Beijing Youth Daily, the stone statues of Niulang and Zhinyu from the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC – AD 24), are in Changjiazhuang village and a cotton mill in Doumen town in Xixian New Area of Shaanxi province, respectively. A staff member from a local cultural relic bureau said that the two statues happen to stand at the two sides of the Kunming pool ruin, just like Niulang and Zhinyu at the two sides of the Milky Way. Locals used to call the stone statues "stone grandpa" and "stone grandma", and will worship them during festivals to pray for safety and fortune, he said.<
The stone statue of Zhinyu.
Mr Wei, a 55-year-old Doumen town resident, thinks the statues of Niulang and Zhinyu are good-looking. "They are from the Western Han Dynasty, and have a long history of more than 2,000 years. How could they be not pretty? Pretty!" he said. It is said that Niulang and Zhinyu were Doumen residents, so local people love them.
Professor Yu Gengzhe, from the School of History and Culture in Shaanxi Normal University, who posted the images of Niulang and Zhinyu on Weibo, originally intended to popularize knowledge, didn't expect such heated discussions. He said that, "The stone carvings from the Han Dynasty are just like that, and the stone statues are how Niulang and Zhinyu appeared in Han Dynasty people's minds. But it doesn't mean that their images in other dynasties were also like this."
Yu said that the two stone statues witnessed the reign of Emperor Wudi in the Han Dynasty and are national key protection units and have high cultural values.
Yu also added that the stone statues have never suffered from deliberate destruction, and their damage is within normal range.
"To restore a relic into its original appearance is not always good protection; instead we have to accept what it looks now, just like the Venus with the missing arms," he said, referring to the famous ancient Greek statue, Venus de Milo.<
A stele shows that the stone statues of Niulang and Zhinyu are national key protection units.