Two Enchanted Tales from Old China

In this book published by Christmas Press Picture Books, I retell two traditional Chinese fables – The Magic Fishbones which is an early Cinderella story. It first appeared in Miscellaneous Morsels from Youyang by Duan Chengshi around 860 and this may be the only time the story has been directly translated into English from the original.

The other story is The Weaver Girl and the Cowherd.

It is one of the four great fables of China. It is a love story celebrated on the 7th day of the 7th month on the Chinese calendar called the Qixi Festival when lovers look up to the heavens.

The illustrations are by David Allan. They are beautiful and delicate and remind me of woodblock prints.

The book is dedicated to my mum, who used to tell me Chinese fables when I was too young to read.


“In the final installment of the Two Enchanted Tales series, ancient Chinese folklore is the focus. Readers are treated to two magical tales — The Weaver Girl and the Cowherd and The Magic Fishbones — that tell stories of young love and a girl who becomes the belle of the ball. In gorgeous retellings, complemented by elegant illustrations, Two Enchanted Tales from Old China is another Christmas Press book to treasure.
In The Weaver Girl and the Cowherd, love finds a way to conquer all in the celestial world. When two stars fall in love, the Heavenly Empress separates them for good. But the young maiden finds her true love on Earth and they are reunited. All is well in the mortal world until the Empress wants the maiden back and creates a divide that keeps the two apart, again allowing them to meet only one day each year. Two stars in the Milky Way are named after the protagonists in the story: Vega, the weaver girl and Altair, the cowherd.
The Magic Fishbones is a Cinderella story set in ancient China. With the help of a magical fish, the young heroine becomes transformed in time for the Winter Solstice Festival and captures the heart of the king. When she’s discovered, however, she rushes home and loses her golden shoe on the way. The king eventually finds her and makes her his queen, while the power of the magical fish imparts great wealth on them. These two wonderful stories bring young readers a taste of classical folk tales complete with old world charm and fable-like lessons. While some scenes feel a bit mature for the youngest readers, the stories are beautifully told and are an interesting contrast to modern storytelling. The soft illustrations are perfectly suited to the stories and, together with the gorgeous font, create a beautiful book cover to cover.” ~Stephanie Ward Reading Time

“In the black velvety mantle of the night sky, two young people fall in love, only to be parted; while in a far-away time, a lonely and mistreated girl finds herself at a ball in a dress of sea green silk and a kingfisher cloak: two beautiful, magical tales from old ChinaThe Weaver Girl and the Cowherd, and The Magic Fishbones, are here enchantingly retold for young readers by award-winning author Gabrielle Wang and evocatively illustrated by David Allan.”~ALC Agency

“There are two delightful tales in this picture book. The first tale, The Weaver Girl and the Cow Herd, is about two stars in the heavens that fall in love. Zhinu, the weaver girl, is the granddaughter of the Heavenly Empress, and she separates the two lovers. Niulng is banished to the land of mortals where he is reborn into a farming family and has no memory of the past but feels a connection with the stars. His loyal Ox is no ordinary Ox, and Niulang is guided by his wisdom in search of a bride.
The second tale, The Magic Fish Bones is about a time in the ancient country of Chin, where Ye Xian was left to slave for her stepmother and stepsister after her father dies. Though you could put this story alongside Cinderella; this story stands on its own two feet and has a totally different ending. Ye Xian has a fish with golden scales which she loves and tends too. After a while, the fish grows too big, and she releases it into a nearby pond. Each day she calls the fish to the edge of the pond and gives it treats. Her horrid stepmother kills the fish, but the bones are magic.
These stories will linger and would appeal to 6 – 8 years although they are in picture book form. The sentences are long and graceful. Gabrielle’s other books include The Race for the Chinese Zodiac, The Garden of Empress Cassia, A ghost in my Suitcase and others.” ~Wendy Haynes Buzz Words

TWO ENCHANTED TALES FROM OLD CHINA can be purchased online or from your local Australian bookshop