Saturday, August 14, 2021

The Legend of the Seven Sisters (Hong Kong)

Note: Please be advised that this legend and its versions are not suitable reading material for children. 

In North Point (北角) on Hong Kong Island, there is a street called the Seven Sisters Street (七姊妹道). The street commemorates seven young women who, as legend has it,  died together many hundreds of years ago near this very area in an act of concerted suicide. 

Version One

It is said that hundreds of years ago in what is now North Point there was a village of some two hundred or so individuals. In this village lived seven young women, all unrelated and of varying ages but bound together by a bond of sisterhood of sticking with each other through thick and thin, no matter what.  

And so they were together every day and became known as "the Seven Sisters." 

Then came the day when the Third Sister's father compelled her to marry a young man through an arranged marriage. It was no use for the Third Sister to refuse or to protest. The night before the wedding ceremony, the Seven Sisters, affirming their sisterhood slogans "We'd rather die than get married" and "We were not born in the same year or month or on the same day, but we choose to die on the same day and month and in the same year," walked hand-in-hand into the water and drowned themselves. 

No traces of their bodies were ever found. However, when the tide later receded, seven stones, arranged in a line from small to large, could be seen in the harbor. Local people came to believe that the Seven Sisters' bodies had been transformed into these stones. 

Version Two

In this version, there is no mention of a pact to die rather than face an arranged marriage. The Seven Sisters did still maintain a bond to live and to die together. Also of importance is the detail that the seven were orphans, which reinforced their dedication to each other. 

One day the area they lived in, the village in today's North Point, was attacked by marauding bandits. The Seven Sisters took up arms to resist the invaders. However, it was a losing fight, and the village was occupied by the bandits. 

The Seven Sisters were now prisoners in what had been their own village. 

The bandit chief made it known that he rather fancied the Seventh Sister for her fighting prowess and would, in three days' time, take her as a trophy bride. 

The Seventh Sister, along with the others in her group, made their decision to escape the village. And so, somehow, they fled from the village, at first eluding the bandits guarding the compound. The Seven Sisters hit the road out of the village that led to the sea, now with the bandits and their enraged chief in hot pursuit. 

They ran and ran with the bandits in relentless pursuit, but soon there was no place left to go since the road ended at the sea. The young women scaled a rock on the edge of the water. "We were not born in the same year or month or on the same day," they defiantly shouted at the thugs chasing them, "but we choose to die on the same day and in the same month and year!" 

With that, they held hands and leaped from the rock into the ocean below, where they drowned. 

Seven days later, their corpses were found floating on the surface of the ocean, still holding each other's hands. By that time, all the bandits were already dead--either by suicide or some other means. 

There is indeed a rock called the Seven Sisters Rock in the harbor. There is also the urban legend that swimming in the area might be treacherous for male swimmers as they might be pulled in by one or all of the Seven Sisters out of anger at men in general or to secure a male companion. 


Shi Zhiming & Fan Qicong. 香港都市傳說全攻略 [A complete run-down on Hong Kong urban legends]; Zhonghua Shuju. 2019. Kindle Paperwhite. 

The legend can also be found online: 七姊妹傳說 - Google Search(20+) 香港都市傳說 Hong Kong Urban Legends - Posts | Facebook【東區街道故事】七姊妹道傳說淒慘 寧死不嫁手牽手齊投水自殺?|香港01|熱爆話題

The second version is reminiscent of other stories dealing with water ghosts, particularly those that lure swimmers to their deaths. My ebook  Taiwan Folktales: Proverbs, Folk Sayings, and Folktales From Taiwan (Books from Taiwan, 2011) deals with a couple of such stories. The second version might also beg some questions. The story, as Shi Zhiming and Fan Qicong point out, makes no mention of the other villagers once the village was occupied by the bandits. What had been the fate of the villagers? Had some at least escaped? Had they all been massacred or enslaved? And why was an announcement of three days needed? Shi and Fan ask why the bandit leader didn't simply seize the Seventh Sister that same day? These are surely rhetorical questions. These missing details are expendable so as to allow the story to unfold. Old legends have an uncanny way of editing themselves through the centuries. 

Motifs: E642, "Reincarnation as stone"; E711.7, "Soul in stone"; Q200, "Deeds punished"' Q210, "Crimes punished"; Q240, "Sexual sins punished"; Q411.7, "Death as punishment for ravisher"; Q558, "Mysterious death as punishment"; T311.2, "Girl commits suicide rather than marry man she does not love"; cT326, "Suicide to save virginity"; T326.1, "Girls drown themselves to save their virginity"; T326.3, "Martyrdom to preserve virginity." 

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