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Chinese Love Story: Butterfly Lovers

The Chinese romantic 民间传说 (mín jiān chuán shuō) of Liang Shanbo (梁山伯 liáng shān ) and Zhu Yingtai (祝英台zhù yīng tái), known as "China's Romeo and Juliet," is one of the four greatest love stories of ancient Chinese folks and is the most attractive oral tradition in China. It was chosen as a national intangible cultural heritage and had a wide-ranging impact in the world.

During the Yonghe period of the Eastern Jin Dynasty, there was a woman named Yingtai. She liked reading poetry and books and wanted to receive higher education. At that time, women were not allowed to go to school. Yingtai tried her best to persuade her parents to send her to school and finally was able to attend classes in disguise as a man. On the way to school, she met a classmate Liang Shanbo, they just clicked immediately and went to the school together. During the three years of study, Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai were inseparable. They read together during the day and shared their pillows at night. Zhu Yingtai secretly fell in love with Liang Shanbo, but Shanbo's personality was rigid so he did not know that Yingtai was a woman, and even less aware of her mind. One day, Zhu receives a letter from her father, asking her to return home as soon as possible. Zhu has no choice but to pack her belongings immediately and bid Liang farewell.Zhu had no choice but to end her studies and travel back abruptly. Liang accompanies his "sworn brother" for 18 miles to see her off. During the long journey, Yingtai hinted that she was a woman to Shanbo several times, and even suggested that she be a matchmaker between him and her "sister," which is Yingtai herself, but Shanbo was too blunt to discover the truth.

After Liang Shanbo found that she was a girl later and realized his love for her as well, he hurried to her house. Unfortunately, Zhu Yingtai had been forced to betroth an officer's son, Ma. Liang went home heartbroken, and he soon fell seriously ill. Within a month, Liang passed away in his sadness. After learning of Liang's death, Zhu agreed to marry Ma under one condition: she requested that her wedding procession pass by Liang's grave. On the day of her wedding, while her carriage was passing by the cemetery, She descends in bitter despair and begs for the grave to open up. Suddenly, the grave opens with a clap of thunder. Without further hesitation, Zhu throws herself into the grave to join Liang. Their spirits emerge in the form of a pair of butterflies and fly away together, never to be separated again.

Today, the romantic stories of Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai have been adapted into various art forms, including opera, movies, and TV series. Among them, Liang Zhu violin concerto is the most well-known. Through Zhu Yingtai's story of pretending to be a man and pursuing his own love, we can further understand the malpractices of the marriage system and the unfair treatment of women in ancient society. At the same time, it also vigorously promotes the spirit of innovation that boldly pursues true love and breaks through the limitations of feudal thinking.

Common Vocabulary

love story: 爱情故事


Marry: 结婚


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