MYTHIC POETRY series:
But her body had disappeared as dust—such a sad event!
"The Tale of Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai" — Unknown
THE BUTTERFLY LOVERS is a Chinese legend of a tragic love story between Liang Shanbo (梁山伯) and Zhu Yingtai (祝英台).
Zhu Yingtai is a beautiful and intelligent young woman, the only daughter of the wealthy Zhu family. Although traditions of that era discourage females from going to school, Yingtai manages to convince her father to allow her to attend classes in disguise as a young man. During her journey, she meets Liang Shanbo, a scholar. They converse, feeling a strong affinity for each other at their first meeting. They study together for the next three years in school and Yingtai gradually falls in love with Shanbo. He fails to notice the feminine characteristics exhibited by his classmate.
One day, Yingtai receives a letter from her father, asking her to return home as soon as possible. Yingtai has no choice but to bid Shanbo farewell. Shanbo accompanies his “sworn brother” for 18 miles to see her off. During the journey, Yingtai hints to Shanbo that she is a woman, but he remains oblivious. Shanbo and Yingtai reluctantly part ways at the Changting pavilion.
Months later, when Shanbo visits Yingtai, he discovers the truth. They become devoted to each other and they make a vow of “till death do us part.” The joy of their reunion is short-lived as Yingtai is already arranged to marry another man. Shanbo is heartbroken when he hears the news and his health gradually deteriorates. Ultimately, he succumbs to death.
On the day of Yingtai’s marriage, mysterious whirlwinds prevent the wedding procession from escorting the bride beyond Shanbo’s grave, which lies along the journey. Yingtai leaves the procession to pay her respects to her former lover. 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, Yingtai throws herself into the grave to join Shanbo. Their spirits turn into a pair of beautiful butterflies and emerge from the grave. They fly away together, never to be separated again.