The Butterfly Lovers

The Butterfly Lovers is considered one of China’s four great folktales. Set in the Eastern Jin dynasty, it tells the tragic love story of Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai. Zhu was the only daughter of a wealthy family. Despite living in a time when women were not allowed to study, she convinced her father to let her attend classes disguised as a man. During her studies she met Liang Shanbo and they became close friends. Zhu fell in love with Liang, but he did not notice that she was a girl.

Her father summoned her home and despite her attempts to let Liang know her true identity, he still did not realise. She had the idea to suggest to Liang that he might like to meet her ‘sister’ and encouraged him to visit her home when he had the chance. Many months later, Liang visited Shu and discovered that she was a woman. They confessed their love and made a vow to be together forever. Unfortunately, Zhu’s parents had already arranged a marriage for her to a wealthy merchant. Liang was devastated and his heartbreak caused him to become progressively more ill until eventually he died.

On Zhu’s wedding day, the procession was stopped by strong winds as it approached Liang’s grave. Zhu left the procession and went to the grave to pay her respects. She was so filled with despair that she called out for the grave to open up. A huge clap of thunder was heard and the grave suddenly opened. Zhu didn’t hesitate, she threw herself in to be reunited with Liang. From the grave emerged their spirts in the form of a pair of butterflies, finally united for eternity.  

Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, I have not been able to source the artist details for any of the images in this post. As a rule I always credit artists and so will continue to search for details and update if I am able to find them.