The butterfly has often featured as a symbol of love in Chinese culture. From the tragic folktale of two lovers, (unsurprisingly called “The Butterfly Lovers” who have inspired their own music, television dramas and movie adaptations) to lesser known stories and traditions that made up old marriage customs, wherein the couple would recieve a pair of scissors carrying a butterfly motif as part of the dowry. This was to symbolize the union between the two, and may in fact be linked to yet another story: It is said that each pair of lovers are born as a one-winged butterfly, and before meeting their other half, can never fly.
It’s rather cute, though personally, I find that it can be a rather restrictive view of relationships in the modern world.
Anywho, I’ve included a recording of two movements of the Butterfly Lovers concerto for your enjoyment.
For those unfamiliar with the story, a brief summary follows:
Zhu Yingtai sets off for a formal education, though she has to dress as a man to do so. During her studies, she meets Liang Shanbo, another student studying at the academy and they eventually grow to know one another as friends. Yingtai falls in love with Shanbo, though he never realizes that she is actually a woman for all the hints she gives him.
Yingtai is eventually summoned home, and the two part, with Shanbo promising to visit after he escorts her home.
Shanbo visits several months later, only then, learning that Yingtai was a woman all along, but as she is already bethrothed, can only leave, heart broken.
He eventually dies, and on the day of her wedding, Yingtai is unable to move past his grave due to the strong winds and weather. When his tomb door is opened, she jumps in, and two butterflies emerge, flying off together.