"Butterfly Lovers" Concert: the Chinese Romeo and Juliet


"Butterfly Lovers" Concert: the Chinese Romeo and Juliet

The "Magic of Performing Arts" projects by Volgograd and Chengdu is continued by the presentation by Li Huiwen, a Sophomore at the School of Art Theory and Management in Sichuan Conservatory of Music.

Hello, everyone!

My name is Li Huiwen. Now, I am a sophomore of art theory and management at Sichuan Conservatory of Music. Today I want to share my favorite music staged in China. It's called Butterfly Lovers.

The Butterfly Lovers is a Chinese legend of a tragic love story of a pair of lovers, Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai, whose names form the title of the story. The title is often abbreviated to Liang Zhu and often regarded as the Chinese equivalent of Romeo and Juliet.

The story is now counted as one of China's Four Great Folktales, the others being the Legend of the White Snake (Baishezhuan), Lady Meng Jiang, and The Cowherd and the Weaving Maid (Niulang Zhinu). Six cities in China have collaborated in 2004 on a formal application for the Proclamation of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity on the legend at UNESCO, submitted in 2006 through the Chinese Ministry of Culture.


Adjusting her disguise, Zhu Yingtai prepared to bid her parents goodbye. She had always been a dutiful daughter – staying home and creating works of embroidery that brought her parents pride. And yet, although only boys were allowed at the Confucius Academy in Hangzhou, Yingtai truly wanted to go to school. She begged her parents to let her be dressed as a boy. And seeing her determination and clever disguises, they finally agreed. However, they only gave her permission when she promised to keep her true identity a secret. And eventually the elated Yingtai began her journey to Hangzhou. On the way she found herself at crossroads, unsure which route to take when a young man approached as their eyes met they shared an instant connection.

Yingtai learned that his name was Liang Shanbo and that he'd be her classmate at the academy. so they walked the rest of the way together, rapt in conversation. Yingtai realized that, despite her meticulous disguise. She felt that she could finally be herself. The two decided to celebrate what they thought would be a long, close friendship and became sworn brothers. At the academy, Yingtai buried herself in books and studied with Shanbo late into the nights. The two felt at home so long as they were at each other's sides. They shared room, but even though Shanbo questioned her about it. Yingtai always used the bathroom alone and buttoned her thick robes up to her chin-whatever the weather is like. Now and again, Yingtai heard students muttering about her secretive behavior as months slipped into years. Yingtai continued to excel at her studies and felt like her past – and intended future – or lifetime away.

Yet the whispers grew louder, and after three years she had no choice but to leave, parting tearfully. Yingtai asked Shanbo to visit her. After she returned home, her parents announced that the Ma family from the neighboring village had sent a matchmaker to ask their permission for Yingtai marry their son. They'd found it a fitting match and accepted. Trying to hide her disappointment, she honored their agreement. But as she prepared for another new life, she thought of Shanbo.

Meanwhile, he was also distracted – his study dull without Yingtai by his side. When Shanbo finally visited Yingtai's house, he came upon a young woman. He was about to ask her "Buddy", but he recognized the young scholar he'd always loved as their eyes met. Shanbo knew he couldn't stand being separated from Yingtai again and asked her to marry him, but heartbroken, Yingtai told him that she was promise to another. Shanbo was devastated, but he understood that Yingtai had to abide by her parents' wishes and they parted again.

Shanbo fell ill and grew weaker by the day worries. His family sent a matchmaker to the Zhu family, but because of Yingtai's current engagement, her father refused the proposal, which otherwise would bring their family public shame. Shanbo's illness took a turn for the worst and, sensing he wouldn't live to see her married. Shanbo wrote Yingtai a final letter. If Yingtai loved him, he asked her to burn incense in front of his Tomb when she was on her way to the Ma family.

When Yingtai's wedding day came, it also felt like a funeral. As the procession winded through town under stormy skies, Yingtai broke off and knelt in front of Shanbo's tomb, lighting incense and offering sacrifices through her tears. Suddenly, a clap of thunder sounded above and a lightning bolt shot through the tomb, fracturing the stone. Without hesitation, Yingtai threw herself in as her parents rushed to rescue their daughter, two butterflies fluttered out of the crack. This time, Yingtai transformed for good. Finally free she could float forever with Shanbo at his side.

Introduction to the music

In May 1959, He Zhanhao and Chen Gang created the violin concerto Butterfly Lovers. Sixty years later, the Butterfly Lovers has become the most internationally acclaimed classical symphonic piece in the history of Chinese music. The Butterfly Lovers has become a symbol of Chinese culture.

Butterfly Lovers belongs to the title music. Each paragraph has a clear theme, and a sonata form structure, including presentation, development and recapitulation of three main paragraphs. Perhaps from the composition of the music techniques alone, Butterfly Lovers is not a piece of outstanding work. However, in China at that time, pure story music is very rare, such a folk legend as the background of music to celebrate the freedom of love stood out. Although it cannot compete with Western classics of the same genre in terms of composition techniques, the intimate melody, familiar story and rich emotional changes are enough to make this indigenous violin concerto widely spread in China, and it is regarded as a representative work of Chinese violin for a long time. Chinese people like Liang Zhu, more like the cultural background of Liang Zhu.

< back

All News ...