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Home History and Culture The Butterfly Lovers -- Violin Concerto
The Butterfly Lovers -- Violin Concerto
Learn Chinese - History and Culture

 Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai
The music of Liang Zhu (liáng zhù 梁祝), or "Butterfly Lovers," is undoubtedly the best-known and most popular in all of China. It is also one of the few Chinese pieces that have often appeared on the international stage. Almost everyone in China can hum a few lines of the violin concerto, which can be traced to a Chinese folk legend "Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai"(liáng shān bó yǔ zhù yīng tái 梁山伯与祝英台).

According to the legend, Zhu Yingtai assumes a male identity so she may travel to study in Hangzhou (háng zhōu 杭州), a southern city in China, where she meets Liang Shanbo. In the course of their studies, Zhu and Liang become very close friends. From a Confucian perspective, the notion of "Junzi"(jūn zǐ 君子, gentleman) is a well-exemplified ideal in Chinese history and its quality and characteristics are well expounded upon by Confucian scholars. Basically, this implies the highest integrity, morality and demeanor, coupled with well-refined abilities and skills both in martial arts and academia -- the kind of relationship that Zhu and Liang had achieved. When the time came for Zhu to return home, the pair is overcome with much suppressed sadness. Zhu offers her younger sister's hand in marriage and entreats Liang to visit her residence to discuss the issue with her parents. Liang is unaware that Zhu is female nor that she does not have a younger sister. (She is, in fact, offering her own hand in marriage.)

A year passes before Liang makes his way to Zhu's residence. He is overjoyed to realize Zhu's true identity and that she is in love with him. However, happiness turns into sorrow as the two soon discover that Zhu has been betrothed to another man. In great sadness, the two lovers meet at the tower and lament their great misfortune. Upon his return to Hangzhou, Liang falls ill in his great misery and dies. When Zhu hears of this on her wedding day, she flees to his grave. There, legend has it that her tears move the heavens so much that the clouds themselves shed tears over Zhu's grief. Then, the earth beneath her cracks open and the ill-fated Zhu commits suicide by jumping into the open grave. Miraculously, the pair is transformed into butterflies. Arising into the sky, they flutter and dance side by side among the flowers, never to be separated again.
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梁山伯与祝英台
      这一个美丽、凄婉、动人的爱情故事,多少年以来就流传在上虞的曹娥江畔、流传在俊美的龙山脚下。

      东晋时期,浙江上虞县祝家庄,玉水河边,有个祝员外之女英台,美丽聪颖,自幼随兄习诗文,仰慕班昭、蔡文姬的才学,但家无良师,一心想往杭州访师求学。祝员外拒绝了女儿的请求,祝英台求学心切,伪装卖卜者,对祝员外说:“按卦而断,还是让令爱出门的好。”祝父见女儿乔扮男装,一无破绽,为了不忍使她失望,只得勉强应允。

      英台女扮男装,远去杭州求学。途中,邂逅了赴杭求学的会稽(今绍兴)书生梁山伯,一见如故,相读甚欢,在草桥亭上撮土为香,义结金兰。不一日,二人来到杭州城的万松书院,拜师入学。从此,同窗共读,形影不离。梁祝同学三年,情深似海。英台深爱山伯,但山伯却始终不知她是女子,只念兄弟之情,并没有特别的感受。祝父思女,催归甚急,英台只得仓促回乡。梁祝分手,依依不舍。在十八里相送途中,英台不断借物抚意,暗示爱情。山伯忠厚纯朴,不解其故。英台无奈,谎称家中九妹,品貌与己酷似,愿替山伯作媒,可是梁山伯家贫,未能如期而至。

      待山伯去祝家求婚时,岂知祝父已将英台许配给家住鄮城(今鄞县)的太守之子马文才。美满姻缘,已成沧影。二人楼台相会,泪眼相向,凄然而别。临别时,立下誓言:生不能同衾,死也要同穴!后梁山伯被朝廷沼为鄞县(今宁波市鄞州区)令。然山伯忧郁成疾,不久身亡。遗命葬鄮城九龙墟。英台闻山伯噩耗,誓以身殉。英台被迫出嫁时,绕道去梁山伯墓前祭奠,在祝英台哀恸感应下,风雨雷电大作,坟墓爆裂,英台翩然跃入坟中,墓复合拢,风停雨霁,彩虹高悬,梁祝化为蝴蝶,在人间蹁跹飞舞。
 

 

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