Butterfly Lovers

My mom shared the story of Butterfly Lovers, which is actually a well-known folktale in China. There is a beautiful violin concerto composed based on this story and that’s one of my mom’s favorite — hence why my mom sent me to learn to play violin. My mom says she always kinda knew what happened in the story but was never entirely sure until she watched a movie based on it. We interviewed in Chinese so the following is only rough translation of what she shared.


During the Jin Dynasty, there were two youngsters Liang and Zhu. Liang and Zhu were classmates, while Zhu disguised herself as a man. Zhu secretly loved Liang deeply, but for years, Liang never realized Zhu was a woman, and only viewed her as a best friend but nothing more. The day Zhu went back home, Liang was so reluctant to leave her that he walked her home for eighteen miles. On the way home, Zhu vaguely hinted her feelings to Liang, but Liang was too oblivious to understand. Defeated, Zhu told Liang that she had a sister who looked exactly alike, and encouraged him to visit and marry her. Liang said yes and they parted.

Liang went back and tried to gather the money for the proposal and wedding, but since he’s only a poor student, it took him a long time. By the time he finally came to visit Zhu, Zhu’s parent had already promised her to the governor’s son, Wencai Ma. Only by then he realized Zhu had no sister and Zhu was actually a girl. Liang and Zhu confessed their feelings to each other, cried and said goodbye. When they parted, they made a promise that even though they could not be married in this life, they shall be buried together after they die.

Soon after, Liang was appointed to be the mayor but died shortly out of sorrow. On the wedding day of Zhu, as a part of Chinese wedding tradition, Zhu got on the carriage and off to her husband’s place. However, when they passed by the grave of Liang, a storm came and they could not move any further. Zhu got off the carriage and came to the grave to mourn her love. Suddenly, the ground split in half. Zhu jumped into the ground to be buried with Liang together, and then the ground repaired. The storm stopped and rainbow appeared. Liang and Zhu turned into two butterflies, flew out from the grave and flew into the sky.


This folktale is one of the most famous tales in China. I’d say its popularity would be like SnowWhite in Western countries. Since it’s such a wide spread story, there are countless TV shows and movies made out of it. Those versions did not differ much except there are always some original plot added. What my mom shared are majorly the plots that most version agreed. This is one of a few Chinese folklores that the story is evolved around the female protagonist instead of male — a story of how how the female making choices for her own life.