Tag Archives: romance

Butterfly Lovers


H is a parental figure of mine who grew up in China and is currently living in California. 

This conversation took place over a weekly phone call with my parents after I asked them about stories that they knew from China. 


H: The Butterfly lovers –

Me: Oh not this one-

H: This one is actually pretty famous cause it has music, you know the flute. The Butterfly Lovers, which Dynasty I forgot, there’s a famous legend. So Zhu Yingtai comes from a very rich family, she’s the only daughter of the family. Because her brothers all went to school and she wanted to be like her brother, so she disguised herself as a man, a young man, and went to Hanzhou, a different city. Cause you know her family they lived in Shangyu, the same province as Hangzhou but Hangzhou is the biggest city, the capital city of the provence. There she met a fellow student called Zhu Yingtai, sorry Liang Shanbo. 

The womens name is Zhu Yingtai, the guys name is Liang Shanbo in Hangzhou at the same school. And they felt like they could chat and develop a very good friendship with each other. They studied together for like three years and the lady, Zhu Yingtai actually fell in love with Liang Shanbo. But Liang Shanbo didn’t know she was a girl so he just treated her like a brother. One day, Zhu Yingtai received a letter from her brothers asking her to come back home so she went back home. I think her father tried to marry her off to a rich family’s son so she went back home. And then, Liang Shanbo decided to visit her afterwards because he happened to go to the area. And then, he found out, after he went to her home, that she’s a lady and he fell in love with her and decided to propose for her, for marriage. But her, Zhu Yingtai’s family looked down on Liang Shanbo’s family because he’s from a poor family and they said she’s already engaged to this rich guy, rich family’s son. So Liang Shanbo felt really sad by this and he got depressed and died soon after.

Me: Oh.

H: Yeah, he was, so Zhu Yingtai after she heard about the death, she told her family – she was resisting the marriage before but she told her family she decided to get married. So they, so she was all dressed up in red and they sent her by carriage to the other guy’s family because its not in her home town. And when her carriage passed by Liang Shanbo’s tomb, she said to stop and she wanted to um, bid him farewell. So she got off the carriage and kneeled by the tomb and you know, then suddenly the tomb, the sky changed color, the clouds came by, the sky changed color, and the tomb spilled open. And she decided to jump into the tomb, and the tomb closed itself and the sky was all cleared up. So I guess God was trying to help them. So, afterwards, they saw two butterflies came out from the tomb, that’s why they said they became butterflies.

Me: Ohhh I was about to say I don’t know where the butterfly lovers thing is coming from.

H: Because she jumped into the tomb and the tomb closed itself. Then they saw the butterflies and the butterflies lived happily in the flowers so they said they became the butterflies. Because the butterflies were always together so the local people thought it was their spirits together so they could never get separated. 


This legend is incredibly interesting to me because it mirrors the cliche in Mulan of hiding one’s gender whilst also mixing it with what reminds me of the story of Hades and Persephone. It is a classic example of star-crossed lovers and one that is popular enough that there is a famous violin orchestral arrangement that illustrates this tragic love story. However, this story ends with an assumed happy ending, even though both protagonists seem to die, they are still reunited. This legend also brings up the concept of reincarnation as the people assume that the butterflies that immerge are the souls of the lovers who are finally able to live together after they both pass. According to an online source, the carriage actually stopped because of a storm rather than the bride being able to ask to pay her respects to him. These lovers are traced to written records of the story in a book from 700AD about the Chinese empire with a brief mention of the lovers. The butterfly element seems to be added at a later date to represent the idea of metamorphosis and change that allows them to be reunited together. 

Su, Minjie. “The Butterfly Lovers: A Classic Chinese Love Story.” Medievalists.net, 13 Feb. 2019, https://www.medievalists.net/2018/02/butterfly-lovers-classic-chinese-love-story/.

Cowherd and Weaver Girl


Y is my other parental figure of mine who grew up in China and is currently living in California. 

This conversation took place over a weekly phone call with my parents after I asked them about stories that they knew from China. This particular conversation followed a couple previous tellings of other stories from my other parent. 


Y: The Cowherd and the weaver girl, you should know this one, it’s very famous-

Me: Wait what was it?

Y: The Cowherd and weaver girl, Zhong Guo Zen ( Chinese People) call it Niúláng Zhīnǚ. I’ll send you the spelling.

Me: Isn’t there another story about the crane and the weaver?

Y: There is another crane, but this one is about the stars. Remember, there’s – Cause chinese people watched the stars and they saw those stars separated from each other so they made up the story so that’s the Niúláng Zhīnǚ. Niúláng  is the guy who herds the cows, that’s called cowherd and Weaver girl is the girl who weaves. The weaver girl is actually a goddess, she’s the daughter of the god, the god in charge in heaven, and she’s the seventh daughter. And her job was to weave the rainbows, and she had to weave the rainbows all the time. 

One day she got tired of it and she decided to. This version is different from the one we heard. We heard that one day she and her sisters, seven of them, decided to come down to earth and swim in the river. And Niúláng actually saw them swimming and he was actually bad (laugh). He stole the seventh girl, the Zhīnǚ’s clothes so she couldn’t go back to heaven. So she stayed and married him. But this other version is a little nicer, Niúláng isn’t such a bad guy. 

This one says that since Zhīnǚ’ was tired of weaving rainbows, she decided to come down to earth and she saw this Niúláng, the boy, and fell in love with him and decided to marry him. Okay? They lived happily together but when her dad found out about it, that she escaped, he actually sent people and his men to bring him- her back, to heaven. And he banned her from visiting Earth until like once a year. He only allows her to visit or see this Cowherd once a year. 

And because the magpies, magpies are considered birds that bring good luck. Magpies heard about it and they felt sorry for the two and they decided to form a bridge to reunite them. So every year, during July 7. July 7 is called which festival? Zhong qiu jie? Is it Zhong qiu jie? July 7 is what jie? Which festival? (asking other informant).

H: Chinese Valentine!

Y: Chinese Valentine but I think there’s a special festival time. Anyways, on July 7th every year, they form – another story is that they reunited on the rainbow. Rainbow is like a bridge.

Me: Ohhhh.

Y: They reunite on the bridge made by a rainbow, but anyways the magpies were the story here. 

Me: I feel like I’ve heard this one before.

Y: yeah, it’s a very famous one. 


I had heard this story when i was younger from my parents from a storybook and only recognized it when my mom told me the part about the magpie bridge! I think it’s also interesting because this directly demonstrates the multiplicity of folklore and how different versions of a story may interact with each other. I also think it is intriguing that in one version, it is more censored so that the story is more of a true love tale rather than the main love interest being creepy and being rewarded for his answer. This story reminds me of the Hades and Persephone Greek Myth with the trope of only being allowed to see your lover at a certain time of the year rather than all year. This story also directly ties into a festival that is celebrated in China as a representation of love: Chinese Valentine’s Day.

If you split the pole with your partner, you’re not staying together

C is a 19-year-old Filipino-American college student living in Los Angeles, California.

This conversation took place in my room as a group of my friends were hanging out and I inquired about any folklore or proverbs they knew. This superstition was thrown out following another friend providing one as well.


C: If you split the pole with your partner, then you’re not going to stay together. 

Me: Wait what do you mean like split the pole?

C: Split the pole like, a lamppost or something, you’re like holding hands and like that. It’s just like a superstition. 


This superstition was especially interesting because I have accidentally done this to a couple before and it made me think about whether or not I had somehow caused a breakup without meaning to. I think relationships superstitions are really interesting because it seems like the idea might originate from the fact that the parties are willing to let something break their “bond” apart. Additionally, the pole may be seen as a physical barrier between the two that may be predicting a barrier that comes in the future and results in the relationship falling apart.

“Don’t date your dance partner”

“Something we tell our new people is a warning that you shouldn’t date your dance partner. So, here’s the thing: this used to be followed all the time. When I got here, nobody was dating anybody on our team, and this is out of 50 people on the dance team – I don’t know the real number – and about 20 competitors…wait, I take it back. There was one couple: Nick and Claire. Nick and Claire were dating, but nobody else was dating. Nick and Claire came in as a couple already, and so they became dance partners. They didn’t dance together for everything, though they did dance together for some things. What we don’t like is when people meet through the ballroom dance team, dance with each other for a while, and then say, ‘You know what? I’mma date you.’ This happens in the professional world a lot. Professional dancers, they’re usually 16-17 years old – they’re young – when they meet each other. Well, sometimes they’re 23-24 years old when they meet each other, but usually it’s fairly young, and they dance with each other for a while. Whatever the exact age, they’re young, and they’re all kinds of hormonal, and they’re dancing with a very attractive person, these professionals. ‘I’m hormonal. I’m dancing with a hot person, and this hot person knows how to use their body. Yes, I’m going to try to make something out of this,’ and they do, all the time. They get married sometimes, and then they divorce each other. It almost always happens. I mean, there are a few cases where it doesn’t happen – they’ve learned how to make it work – but it’s usually a disaster in the professional world to date your dance partner, because you break up, and then you can’t dance together anymore, and the you gotta go find a new partner, but you’re older, and everybody’s already taken. Then, your career is done. So, finding somebody you click with is important, and then not trying to have sex with that person is equally important once that first part is done. On our team, we recommend the same thing. If you have a dance partner, that’s great. Work really hard to not date them or try to be more than friends with them, because if you do, when you try, it’s an easy way to lose a dance partner. So, it’s a little odd that we had a lot of people over the last two or three years end up dating the people that they dance with. Sometimes, they started to dance with the people that they’re dating. That happened to me. That happened to…actually, I think that happened to most people. They met first, started dating, and then said, ‘hey, we’re going to dance together.’ Usually, we’re still pretty good about being like, ‘We’re going to dance together. Oooh, I like you. Let’s do this thing.’ It’s easier when you go from dating to dance partners than from dance partners to dating, but it still carries risks, so we advise people to treat your dance relationship like your regular relationship: talk about things and seek help from others when you need it.”

Background Information and Context:

What the informant is describing is based on his years of experience on the SC Ballroom and Latin Dance Team. There is no way to say – at least, not without surveying members of multiple dance teams – whether the phenomenon of having a lot of couples on a dance team is exclusive to the SC Ballroom and Latin Dance team or, if it is not exclusive, if the couples on other dance teams act like those on USC’s team. Although, I have heard similar advice of being wary of the person with whom you start a relationship in other teams and in other contexts, such as work. This part of our conversation was more personal in nature than the topics that preceded, and I was mildly surprised that the informant, for the most part, kept his personal opinions out.

Collector’s Notes:

What was interesting about this topic is that I hadn’t originally intended to ask about it but noted to the informant that I found it odd that both of us are dating our dance partners. I’d heard the general opinion that dating your dance partner leads to unnecessary complications in both the romantic and dance relationship, but still, nobody dissuaded me when my boyfriend first asked me out, months after we’d started talking about becoming competition partners. On our team, there didn’t seem to be any negative examples of such a relationship to make me worry beyond the passing thought. I think it’s interesting that dancing, especially ballroom dancing, is heavily romanticized, and performers are criticized if their dance lacks passion, romance, tenderness, etc., but actual romance, specifically a new romance, is met with wariness. Moreover, it is interesting that popular media so often portrays romance/attraction and drama/angst as inextricable from each other. The connotations of dancing and romance seem at odds with each other.

Tsatsapipianu (Grain Harvest Festival)

Sophie is an international student from Taiwan. She is pursuing a B.S. in Computer Science at the University of Southern California. She hopes to find a career in computer security and plans to stay in the United States, specifically Los Angeles, to work. She enjoys watching anime and learning; from USC-sponsored workshops, she has learned how to code and create chatbots.

Original Script

So, in Taiwan in this Aborigine tribe, we have this—no, not we—the Aborigines have this tradition that, uh, they create this giant swing. And then, um, so the princesses will be princess-carried into the swing. And then a guy will swing her up into the air and the higher she swings, it means the more possible she’s going to get married. And when she goes down the swing, a guy has to carry her and go around the swing for one round so her feet doesn’t touch the ground before going around the swing.

Background Information about the Performance from the Informant

One of the informant’s friends belongs to the Rukai tribe of Taiwan. In high school, the informant attended the Tsatsapipianu, or the Grain Harvest Festival, with her friend. She witnessed the Rukai perform this tradition around a large swing, called talaisi, and found the practice romantic.

Context of the Performance

I interviewed the informant in a study room at Parkside IRC.

One of Taiwan’s aboriginal peoples, the Rukai, view swings as representations of love, similar to that of a red rose. During the Rukai’s Grain Harvest Festival, a giant swing is used to present an opportunity for young single people to get to know one another. Due to its size, the talaisi requires two men to operate the swing, allowing the young maiden sitting on the swing to meet the men who wish to court her. Swings, known in the Rukai’s language as tiyuma, function as an effective method of communication for romance and possible marriage.

My Thoughts about the Performance

I thought this tradition of the Rukai is quite romantic. Marriage is a holy ceremony found in most, if not all, cultures around the world. It is a symbolic representation of commitment that binds two partners together as a family. In the culture of the Rukai people, this universal rite is seen as a time for friends and relatives from both partners’ families to unite as one large, extended family. Therefore, the talaisi, as a representation of romance, is surrounded by the village chief and all members of the tribe, who observe young men push the woman they wish to court on the swing. I admire how this practice does not involve merely two people; it encompasses everyone and brings them together as a community.