The Butterfly Lovers — Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai
The Butterfly Lovers is one of "the Four Great Folklores of China" and the only one that has earned world acclaim. With a history of 1,460 years, the Butterfly Lovers is known by one and all in China. It's renowned as “the Peak of Classical Love Stories” and has been taken as the counterpart of Romeo and Juliet. In 2006 it was included into the list of National Intangible Cultural Heritage.
The Butterfly Lovers tells the tragic love story of Liang Shanbo (梁山伯) and Zhu Yingtai (祝英台). During the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317－420), in Shangyu, Shaoxing City (绍兴市上虞), there was a girl named Zhu Yingtai who was eager to go to school (in ancient China, there was an old saying: "Women without knowledge are virtuous." Decent girls were forbidden to go outside, let alone go to school.) Her father loved her very much. Knowing that he could not get her to drop the thought, he agreed to her request but only if she disguised herself as a boy. Finally, Zhu Yingtai got a chance to study in Wansong Academy in Hangzhou.
On her way to Hangzhou, Zhu Yingtai met Liang Shanbo who happened to go to Wansong Academy to study as well. Hence, they decided to travel together. On the journey, they really connected and had a good time together. Not knowing Zhu Yingtai was actually a girl, Liang Shanbao became sworn brothers with Zhu Yingtai.
After they spent three years in Wansong Academy studying, Zhu Yingtai had to end her study at her father’s request and return home. Before she left, she implied her love to Liang Shanbo by comparing them to a pair of mandarin ducks (a symbol of lovers in Chinese culture), but Liang Shanbo didn’t catch the hint. He still didn’t know the truth until he paid a visit to her family. Knowing the truth, Liang Shanbo asked her parents' permission to marry her but he was refused. By then Zhu Yingtai was engaged to another man under her parents' arrangement. Liang Shanbo was heartbroken and died of depression.
On Zhu Yingtai’s wedding day, when her wedding procession passed by Liang Shanbo's grave, there came a mysterious whirlwind preventing the wedding procession going further. Zhu Yingtai got off her sedan to pay her respects. Thinking of Liang Shanbo, she couldn’t restrain her grief and begged for the grave to open up so that she could join Liang Shanbo. Miraculously the grave opened and without hesitation she jumped into it. Then out of the grave flew a pair of butterflies that flew away happily together.
In Jiande, there is an ancient town that has experienced thousands of years of wind and rain. It has a beautiful name called Meicheng (Plum Blossom Town). Meicheng was the state town of the then Yanzhou and is now the county town of Jiande. It has a history of 1700 years.