The Butterfly Lovers
January 24, 2011 12:39 PM   Subscribe

Star-crossed lovers are of course a trope as old as storytelling itself, but Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai, the Butterfly Lovers of Chinese mythology may be new to many. Also encompassing tropes such as Sweet Polly Oliver, the legend tells of the tragic love between two students in the Jin dynasty, one a girl disguised as a boy so she could attend school.

Often called the Chinese Romeo and Juliet (despite predating Shakespeare by hundreds of years), the story of Liang Zhu has been adapted into many forms, including TV series and an English stage play. But the most famous adaptation is also the most well known Chinese musical work in the West, The Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto. Written by two students at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music in 1959, the work blends Western and Chinese musical influences.

As performed by Lu Siqing:
Part 1: Meeting and blossoming of love.
Part 2: Separation and death.
Part 3: Transformation into butterflies.

Li Chuan Yun with traditional instruments orchestra: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

Partial recording by Vanessa Mae.
posted by kmz (5 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Hopefully I haven't buried the lead too much, but I've always loved the concerto. And it doesn't have the nationalistic overtones of almost all other music produced by the mainland. (Seriously... when I was growing up I remember childhood songs with lyrics all about how great the Party was. Including one that went something like "my mother only gave birth to me, the Party raised me.")
posted by kmz at 12:48 PM on January 24, 2011

All I can think of when I look at any of this FPP is, "Yentl"?
posted by hippybear at 2:15 PM on January 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

There goes my evening....
Thanks, this is great.
posted by nimsey lou at 5:30 PM on January 24, 2011

Shakespeare is best appreciated in its original Klingon...
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:27 PM on January 24, 2011

Great post!

Also: lovers + stars + Chinese = Niulang and Zhinv, two lovers forever hanging in the sky as the stars Altair and Vega, seperated by the Milky Way except once a year when all the magpies of the world fly to the heavens to form a bridge over the star Deneb so they can be lovers for a night.

Different kind of star-crossed, but equally cool.
posted by mahershalal at 12:51 AM on January 25, 2011

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