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TYMNHS: The Butterfly Lovers (Liang Zhu) (2004)

I was listening to 100 ways by Jackson Wang (which has a great music video), and it reminded me of an animation I had seen a few years ago. I will feature it in today’s Things You Might Not Have Seen blog post.

I had to search through my 100+ posts to make sure I hadn’t talked about it before… I haven’t! I guess it was one of those animations I had noted down in my notebook that got lost 💔 (I hope to find that list someday. Sigh.)

The animation I saw was based on a Chinese legend about a pair of lovers, Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai. The title of the animation was The Butterfly Lovers (2004).

You know the stories where the two lovers face many hurdles and challenges, and against all odds, finally get together, giving us a happily ever after ?

The Butterfly Lovers is not that story 😭💔

I didn’t know about the famous Chinese legend, so I was blindsided by the cute, feel-good beginning. I was fooled by the lovely, bright colors of the animation. So, be warned: This is a tragic love story. The likes of Romeo and Juliet, Titanic, and other heart-breaking tales.

The setting of the animation is during the Jin Dynasty. It was when girls weren’t traditionally given the same opportunities for education as boys. We see our fiesty, smart, beautiful heroine Zhu dress up as a boy, and with her father’s permission, she goes to school.

During her journey, she meets our clueless hero, Liang Shanbo, a scholar from Kuaiji. They become fast friends, even taking an oath of fraternity in the pavilion of a wooden bridge. They are both competitive learners, and play to each other’s strengths. Over the next few years in school, Zhu falls in love with Liang. He remains clueless to who she is.

When Zhu receives a letter from her father to return home, she has no choice but to go back. She is madly in love with Liang, and already vows to be with him forever, even if she doesn’t reveal her secret. She tries to give him hints, but Liang still doesn’t know.

Before leaving, she reveals her true identity to the headmaster’s wife and asks her to pass a jade pendant to Liang as a betrothal gift. This conversation is overheard by the villian of the story, who started out as a silly entitled rich bully, but later turns to be a greater threat to the young lovers 😢

Liang accompanies Zhu for miles to see her off. During the journey, Zhu hints to Liang but he does not even have the slightest suspicion that his ‘brother’ is a woman in disguise. Zhu finally comes up with an idea and tells Liang that she will act as a matchmaker for him and Zhu’s “sister”. Liang and Zhu reluctantly part ways at the Changting pavilion.

Months later, when Liang visits Zhu, he discovers her true identity. They profess their love and make a vow to be together forever. Tragedy ensues as Zhu’s parents arranged for her to marry a wealthy merchant, Ma Wencai (the entitled bully). Liang is heartbroken. He tries to see Zhu before her wedding night, but is beaten up by Ma Wencai’s goons. He dies of both his injuries, and to a greater extent, his broken heart 💔

On the day of Zhu’s marriage, strong winds stops the wedding procession from moving beyond Liang’s grave, which lies along the journey. Zhu leaves the procession to pay her respects at Liang’s grave. She descends in bitter despair and begs for the grave to open up. Suddenly, the grave opens with a clap of thunder. Without further hesitation, Zhu throws herself into the grave to join Liang. Their spirits emerge in the form of a pair of butterflies and fly away together, never to be separated again.

The light-hearted, pretty palettes of the animation switched to sombre grays and blues hues in the middle of the story. That should have clued me to the upcoming turn of events, but no, I didn’t expect that ending. 😭

The trailer captures the shift perfectly. You can watch it below:

I really want to write a tragic love story too. Many of my books have tragic elements, but I don’t know if I have the heart or courage for a completely sad ending. I will have to think about this.

I hope that you enjoyed today’s blog. Thank you for reading!

Take care 😊


Published by Aisha Urooj

I live in Toronto, Ontario. I love living in my multicultural city. My hobbies include writing, reading, painting and photography. I adore classic books and hope to someday emulate the books that I love and cherish. I have a newsletter you can join at Hope to see you there! 😊

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