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eTeacherChinese Official Newsletter
Issue #76 - 12/11
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Xu Ying

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Chinese Traditional Love Legends

Chinese Traditional Love Legends In Chinese, along thousands of years of history, are spread many touching love legends. Here are some of the most renowned ones. Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai (Butterfly Lovers) The Butterfly Lovers is a Chinese legend about the tragic romance between two lovers, Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai, or Liang Zhu, from whom the name of the legend is widely known in Chinese people. The legend is often regarded as the Chinese equivalent to Romeo and Juliet.

Butterfly LoversIt was in the feudal China hundreds of years ago, when love as among young people was considered to be devious from the norm of the society. A young woman named Zhu Yingtai from Shangyu, Zhejiang Province, disguised herself as a man travelling to Hangzhou to study. During her journey, she met and joined Liang Shanbo, a companion schoolmate from Kuaiji, now known as Shaoxing in the same province. They studied together for three years, during which their relationship was strengthened. However, Liang never guessed Zhu’s true identity; he only found out that she was a girl when both met again in Zhu’s hometown, while she was dressed in female clothing. Although they were devoted and passionate about each other at that time, Zhu was already engaged with Ma Wencai, a man her parents had arranged for her to be married. Depressed, Liang died in as a county magistrate. On the day Zhu was to be married to Ma, whirlwinds prevented the wedding procession from escorting Zhu beyond Liang’s tomb. Zhu left the procession to pay her respects to Liang. Liang’s tomb split apart, and Zhu dived into it to join him. A pair of butterflies emerged from the tomb and flew away.

Music and theatrical renditions of the story are popular among the Chinese.

Meng Jiangnu and Fan Xiliang (Meng jiangnu cry the Great Wall)

Meng Jiangnu and Fan XiliangThis story happened during the Qin Dynasty (221BC-206BC). An old man named Meng sowed a seed of bottle gourd in his yard. Bit by bit, the bottle gourd grew up and its vines climbed over the wall and entered his neighbor Jiang’s yard, and out came a beautiful bottle gourd in autumn. Amazingly, when they cut the gourd a pretty and lovely girl was lying inside! They felt happy to have a child and both loved her very much, and named the girl Meng Jiangnu, which means Meng and Jiang’s daughter.

As time flies, Meng Jiangnu grew up as a beautiful, smart and industrious woman. She took care of old Meng and Jiang’s families filially, and villagers all liked the good girl a lot. One day while playing in the yard, Meng Jiangnu found a young man hiding in the garden. She called out to her parents, and the young man came out. It turned out that the young man Fan Qiliang was evading officials from building the Great Wall. Meng and Jiang liked this good-looking, honest, and good-mannered young man. They decided to wed their daughter to him. Both Fan Qiliang and Meng Jiangnu accepted happily, and the couple was married shortly. However, three days after their marriage, officials suddenly broke in and took Fan Qiliang away to build the Great Wall in the north of China.

It was a hard time for Meng Jiangnu after her husband the Great Wallwas taken away – she missed her husband and cried nearly every day. She sewed warm clothes for her husband and set out on long journey to visit her husband. Day and night she climbed over mountains and went through the rivers, slipping and falling many times, but finally she reached the foot of the Great Wall at the present Shanhaiguan Pass.

However, bad news came to her, unfortunately, that Fan Qiliang had already died of exhaustion and was buried into the Great Wall. Meng Jiangnu could not help crying. She sat on the ground and sorely wept for three days. Suddenly with a tremendous noise, a 400 kilometer-long (248-mile) section of the Great Wall collapsed over her bitter wail. The workmen and supervisors were astonished. Emperor Qin Shihuang happened to be touring the wall at that exact time, and he was enraged and ready to punish the woman. When the guards were trying to catch her, she suddenly turned around and jumped into the nearby Bohai Sea.

Meng Jiangnu’s story has been passed down from generation to generation. In memory of Meng Jiangnu, later generations built a temple, called the Jiangnu Temple, at the foot of the Great Wall in which a statue of Meng Jiangnu is located.

Legend of White Snake

Legend of White SnakeThis is a love story about a man and a white snake. The first short tale was found during the Tang Dynasty (AD 618). That was a cautionary, vigilant and tragic story of a man in love with a lady in white. The scenes of the West Lake and the Thunder Pagoda were added and the central theme was established during the Song Dynasty (AD 960). The entire story was completed during the Ming Dynasty (AD 1368). It was rewritten to beautify characters in some episodes in Qing Dynasty (AD 1644).

Today we find that the stories are somewhat different depending on which source has been used, because of rewriting. The complete story should have at least 16 episodes. The following is the shortest abstract of the story.

Once upon a time, a white snake and a green snake that had magical powers were in the Mountain Er-Mei and had transformed into two beautiful young ladies, one white, one green. They met a man named Hsu Sheng at the West Lake of Hang Zhou city. The white snake fell in love with Hus Sheng at first sight. They got married soon after.

The Lady White helped her husband to open a herbal medicine store and helped with writing the prescriptions. Patients unable to pay were given free treatment and medicine. The store quickly became well known and popular. One day a monk called Fa Hai saw the couple and warned Hsu Sheng that his wife was a white snake.

It was during the Dragon Boat Festival, When Chinese families like to decorate with calamus and Chinese mugwort the house and drink realgar wine to drive away spirits. This was dangerous to Lady White and Lady Green, since they were spirits after all. Lady White was pregnant at that time and her magical power had weakened a lot. She tried to drink wine to please her husband. Unfortunately, she couldn’t control herself and turned into her snake body in her bedroom. Hsu Sheng saw the white snake and was literally scared to death.

In order to save her husband’s life, Lady White went to steal the resurrection plant on the Kunlun Mountain. She failed. But her true love won the resurrection plant and the life of Hsu Sheng was restored.

Hsu Sheng remembered Fa Hai and went to the Golden Mountain Temple to see him. Fa Hai suggested to Hsu Sheng become a monk to forget his wife. Fa Hai could take care of the spirits. Lady White asked a great army of underwater creatures for help and brought forth a flood over the Golden Mountain Temple to fight with Fa Hai. Fa Hai had the magical power too and asked the heavenly soldiers to save his temple. Since the Lady White was pregnant, she was too weak to fight harder, thus gave up the battle and waited for the time after giving birth.

Hsu Sheng went to see his son and brought with him a magical hat from Fa Hai for his son. The magical hat captured the White Snake. Fa Hai imprisoned the White Snake inside the Thunder Pagoda. The Green Snake was unable to fight Fa Hai alone, escaped and practiced her magical power even harder. After the son of Lady White grew up, she took revenge by destroying the Thunder Pagoda and rescued White Snake. White Snake was reunited with her husband and her son. The story ended here.

Since the story is so popular, it was turned into Chinese operas, movies, novels, comics, cartoons and even PC games. The beginning and the ending portions have been adapted for various versions.

 
 
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