Tales of Love from China

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There are many differences between the cultures of the world. However, love is felt in the same way by everyone. Some Chinese love stories are creative tales that describe, for better or for worse, the devotion of one person to another. That is why Chinese love stories are both timeless and beautiful to people across the world. There are a number of popular tales, eight of which are accounted for below.

The Butterfly Lovers

It is unknown who wrote the story and when, but the story of the Butterfly Lovers, Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai, has been passed down for generations. It takes place during the Jin Dynasty. Zhu dresses up as a boy to attend school and befriends Liang Shanbo. She falls in love with him, but cannot reveal her true identity. Liang eventually figures out that Zhu is a woman, and falls in love with her, but by this time Zhu is engaged to a rich man. Liang dies of depression and later Zhu is struck down by lightning as she weeps over Liang’s grave. The story is often considered the Chinese equivalent of William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet.

  • Legend of the Butterfly Lovers (PDF): A retelling of the story of the Butterfly Lovers, including some visuals to go along with the tale.
  • The Story of Liangshan Bo and Zhu Yingtai (Butterfly Lovers): The story of the Butterfly lovers is based on this legend.
  • The Butterfly Lovers (PDF): Text for the story, adapted for children.

Swan Song of Beauty

Swan Song of Beauty tells the tale of Du Shiniang, a prostitute who falls in love with a man named Li Jia. After Li’s parents find out about his lover, they cut off his inheritance. Li swears his loyalty to Du Shiniang, but ends up selling her to a richer man. Du Shiniang then reveals that she had had a considerable amount of money the whole time and drowns herself.

  • Du Shiniang: A retelling of the Swan Song of Beauty.
  • Swan Song of Beauty: This page offers a summary of the story of Du Shiniang, along with a few other Chinese Love Stories.

The Cowherd and Weaving Maid

This story accounts for the love between a fairy girl, Zhinu, and a commoner, Niulang. They are represented by two constellations in the night sky. The story has sparked a notion for the Qi Xi festival, the Chinese version of Valentine’s Day. The original Qi Xi festival was held during the Han Dynasty, which fell in the year 220. Therefore, it is safe to assume the story is around 2000 years old.

Lady White Snake

Lady White Snake is the story of a cursed woman who accidentally kills her husband. She brings him back to life, but the man learns that she was responsible for his death in the first place. The origin of the story is unknown, but it is thought to have been first fictionalized during the Ming Dynasty. It has gone on to become one of the most famous Chinese operas, Madame White Snake.

The Legend of Meng Jiang Nu

This ancient Chinese legend accounts for a young woman whose husband was taken away to build the Great Wall. After not hearing from her husband for a year, she sets out to find him, only to discover that he has died. She weeps beside the Great Wall for days and finds her husband’s remains. The Emperor takes a liking to the young woman, but she kills herself.

  • Meng Jiang Nu’s Bitter Weeping: Text for the story and some historical background.
  • Meng Jiang Nu (PDF): Scroll to page 8 for an excellent summary of the story.

Ren Mian Tao Hua (A Charming Face Among Peach Blossoms)

This award-winning novel was written by Ge Fei in 2004. It tells the tale of Cui Hu, a young nobleman, who wanders to a village and meets a beautiful girl. He was too nervous to talk to her then, so he returned to his home. He finally worked up the courage one year later and returned to the village. Unfortunately, by this time, the girl had married and moved away.

  • Ren Mian Tao Hua: This page (translated into both Chinese and English) retells the story of Ren Mian Tao Hua.
  • Ge Fei: More information about the author of the story.

Po Jing Chong Yuan (A Broken Mirror Made Whole Again)

This story was written by Meng Qi during the Tang Dynasty. It tells of Princess Lechang, a young woman stolen from her husband and made into a concubine for Minister Yang Su. Both her and her husband had held onto broken pieces of a mirror, and each year they would try to sell them at the Chinese Lantern Festival for a high price. After three years, the princess’s maid finally encountered the husband. A dinner was arranged and Yang was so touched by the couple that he gave Princess Lechang back so she could live out her years with the man she truly loved.

Song of Everlasting Sorrow

The Song of Everlasting Sorrow is actually a more recent Chinese love story. It was written in 1995 by Wang Anyi and tells the story of a girl named Wang Qiyao. The story takes place in Shanghai during the late 1940s, when the Communist Party was rising to power in China. The Song of Everlasting Sorrow was so popular that it was translated to English.