by Tim Kavi
In my poetry, the image and symbol of the butterfly, and its predecessor, the chrysalis (or cocoon) is a recurrent theme. To me, as a Westerner, these symbols often personalize personal development, change, and metamorphosis. Butterflies are also seen as beautiful winged creatures. To me, many times, the symbol of the butterfly is a flight to freedom and a discovery of our beautiful natures. In any regard, let me simply say that the winged flight of a butterfly is a symbol of a flight to freedom. Perhaps it is the freedom to be what we always wanted to be, and is therefore a flight to acceptance and being.
In the case of a pair of butterflies, perhaps we have the acceptance of this freedom to be with another, but there are other ways to view this beautiful symbolism of butterflies together and to accept the flight of butterfly lovers.
In the ancient Chinese legend of Liang Zhu which has also been called the 'Oriental Romeo and Juliet', we have a remarkable Chinese folktale from the Jin Dynasty which was about 1600 years ago. This legend which most school kids learn about in China, has birthed a number of inspirational works including, operas,
concertos, literature, and art.
The story goes like this. In order to pursue her studies, Zhu Yongtai disguised herself as a man. Over the next three years of study, she fell in love with her fellow student, Liang Shanbo. The legend has it that she admired his intellectual capabilities. During this time, and up until it was time to leave the school, she kept dropping hints to him, but he missed their meaning. Later, after realizing Zhu Yongtai's intentions, he went speedily to her family to propose marriage. Unfortunately, her father had already betrothed her to another man, which was a grave disappointment to Shanbo. He became sickly, and after several incidents of illness, he died. Later, on the day of her wedding, Zhu Yongtai was riding in her processional cart (some accounts say boat), and she decided to pay a memorial to Shanbo at his tomb. It was very windy and there were thunderstorms. The storms caused the tomb to open up. Yongtai then lept into the tomb to be with her lover. Later, they transformed into a pair of beautifully colored butterflies, and flew out of the tomb wing to wing together, and headed towards a rainbowed sky.
A beautiful and touching story. The Legend of Liang Zhu is another example of beautiful transformation, acceptance, and becoming transfigured beings--in this case the jump and flight into a true love across a rainbow draped sky.~~TK