Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Liang Zhu

The red sedan swayed in hurried rhythms that told her the carriers were rushing. Unlike the usual wedding procession that was always led by musicians playing loudly with their suonas, this one was silenced by an unfortunate taboo.
They were headed to a graveyard.

Yingtai had barricaded herself in her room since the procession arrived this morning. If she had to marry someone she didn't know, with the only reason being he was from a rich family, then she would pay her respect to the man she had befriended, liked, then loved, for two years.

The bridegroom finally caved in, as the sun was tilting unmercifully toward the west.

Two years earlier, she had begged her father, who normally gave in to her pleading, to allow her to leave home and attend school. She was dissatisfied with home schooling, but boarding schools were for boys only. It was unheard of for a girl to leave home, disguise as a boy, and live among boys for such a long time. Sure, her maid Yinxin went with her as well, dressed as a young servant of hers, but the family's reputation would be greatly damaged if anybody ever learned a word about her endeavor.

Too much education would only do a girl harm—people believed. Perhaps there were plausible reasons for that…

This time, though, her tears could not change her father's mind. In fact, he lost his temper entirely when his daughter told him she had fallen in love with her classmate, and thus made the pre-determined wedding take on a sense of urgency. An educated daughter wouldn't hurt her chance of marrying well too much, but a daughter enamored another man? That was scandalous. He had to put his feet down.

Unlike her future husband, Shanbuo was poor. His family barely scraped enough to send him to school. He would probably be a teacher for some prosperous family. She didn't care. Everyday was filled with happiness when she was with him. She couldn't fathom life without him. They were best friends for two years, until the day before she left, urged by a letter from her father. That was when she finally told him what she really was. He was shocked, then realized why she was so different from all the other boys. He fell in love when she put her hair down, and behaved, for the first time, like a girl. They talked until day break.

He promised to send the matchmaker to her house as soon as possible. She arrived home only to find the matchmaker had been there, but was promptly turned down, for her father already selected a husband for her. She was broken by the news, but she died when the news of Shanbuo passed away three months later from a broken heart. That was when the world lost meaning to her.

Now the sedan stopped. Yinxin open the covering drape with a sad expression. Yingtai removed the jade bracelet from her wrist and put it in Yinxin's hand:

“You and I grew up together. We are like sisters. Take this as a present from me. My future mother-in-law may not want to keep you, so I want to give this to you now.”

“Young Miss, I can't take this.” Yinxin was alarmed. There were no tears on her young mistress' eyes as she had expected.

“Please accept it as a wedding present from me.” She insisted, then looked out. The procession stopped by a field that was filled with messy graves. She removed her red wedding dress to reveal the white mourning dress under it. Her red headdress was removed soon after the procession started its journey.

She found Shanbuo's grave with Yinxin's help. The faithful little maid had been the conduit between the young couple until the day he died.

She turned her face to the sky. No gods or fairris could save them. She had cried all the tears in the world and the world did not care, nor did it stop. She put down the flowers, fruits and incense, then she left the letter for her father behind the flowers. She begged him, for the last time, to forgive her. He didn't know what he did was killing her. How could he know?

She turned to look at Yinxin and smiled, then, with all the strength she had, crushed her head on the tombstone.

Yinxin's scream was dampened by the thunders from above. A butterfly seemed to come out from the grave. It fluttered closer and closer, then from Yingtai's lifeless body came another butterfly. Together they flew away. Together, they were forever to be. 

(Liang Shanbuo and Zhu Yingtai were buried together, and a temple of Shanbuo was built in year 347. The legend is often referred to as The Butterfly Lovers.)


  1. You tell this tragic story so beautifully, Sarah. Every detail is worded so that I feel like I'm there. I'm heartbroken myself. I think this is one of your very best pieces.

  2. A good story, but I would like you to try for at least some happy endings. What do you think?

  3. Robyn - Thank you so much, my friend. I hope all is well in Paradise!

  4. Bruce - Aw shucks. I had a whole slew of sad folklore lined up. Guess I have to be inventive now.

  5. Sarah, when I grow up, I want to write just like you!!!

  6. Judie - thanks for that incredible compliment!

  7. I held my breath, I shed a tear. Bravo!

  8. I loved this piece. The opening paragraph, where you get the sense of a journey, is written wonderfully.

  9. I just found your blog today, and I'm so glad I did! your writing is beautiful, and tells the sad story so well in so few words! I hope I can learn to write as well as you do!

  10. Melissa - Thank you!

    Debbie - Thanks for the visit and comment.

    M. - Welcome to my blog. I tried to leave a comment on your blog but for some reason it didn't work.

  11. So many people thanked me for my lame prompt that I think I must be a glutton for punishment for liking Jenny's last few prompts!

    Remember in Out of Africa how Karen kept her visitors spellbound with the wonderful stories she told? Well, I think about her every time I come to your blog.

  12. Thanks a lot for the thought to read my blog too Sarah :D And thanks for letting me know - maybe that's why I never get any comments :P

    Hopefully it's fixed now :D no idea what's wrong still though, it should all be enabled and working fine

  13. Hey, thanks for the comment on my post. If you have a few minutes one day (hahahahahaha!!), how about updating me on what's going on with you AND your mom.

  14. Sarah, I did get your message. Sorry to be so late in responding. My responsibilities to the Guild took quite a bit of my time this last week.

    The original of the large-mouth bass was done as a logo for a man who made a major lifestyle change to a professional bass fisherman. Last I heard, he went back to his old job!! I can sell you a framed print of that piece for around $75 plus shipping and handling. The oil painting is currently on display at the Sheraton here, and will be there until April. The cost is $450 plus shippng and handling. The image size on that piece is 16x20.
    Now are you going to tell me how things are going with you and your mom???

  15. Hye. I wrote my post this morning on the fly. You are right. It happens more often that you could ever imagine. Not to me, though!!

  16. I have goosebumps after reading this. Great job, Sarah. I love when you write about your culture. Beautiful.

  17. Marla - thanks for the visit!



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