Tuesday, January 25, 2011
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.)