This gorgeous music was composed in 1959 by Chen Gang and He Zhanhao. It did not become well known in the west until after the Cultural Revolution in China. The music illustrates the famous ancient Chinese legend of the lovers Zhu Yingtai (respresented by the solo violin) and Liang Shanbo (rewsprestned by the solo cello).
The following version of the story is taken from “Dimdima Kids” website: http://dimdima.com/khazana/stories/show_globalstories.asp?q_id=292&q_title=Butterfly+Lovers&q_country=China
Long ago in China, at a time when girls were expected to stay at home and learn household work while the boys went to school, a girl named Zhu conceived a desire to study.
Her family was wealthy and Zhu was pampered but her father did not want to go against tradition. When she pestered him he told her if she got admission into a school he would not stop her from studying. He was confident that no school would admit a girl.
But Zhu was resourceful. She disguised herself as a boy and managed to get admission into a school in the city of Hangzhou, where her aunt lived.
Every morning she would put on her disguise and go to school.
There was a boy named Liang in her class. The two were drawn to each other, and in course of time became good friends. As the months and the years passed they became inseparable companions, and Zhu realised that she was in love.
She wanted to stay with Liang the rest of her life. She thought of a plan. She told Liang that when they finished school, and he had got a job he should come to her house and ask her father for her sister’s hand. Liang readily agreed. He too did not want to lose Zhu. If he married her sister they could continue to meet.
After finishing school, Liang lost no time in taking up a job, and when he had saved enough to get married he hastened to Zhu’s house. Zhu saw him coming, and was overjoyed. It was a year since they had parted and she had missed him terribly. Unable to restrain herself she rushed out shouting, “ I’m your friend, as you can see I’m a girl, I cannot live without you!”
Liang was dazed by the revelation, but soon recovered and caught Zhu in a warm embrace. Suddenly everything had fallen into place. Now he knew why he had felt such a strong love for Zhu.
Zhu took him to her father who listened attentively to what Liang had to say, but when the young man asked for Zhu’s hand, he shook his head. He told Liang that Zhu had already been promised to another man, a wealthy merchant. Nothing that Liang said could make Zhu’s father change his mind.
Liang left, shattered. He felt frighteningly alone. The thought that he would never see Zhu again filled him with pain. On the way, he collapsed and died.
When Zhu learnt of Liang’s death she lost all desire to continue living. She pretended to agree to the marriage arranged for her on condition that the wedding procession passed by Liang’s grave.
As the wedding procession neared the cemetery the wind began to howl and the sky grew dark. Zhu jumped down from her palanquin and rushing to Liang’s grave threw herself on it, sobbing uncontrollably. A peal of thunder suddenly rent the air. The next moment, a bolt of lightning hit the grave, breaking it open. Zhu leapt into it.
The storm subsided as quickly as it had started. When Zhu’s relatives reached the grave and peered into it, all they saw at first was an empty coffin. Then out flew two butterflies, dancing as if they could not believe they were together.
And as the people standing around the grave watched in fascination and bewilderment the two lovely butterflies flew out of sight.