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The Butterfly Lovers

The Legend of Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai; Four Versions with Related Texts

The Butterfly Lovers by Wilt L. Idema
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The late-imperial legend of Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai, the "Butterfly Lovers"—a story as central to Chinese culture as Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet is to Western culture—also relates a tale of two lovers held apart by social strictures. To audiences of the many Chinese ballads, plays, and films based on the story, the tragic ending offers proof that equality and happiness can only be achieved in a China freed from the traditional family system.

This volume offers translations of the earliest versions of the popular ballad along with later literary reinventions of the tale; a variety of related documents reveal the historical and cultural origins of the legend. In his Introduction, Wilt L. Idema provides essential contextual information and discusses how the story of the Butterfly Lovers fits into modern Chinese concepts of gender roles and sexual freedom.

"Idema's scholarship . . . [and his] ability to translate popular texts into comparably idiomatic English are outstanding achievements."
—Hugh R. Clark, Ursinus College

Wilt L. Idema is Professor of Chinese Literature, Harvard University.

Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.; April 2010
258 pages; ISBN 9781603842976
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Title: The Butterfly Lovers
Author: Wilt L. Idema