"Leaving this life, the lovers become butterflies and fly into eternity together."
Many years ago in China, there was a wealthy girl named Yingtai. Although she had been tutored in all of the Chinese fine arts, she yearned to be trained as a scholar. Unfortunately, at the time it was impossible for Chinese girls to receive formal education. She pleaded with her father to send her to school, but he refused because she was not a boy. Mad at her father, Yingtai feigned sickness and her family sent for a doctor. When the doctor arrived, he was a very young man. He prescribed an impossible mix of ingredients to treat Yingtai’s illness, and when her father was surprised, the doctor revealed himself to be Yingtain in disguise. Impressed with her ability to disguise herself, her father allowed her to attend school.
On her way to the boarding school, she ran into another student who was on the way to his studies. His name was Shanbo, and the two became very close friends. Once they got to school, they both studied hard and lived together, but Yingtai managed to keep her gender secret.
One day, Yingtai received a message from home that her mother was sick. As Yingtai and Shanbo were sworn brothers, Shanbo offered to walk home with Yingtai, but only after Yingtai had told a teacher’s wife that she was in fact female. Along the way to Yingtai’s house, they spoke impromptu poems to each other and eventually Yingtai offered “his” younger twin sister’s hand in marriage. They parted.
Back at school, the teacher’s wife told Shanbo that Yingtai was female and he quickly excused himself from school, deciding that he would propose to his best friend. Unfortunately, at Yingtai’s home, she had found out that her mother was not sick but rather her father had lied to get her to come home. Whilst she was at school, her parents had promised her in marriage to another man. When she expressed her interest in Shanbo, her father told her that she was not going to marry a poor scholar but rather the wealthy son of a powerful magistrate.
By the time Shanbo got to Yingtai’s house, Yingtai had already been told that she was not to marry him. Shanbo reminded her of her promise to marry him but both knew there was nothing that could be done. Resigned, they accepted their fate and promised each other that they would meet in the next life and be husband and wife in heaven.
When Shanbo went back to his home, his health quickly failed and soon he was on his deathbed. Although he requested that Yingtai come to his side, her father refused and Shanbo died. Yingtai learned of his death when she was preparing for her wedding to the magistrate’s son Wencai and everyone was surprised that she did not express disdain or sadness at her love’s death. Calmly, she requested that her wedding procession go by his grave.
As the procession passed the gravesite, Yingtai alighted her wedding sedan and went to Shanbo’s grave to grieve. The gods took pity on her and soon there was a loud crash of thunder and the dust rose around Shanbo’s grave. When the dust settled, Yingtai was gone and there was a crack in the grave. As the wedding revellers watched, two beautiful butterflies, the reunited lovers, flew joyously from the ground and away into the sky.
Background : wood board covered in quilt batting and wrapped in muslin; gold waves made of gold tulle; dots on bottom are golden beads.
Butterflies : base of black card stock for the wings with sandpaper-print paper and gold vellum for the yellow parts and ivory vellum for the circles; bodies made of black and white beads with antennae made of black craft wire; wings held at angle by wedges of floral foam.
Calligraphy : white calligraphy paper with black sumi-e ink written with a number three calligraphy brush; cemented to gold vellum.
Time: approx. 12 hours.