Chinese Cultural Symbol: Butterfly
Chinese culture regards the butterfly as a symbol of immortality, and conjugal bliss. When seen with a chrysanthemum, it symbolizes beauty in old age; and if seen with a plum, it symbolizes long life.
Chinese also believe that butterfly is a symbol of grace and is associated with romanticism. Two butterflies flying together are a symbol of love. Butterfly is related to one of China's best known tragic yet beloved folk tales, The Butterfly Lovers or Liang Zhu. This legend is sometimes regarded as the Chinese equivalent to Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.
In Taoism the butterfly has come to represent Zhuangzi, a Taoist philosopher. Zhuangzi once had a dream of being a butterfly flying without care about humanity, however when he woke up and realised it was just a dream, he thought to himself "Was I before a man who dreamt about being a butterfly, or am I now a butterfly who dreams about being a man?" Hence the butterfly is emblem of joy. It is also a symbol of summer.
In Chinese culture, butterfly represents young love of a young heart. Happily flitting from flower to flower – it signifies a happy social life for the young and young- at-heart. Chinese legend has it that the butterfly symbolizes an undying bond between lovers. All romantics-at-heart would do well to place an image of a butterfly in their home.
As the most popular love story in China, the Butterfly Lovers tells the legend of two 4th century Chinese lovers who could not get married in their lifetime due to different family backgrounds and turned into a butterfly couple after their death. The story was also called "China's Romeo and Juliet".
The legeng is set in the Eastern Jin Dynasty (265-420). A young woman named Zhu, disguises herself as a man traveling to Hangzhou to study. During her journey, she meets Liang, a companion schoolmate. They study together for three years, during which their relationship strengthens.
When the two part ways, Zhu offers to arrange for Liang to marry her fictitious 16-year-old sister. When Liang reaches Zhu's home, he discovers her true gender. Although they were devoted and passionate about each other at that point, Zhu is already engaged to a man her parents had arranged for her to marry.
Depressed, Liang dies in office as a county magistrate. On the day Zhu is to be married, whirlwinds prevent the wedding procession from going beyond Liang's tomb. Zhu leaves the procession to pay her respects. Liang's tomb splits apart, and Zhu dives into it. A pair of butterflies emerges from the tomb and fly away.
A perfect gift for a new couple is this design embroidered on towels for the couple's home. Representative of the Yang and Yin energy, this symbol can energize you or a loved one – particularly when embroidered on clothing – it reminds us of the energy of love.
In addition, the butterfly is a symbol of long life because the second character in butterfly, die in hudie has exactly the same pronunciation as the character 耋 (pronounced as die in Chinese) which means “70 or 80 years of age”.
The butterfly is often conventionally depicted with great skill, and is a common decoration for embroidery and chinaware. A jade butterfly, celebrated as a symbol of love and the wedding of happy souls, is a traditional gift from a man to his fiancée.
Learn more about Jade & Chinese Symbolism:
Chinese Cultural Symbol: Dragon
Chinese Cultural Symbol: Phoenix
Chinese Cultural Symbol: Butterfly
Chinese Cultural Symbol: Fish
Chinese Cultural Symbol: Plum Blossom
Chinese Cultural Symbol: Bamboo
Chinese Cultural Symbol: Lotus