Verona and Ningbo
Since 2006 Verona has been twinned with the Chinese city of Ningbo. They share tragic and beautiful love stories that have made the two cities famous, Romeo and Juliet and the "butterfly lovers": Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai.
To seal the twinning there was the traditional exchange of gifts: a replica of the bronze statue of Juliet and one in marble of the protagonists of the Chinese story. The statue of the two lovers in the moment transformation into butterflies is placed at the entrance of Juliet's tomb that Juliet's tomb that we visit during our tours of Shakespeare's Verona.
The story of the butterfly lovers
The story of Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai is among the most famous legends of Chinese popular culture, the plot of numerous films, illustrations, plays, ballets, just like Romeo and Juliet.
The story of the "Butterfly Lovers" is also one of the most popular themes in Chinese opera.
The story is set during the Jin Dynasty in the fifth century. It tells of Liang Shanbo, a poor student, and a maiden of noble birth, Zhu Yingtai. The girl is a lover of study and knowledge and wants to attend school, which is then reserved for boys. She decides to disguise herself as a man and enroll in classes. There she meets Liang Shanbo, a young scholar of humble origins. She soon falls in love, but he, convinced that she is a man, feels a strong affection and friendship.
Zhu is called back home by her family. Before leaving Liang asks him to visit her home as soon as possible. She says he wants to introduce his sister to him to arrange a marriage.
A few months later Liang goes to visit Zhu. There the girl finally reveals to him that she is a woman. After a moment of bewilderment, Liang also realizes that he loves her and the two promise each other to stay together forever.
Their great love, however, clashes with the Zhu Yingtai family who oppose the union. Her father has already arranged her marriage to a wealthy merchant.
Liang Shanbo, overwhelmed by despair, falls ill and dies.
Zhu is on her way down the river to the groom's house that her father has decided on for her. A sudden storm prevents the procession from continuing. Zhu discovers that Liang's tomb is right there and go to see it. Desperate, she prays that the tomb can be opened. A sudden bolt of lightning comes down from the sky and smashes the tombstone. Without a moment's thought she jumps in. In the meantime she has been joined by family members and the rest of the procession. They all look inside the tomb, but it is empty. Only two butterflies come out and fly happily together into the air.
1600 years later, in memory of the two young lovers, the Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai Cultural Park was built at the site where Liang Shanbo's tomb is believed to have been. Folk tradition says that couples who want to stay together until old age should visit the park.
At the heart of the park, a white stone statue represents the moment of the two lovers' transformation into butterflies.
Ningbo is located in Zhejiang province in southeastern China. It was the cradle of the Hemudu culture dating back 7 thousand years. From the Tang and Song eras it was an important port for foreign trade. It was in fact the starting point of the silk and porcelain routes that connected Asia with Europe. Like Verona, it is also a famous tourist destination thanks to the artifacts of the Hemudu culture, the Tianyige Library, the second largest private library in the world, the Tiantong Temple (fourth century), and the Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai Cultural Park.
The statues exchange
As part of the twinning between Verona and Ningbo, an exchange of the two main city symbols linked to their respective legends took place. The city of Verona donated a copy of the bronze statue of Juliet and Ningbo did the same with a copy of the statue of the Cultural Park. The beautiful and evocative work was placed right in front of the entrance to Juliet's Tomb.
The statue of Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai can be admired along with the places linked to the legend of Romeo and Juliet during a tourist itinerary created ad hoc by Verona's guides. It is possible to visit the Shakespearean sites in Verona with a specially organized tourist tour that takes in the historical and literary references. A tour guide will accompany you, explaining the stories and legends of the city. For any questions or more detailed information on guided tours and Shakespearean itineraries in Verona, please contact us.