Butterfly Lovers Storyteller

Made by Tian Zhao

A physical representation of the traditional Chinese music story, The Butterfly Lovers (Liangzhu).

Created: October 17th, 2016



The Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto is a narration of a tragic Chinese love story of a pair of lovers, Liang and Zhu. The couple felt their strong affinity for each other at first sight, but they could not be together as Zhu’s parents have arranged a marriage for her. Liang was so heartbroken that his health deteriorated and died soon. Zhu was desperate and threw herself into the grave of Liang. The spirits of the couple became a pair of butterflies and they flew away together. The audio is narrative, smooth yet heartbroken.

(I used the concerto as the background music of the video below.)

Butterfly Lovers (Liangzhu) Physical Media
Tian Zhao - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JE3lWalXt6M


The final product is a rotatable decorated storyteller. Four sides of the cuboid together consecutively form the story, and I used a wheel bearing to make the cuboid rotatable. The audience can control the flow of the story, and enjoy their own understanding of the narration by turning the cuboid. I also made two paper butterflies and fixed them to the axle with wires. The butterflies are the symbols of the couple’s eternal, romantic love.



Since the music was composed based on this beautiful story, I decided to make my product a “storyteller.” I was inspired by the running-horse lamp, a traditional Chinese art work that looks like merry-go-round (see below), so I selected representative pictures of the story (to save time, I got all the images from the Internet), and arranged them by time sequence so the audience can feel the story-telling nature of the audio.

I also tried to present the romantic theme of the music by creating a pair of butterflies. No matter how you rotate the cuboid, the butterflies will always dance in front of the picture, as the music emphasizes the eternal love between the two.



I think I captured the contents and aesthetics of the audio quite well, and I believe that any one who has heard of the story will recognize the original sound. By turning digital media into physical art installation, I realized that the process of digital remix and that of physical remix are so different from each other. I think creating physical work is more difficult, and requires more interactive elements. I would try to work on the details of the product if I have got enough time, since I just quickly put up the pieces and there are many flaws in this product.

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A physical representation of the traditional Chinese music story, The Butterfly Lovers (Liangzhu).