A statue of Lu You (Right) and a relief image of Tang Wan (Left). (Chinapic.people.com.cn)
Edited and translated by Du Mingming, People's Daily Online
Located in Shaoxing city, a water town in China's Zhejiang Province, Shenyuan Garden (also Shen's Garden) is the only existing Song Dynasty style garden in the city. Unlike other Chinese gardens in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province which are appreciated for their architecture, Shenyuan Garden in Shaoxing is famous for an 800-year-old love story about a famous poet Lu You and his wife Tang Wan in Song Dynasty.
Lu You grew up with Tang Wan, who was quiet but loved literature. They fell deeply in love and were married when he was 20. But they had no children, and his mother did not like Tang Wan. Though they had lived happily together, his mother forced them to divorce. In traditional Chinese culture, children were required to obey their parents. Lu You loved his mother and reluctantly divorced Tang Wan. She later married a nobleman named Zhao Shicheng, and Lu You married a woman from the Wang clan (her personal name eludes most researchers).
Lu You was sad after his first marriage broke up. Although they had both remarried, their love for each other was never extinguished. Shenyuan Garden was the special spot where the two star-crossed lovers reencountered many years after separation. So close and yet so far apart from the love of Tang Wan, the heartbroken Lu You unleashed his anguish and sorrow into a poem which he wrote on a stone wall in Shenyuan Garden. When Tang Wang saw her ex-husband's poem, she was overcome by despair and fell ill. Shortly before her death, she wrote a poem in the same form in response.