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Home History and Culture The Legend of Lady White Snake

The Legend of Lady White Snake


lady white snake
The Book of Lady White Snake

The West Lake Scenic Area as one representative of Chinese Culture Centers, and for thousands of years, it has been enchanting for one touching love story, The Legend of The White Snake(白蛇传, or named Xu Xian and Lady White Story). This story is quite old and well known in folk society. Boasting one of four top Chinese folk stories (the other three folk stories are Liang Zhu, Meng Jiangnv as well as Niulang and Zhinv), the Legend of The White Snake has been ranked into the first batch of National Intangible Cultural Heritage List. This story has been made into TV series, cartoons and movies.

On the Tomb Sweeping Day, lots of travelers visited to The Broken Bridge when the West Lake was in spring and painting as well as its most beautiful time. It was an unforgettable scene. Suddenly, two considerably beautiful girls appeared out of water area of the West Lake. What's up? Why can human come out underwater? The reason is they are both the snake fairies who cultivated themselves to be the shape of humankind. But they were indeed kind-hearted and benevolent. They adored the colorful life of human and then became two pretty ladies named Bai Suzhen(白素贞) and Xiao Qing(小青, a green-colored snake or carp fairy) respectively. They used to prefer playing around the West Lake Scenic Area. Why did she like wandering around the West Lake of Hangzhou? The reason is mentioned below: When the Lady White still was a snake living in Emei Mountain, a monk named Fa Hai(法海) found and captured it. A little shepherd begged him to set it free at the cost of something special, and the monk agreed and released it. This snake remembered this boy and cultivated itself in the caves of Emei Mountain for thousands of years. After its success in cultivating to be a human being and being qualified to be a fairy, Bodhisattva Kwan-Yin implied that she must repay the little shepherd's help before becoming a fairy and told her where she could find him---The West Lake of Hangzhou. Hence she came to Hangzhou and met her young sister Xiao Qing. But they could not find that man for a long time, which made her feel disappointed. However, she still kept looking for him with her superpower.

lady white snake painting
The Painting of Lady White Snake

One day, Bai Suzhen and Xiao Qing took a rest in the pavilion on the lakeside of the West Lake and unexpectedly found a handsome young man standing on the Broken Bridge near to where they seated. She felt too extraordinary and checked him with her superpower. She excitedly confirmed he was the figure she looked for a long time! This man's full name was Xu Xian(许仙)! When they followed him to Qing Bo Men(清波门, Clean Wave Gate), it rained heavily suddenly. The rain unpreparedly showered over them. When they were worried, unexpectedly an umbrella appeared above their heads. They turned around and found an elegant and scholarly young man holding the umbrella for them. He was Xu Xian! This was their first meeting.

They came into being the adoration when they saw each other. Xiao Qing asked Xu Xian for his name. Xu Xian answered:"My name is Xu Xian and live nearby The Broken Bridge". Xiao Qing and Lady White introduced themselves as well. Since then, they used to met one another and later, they got married and opened a medicine shop, which is today's widely-famous Bao He Tang(保和堂, Harmony Preservation Hall). They led a happy life. They cured a lot of patients with the unknown and intractable cases, besides they never charged the poor patients, so their business became better and better. More and more patients believed and were willing to see the doctors in Bao He Tang. The local citizens called Bai Suzhen Lady White respectfully. However, their better life together with their welcomed operation of medicine shop made a person annoyed. He was Monk Fa Hai, the born opponent of Lady White who used to attack Lady White in the name of Buddha and Kwan-yin for many generations. Monk Fa Hai lived in Jin Shan Si(金山寺, Jinshan Buddhist Temple, which is located in Zhenjiang, Jiangsu Province). Due to the effectiveness of Lady White's perfect treatment, less and less pilgrims went to temple for praying.

One Day, he got to Bao He Tang and saw Lady White treating the patients. This led Monk Fa Hai to being angry. After his careful check, he surprisedly found this Lady White was not a common figure but a White Snake Fairy. Monk Fa Hai had some magic, but he was not kind-hearted. Since he knew the real identity of Lady White, he all the day made efforts to break up this couple and undermine Bao He Tang. Therefore, he secretly invited Xu Xian to Jinshan Buddhist Temple, and he told Xu Xian:"Your wife is a snake monster, and you must break up from him right away. Otherwise, she will eat you!". Hearing this, Xu Xian was fairly furious and said:"My wife was merciful and kind, and she loves me so much. She would not hurt me even if she is the snake fairy indeed. Furthermore, now she is pregnant, and I never leave her at all!". Monk Fa Hai found Xu Xian did not believe him and became angry. He imprisoned Xu Xian in temple. In Bao He Tang, Lady White anxiously waited for Xu Xian's returning. After several days, Lady White heard of that Xu Xian was forcefully stayed in Jinshan Temple by Monk Fa Hai. Lady White and Xiao Qing ran to Jinshan Temple and begged Fa Hai to set Xu Xian free. Monk Fa Hai sneered and said:"You, a monster of snake, I suggest you get away from the earthly world at once, or I will punish you seriously!". Lady White was treated arrogantly and unjustly. She had no choice but use her superpower to save Xu Xian from Jinshan Temple. She pulled out her Gold Hairpin and repeated some mysterious abracadabra. In a flash, the whole Jinshan Temple was flooded and the huge waves hit the Jinshan Mountain again and again. Monk Fa Hai quickly took off his cassock and made it become a long high bank situating before the Gate of Jinshan Temple. The flood raised one more inch and the bank rose up as well. At the time, Lady White was pregnant and could not defeat Monk Fa Hai. Finally, Lady White was also captured by Monk Fa Hai by a magic bowl. From then on, Lady White was imprisoned under Leifeng Pagoda. This couple was broken up. But Xiao Qing fled away from Jinshan Temple and practiced the magic in Deep Mountain for many years and finally defeated Monk Fa Hai. She compelled Monk Fa Hai to hide into abdomen of the crab. Lady White and Xu Xian lived together once again. They met on the Broken Bridge again and lived a happy life again!

The TV Series Picture of Lady White Snake Zhang Huoding, Playing Lady White Snake
The Peking Opera of Lady White Snake The Movie Still of Lady White Snake

This is a kind of conclusion of story. There is another result that like this: due to the harmful result from the flood created by Lady White. Bodhisattva Kwan-yin showed her mercy to the common people and ordered Monk Fa Hai to make Lady White under house arrest of Leifeng Pagoda where today is located on the lakeside of the West Lake, after she gave birth to her son. Xu Xian was too sad and became a monk in Jinshan Temple. Their son was brought up by his old sister. Before the house arrest of Lady White, Kwan-yin told her that she would be living under the Leifeng Pagoda until his son became Zhuang Yuan(状元, the top winner in National Imperial Examination, who was said the earthly Ziweixing of the heaven as well as the leader of scholarly people and readers). Later, their son succeeded in imperial examination and saved his mother from Leifeng Pagoda. This is a touching story actually. The relevant short stories available in literature are duverse, and the representative is the article named Lady White Suppressed Under Leifeng Pagada Eternally in book titled Jing Shi Tong Yan(警世通言, written by Feng Menglong, a famous writer and playwright in Ming Dynasty), also, there are a large amount of operas themed with the Lady White. By the way, this story became an important part of Lei Feng Xi Zhao(雷峰夕照, The Sunset Glow at Leifeng Pagoda) one of top ten scenic spots of The West Lake. In 1924, the Leifeng Pagoda was broken down and Lu Xun, the greatest writer of Chinese modern literature, once wrote a special article to highly talk about its collapse and said it was the success of Lady White, isn't it?

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Editor: Julius from Mildchina
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