Legend of the White Snake
Once upon a time in the Mountain E-Mei （峨眉）, there were White Snake and Black Snake with magical power. White Snake changed into a very beautiful girl, named BAI Su-Zheng (白素贞）, or Lady White. Black Snake also became a lovely maid, named Xiao Qing (小青). They came to West Lake（西湖）of Hang Zhou (杭州） for a visit and were attracted by the beauty of the scene. There over the Duan-Qiao bridge came a young man named XU Xian (许仙）. Laydy White immediately fell into love. To help her sister, Xiao Qing set some tricks to let Xu Xian and BAI meet and finally get married.
When the three-attendee wedding ceremony was on, the Abbot, named Fa Hai （法海）, of a remote Buddhist temple, Jin Shan (Golden Mountain) Temple, sensed something and then found what was going on. He pledged to capture the white snake.
After the marriage, the three of them moved to Zhen Jiang, a city on the Yangtse River where they set up a herbal medicine store. Lady White wrote out the prescription while Xu Xian and Xiaoqing gathered and dispensed the herbal medicine. Patients unable to pay were given free treatment and medicine. The store quickly became well known and popular.
Fa Hai found Xu Xian there and warned that his pregnant wife was a snake. He suggested Xu a way to find her real self with a festival alcohol drink for the Dragon Boat Festival. On that day, Xu Xian bought the festival alcohol with realgar to celebrate and asked Lady White to drink with him. Under her husband’s coaxing, Lady White could not find a reason to refuse the drink and she took a sip, thinking that her superior magic skills would make her immune to the power of realgar. But she immediately was stricken ill and barely managed to get to bed. Xu Xian rushed to the bed and drew aside its curtain. Lady White was no loger there. In her place was a large white snake coiled on the bed. So great was Xu Xian’s shock that he fell to the floor and died.
When the power of realgar’s power faded, Lady White resumed her human form. She was heartbroken to find Xu Xian lying dead beside the bed. But she knew that the glossy ganoderma, a clestial herb on the Kunlun（昆仑）Mountain, could restore him to life. She flew to the Kunlun Mountain to steal the celestial herb but encountered the white crane and heavenly guards responsible for looking after the glossy ganoderma. They fought to prevent her from taking the herb and Lady White was losing the battle, when suddenly a voice commanded them to stop. It was the voice of the Immortal of the Southern End. Lady White begged him in tears to help her. Impressed by her sincerity and perseverance, he granted her the glossy ganoderma.The life of Xu Xian was restored. He suddenly remembered what the Abbot said to him. Recovered from the illness, XU Xian went to the Temple. To separate him from his wife, Fa Hai forced him to become a monk. Lady White, along with Xiao Qing, chased to Jin Shan Temple and begged Fa Hai to let her husband go but got refused. Then in anger, she gathered together a great army of underwater creatures to attack the monastery and used water to submerge the temple. Fa Hai had a magic outer vestment, which made the mountain to grow so that the waterlevel was kept under the temple. Fa Hai also had the magic to command heavenly solders. Lady White had been pregnant. She could not fight the battle any longer.
Lady White and Xiao Qing fled to West Lake to where they first met Xu Xian. Xiao Qing was very angry at Xu for his unfaithfulness and pledged to kill him when she saw him. XU was secretly released by a young monk when the two sides were fighting and happened to come to the same place. When they met him, Xiao Qing was for attacking him with her sword, but Lady White held her back and told XU the truth. With fully understanding each other, they went home.
Fa Hai went to the heaven and asked the heaven emperor to help him. A powerful fighter with a magic lantern was commanded to assist Fa Hai. Lady White was given birth to a son. One day, XU Xian went to buy a hat for his son. The hat was actually the lantern, which made Lady White physically under the spell of the fighter. Lady White was then imprisoned under the Thunder Peak Pagoda （雷峰塔）by West Lake. Black Snake fled to her original place and practiced her magic. Several years later her magic was strong enough to take the revenge. She managed to destroy the Pagoda and rescued Lady White. Lady White reunited with her husband and her son. Xiao Qing，or Black Snake then defeated Fa Hai and had him swallowed by a crab. They live together happily forever.
The Legend of the White Snake, also known as Madame White Snake, is a Chinese legend. It has since been presented in a number of major Chinese operas, films, and television series.
The earliest attempt to fictionalize the story in printed form appears to be The White Maiden Locked for Eternity in the Leifeng Pagoda in Feng Menglong’s Stories to Caution the World (警世通言), which was written during the Ming dynasty.
The story is now counted as one of China’s Four Great Folktales.
Lü Dongbin, one of the Eight Immortals, disguises himself as a man selling tangyuan at the Broken Bridge (斷橋) near the West Lake in Hangzhou. A boy called Xu Xian (simplified Chinese: 许仙; traditional Chinese: 許仙; pinyin: Xǔ Xiān; Jyutping: Heoi2 Sin1) buys some tangyuan from Lü Dongbin without knowing that they are actually immortality pills. He does not feel hungry for the next three days after eating them, so he goes back to ask why. Lü Dongbin laughs and carries Xu Xian to the bridge, where he flips him upside down and causes him to vomit the tangyuan into the lake.
In the lake, there is a white snake spirit who has been practicing Taoist magical arts in the hope of becoming an immortal after centuries of training and cultivation. She eats the pills and gains 500 years’ worth of magical powers. She, therefore, feels grateful to Xu Xian and their fates become intertwined. There is another terrapin (or tortoise) spirit also training in the lake who did not manage to consume any of the pills; he is very jealous of the white snake. One day, the white snake sees a beggar on the bridge who has caught a green snake and wants to dig out the snake’s gall and sell it. The white snake transforms into a woman and buys the green snake from the beggar, thus saving the green snake’s life. The green snake is grateful to the white snake and she regards the white snake as an elder sister.
Eighteen years later, during the Qingming Festival, the white and green snakes transform themselves into two young women called Bai Suzhen (Chinese: 白素貞; pinyin: Bái Sùzhēn; Jyutping: Baak6 Sou3-zing1, white-plain-chaste) and Xiaoqing (Chinese: 小青; pinyin: Xiǎoqīng; Jyutping: Siu2-cing1, little teal), respectively. They meet Xu Xian at the Broken Bridge in Hangzhou. Xu lends them his umbrella because it is raining. Xu Xian and Bai Suzhen gradually fall in love and are eventually married. They move to Zhenjiang, where they open a medicine shop.
In the meantime, the terrapin spirit has accumulated enough powers to take human form, so he transforms into a Buddhist monk called Fahai (Chinese: 法海; pinyin: Fǎhǎi; Jyutping: Faat3-hoi2). Still angry with Bai Suzhen, Fahai plots to break up her relationship with Xu Xian. He approaches Xu Xian and tells him that during the Duanwu Festival his wife should drink realgar wine, a wine associated with that festival. Bai Suzhen unsuspectingly drinks the wine and reveals her true form as a large white snake. Xu Xian dies of shock after seeing that his wife is not human. Bai Suzhen and Xiaoqing travel to Mount Emei, where they brave danger to steal a magical herb that restores Xu Xian to life.
After coming back to life, Xu Xian still maintains his love for Bai Suzhen despite knowing her true identity. Fahai tries to separate them again by capturing Xu Xian and imprisoning him in Jinshan Temple (金山寺). Bai Suzhen and Xiaoqing fight with Fahai to rescue Xu Xian. Bai uses her powers to flood the temple and drowns many innocent people. However, her powers are limited because she is already pregnant with Xu Xian’s child, so she fails to save her husband. Xu Xian later manages to escape from Jinshan Temple and reunite with his wife in Hangzhou, where Bai Suzhen gives birth to their son, Xu Mengjiao (Chinese: 許夢蛟; pinyin: Xǔ Mèngjiāo; Jyutping: Heoi2 Mung6-gaau1). Fahai tracks them down, defeats Bai Suzhen and imprisons her in Leifeng Pagoda. Xiaoqing flees, vowing vengeance.
Twenty years later, Xu Mengjiao earns the zhuangyuan (top scholar) degree in the imperial examination and returns home in glory to visit his parents. At the same time, Xiaoqing, who had spent the intervening years refining her powers, goes to Jinshan Temple to confront Fahai and defeats him. Bai Suzhen is freed from Leifeng Pagoda and reunited with her husband and son, while Fahai flees and hides inside the stomach of a crab. There is a saying that a crab’s internal fat is orange because it resembles the color of Fahai’s kasaya.