Episode 62: Madame White Snake — part 4

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Xu Xuan thought about the last words from Madame White Snake, “you got suspicious, I will let the whole city be flooded and everyone would suffer.” and couldn’t find a way. He was standing on the bridge and planned to committee suicide. When he heard somebody calling him. It was FaHai, the abbot. He gave Xu Xuan a bowl and asked him to cover on his wife’s head with a hard push. Xu Xuan arrived home and saw Madame White Snake sitting in the room murmuring, “I don’t know who are provoking the distrust between me and my husband.” Xu Xuan walked behind her slowly and boom! with all his strength. FaHai arrived at the same time and wailed incantations. Afterwards, he opened the bowl, Madame White Snake was as small as around 20 cm and crawled on the ground.

FaHai asked, “who are you exactly?” Madame White Snake said, “I was a serpent. I came to the West Lake on a rainy day and encountered Xu Xuan. I fell in love and got married with him. I know this is forbidden but I never harm anyone. Please forgive me.” I don’t know the full explanation, but in Chinese mythology, the love between a human and a spirit is a sin. I guess it is against the Confucianism that it is not the “right” match. It is one of the reasons that why homosexual marriages is still forbidden in China. FaHai asked, “who is Qing Qing?” “Qing Qing is the green fish in West Lake after thousands of years of practice. We met and became accompanies. ”

FaHai sealed the bowl with a piece of cloth teared from his clothes and imprisoned Madame White Snake and Qing Qing under Leifeng Pagoda 雷峰塔 by the West Lake forever. FaHai left with a poem to warn people in the world not to be bewitched by lust.

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Hangzhou, Suzhou where the story took place and West Lake and Leifeng Pagoda all really exist until today. There are statues of Madame White Snake, Qing Qing and Xu Xuan along the West Lake if you visit there today.

This is the end of this story. However, there are a lot of variations.

One version adds a sequel that Madame White Snake gave birth to a baby before she was imprisoned by FaHai named Xu Rulin 许儒林. Years later, he got a high ranking in the imperial examinations. Returning home to visit his mother at Leifeng Pagoda, Madame White Snake was freed and reunited with her family. The childbirth part tried to depict Madame White Snake more like a human instead of a spirit and about the imperial examinations part I would say at ancient time people still thought only a honor could save the whole family.

Some versions have an epic fight between Madame White Snake and the abbot FaHai in the end before Madame White Snake was lost and imprisoned. It is another classical and dramatic plot in today’s version.

Now I am going to answer the question why do we need to talk about this story during DuanWu Festival or Dragon Boat Festival 端午节. One variation of this story has a plot that Xu Xuan didn’t believe his wife was a snake spirit until he was told by FaHai to let her drink a kind of liquor called XiongHuangJiu 雄黄酒 , a kind of alcohol traditionally consumed on the Dragon Boat Festival to prevent diseases and evil spirits. Of course, Madame White Snake transformed into a huge white serpent after drinking. The scene of Madame White Snake got drunk and transformed into a snake was a classic plot in the story. Xu Xuan scared to death, literally died. Madame White Snake tried to save him by risking her own life to steal a magic herb and brought Xu Xuan back to life. It is the turning point when the couple really were honest to each other and bounded together. That’s the main difference probably between the original story and the variation that Xu Xuan really fell in love and trusted his wife instead of being suspicious the whole time and was with his wife out of lust and money.

However, today’s Chinese people, more affected by the TV shows and movies based on the this story, have a different understanding of the story. Firstly name wise, Xu Xian 许仙 instead of Xu Xian 许宣 is the name widely known today. Qing Qing , the green clothes maid is known as Xiao Qing 小青. Secondly, Qing Qing is known as a green colored snake spirit today instead of a fish spirit in the original story. Thirdly, in the original story, FaHai the abbot was a good guy who helped Xu Xuan to escape from Madame White Snake. Today people regard FaHai as an obstacle who tried to separate the loving couple.

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I do like the modern variations in TV series and movies better because Madame White Snake is more brave for love instead of just being an attractive woman who tried to seduce a man. And the character of Xu Xuan is also more complicated instead of just being a suspicious coward. Although I still like Madame White Snake far more better than Xu Xuan.

If you like this story, definitely check those videos and I would put some links in our website and social media. Just a reminder you probably would cry.

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Movie :

青蛇 Green Snake  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oBjycaw5ulk

白蛇传说 The Sorcerer and the White Snake

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=asBCGCbS8LI

TV show:

新白娘子传奇 New Legend of Madame White Snake 

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2162790/

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