《白蛇传》[Bai shé zhuan] The tale of White Snake or 《许仙与白娘子》 Xu Xian and the White Lady is a traditional Chinese tale, probably originating from ancient Indian legends.
It narrates the love story between a man and a white snake.
The first known version shows up during the Tang dynasty (ca. 618), the story at that time being about a man tragically in love with a white lady.
Parts with the West Lake and the Thunder Pagoda and the main theme are thought to have solidified during the Song dynasty (ca. 960).
The story is completed during the Ming dynasty (ca. 1368), rewritten and adorned during the Qing dynasty (ca. 1644).
It was also made into a movie by Tsui Hark in 1993 (Qing She / Green Snake).
At last, the first Japanese color animated film (1958) The White Snake 白蛇伝 [はくじゃでん] is precisely inspired from this legend, and is thought to be one of the first influences of Hayao Miyazaki 駿宮崎, Totoro‘s father.
- 白素贞 Bai Su Zheng, White Snake, or 白娘子 White Lady
- 小青 Xiao Qing, Green Snake or Black Snake, sometimes a Black Carp 青鱼
- 许仙 Xu Xian, the human lover
- 法海 Fa Hai, the monk 和尚 of Jinshan Temple 金山寺
- 峨眉山 or 峨嵋山 [Éméishān] (Sichuan), one of the four sacred buddhist mountains in China. In the fourth century, Emei shan (3099 m.) was associated with 普賢 [Pǔxián] (Samantabhadra, or Viśvabhadra), a bodhisattva symbol of altruism, often pictured on a white six-tusked elephant.
- 杭州 Hangzhou, where the West Lake 西湖 and the Thunder Pagoda 雷峰塔 can be found.
White Snake and Black Snake, two magical beings living in Emei Shan desiring to live human lives made use of their magical skills to transform into two wondrous women.
White Snake became Bai Su Zheng, and Black Snake became Xiao Qing.
Lured by the beauty of Hangzhou and of the West Lake, they pay the spot a visit and meeting a young man named Xu Xian, Bai falls in love.
Xiao Qing arranges her sister’s wedding, and soon the two open a medical shop, rapidly flourishing thanks to Bai’s magical talents. It attracts the interest of Fa Hai, a monk seeing the intrusion of the snakes into men’s world as evil. He warns the young man that his spouse is a serpent, and suggests him to have her drink a special potion during the dragon-boats festival, a critical time for snake-spirits where they could weaken enough to reveal their true nature.
But despite the warning of her sister, who knew of the risk and suggested a retreat in the mountains, Bai stayed that day with her husband.
Weakened by the herbal wine and her pregnancy, Bai then returns to her primal form, and her husband upon discovering a snake on the bed, dies of fright.
After unnumerable adventures, Bai successfully steals a magical herb to revive her husband. Still puzzled, Xu returns to seek the monk’s advice. The monk then imprisons him to cut him from the influence of his wife.
A magical struggle of titanic proportions follows, but the two sisters fail repeatedly until Bai gives birth to a son, regaining her strength, and Qing gets enough magical practice to overcome the monk.