Legend of the White Snake is a Hangzhou folklore which is extremely popular in China and even has spread to Japan and France. Over the years, it has developed into many versions. Basically it tells the love-story of Bai Suzhen (白素贞,a snake turned lady) and Xu Xian (许仙).
What's the story
The whole story starts with Lv Dongbin (吕洞宾), one of the Eight Immortals in China. He disguises himself as an elderly vendor selling Tang-yuan (汤圆, a traditional Chinese food ) on Broken Bridge. There are two kinds of Tang-yuan he is selling, smaller ones and bigger ones. In order to test human beings, he charges bigger ones at a low price and smaller ones at a high price. Driven by greediness, people floods in to buy the bigger ones. While, Xu Xian, a humble young man, not wanting to take advantage of the elderly vendor, offers to buy the smaller ones (which is actually immortal pills and Xu Xian doesn’t know). After eating the Tang-yuan, Xu Xian feels something stuck in his throat, and he vomits the Tang-yuan (immortal pills) out into West Lake. Accidentally, the Tang-yuan is eaten by a small white snake spirit in the water, from which it gains immortality. Meanwhile, a turtle spirit under the bridge, not able to get the immortal pills, envies the white snake. That’s where all the trouble comes.
The White Snake becomes immortal and transforms into a beautiful young lady.
Falling in Love On Broken Bridge
Feeling obligated to return Xu Xian’s favor, the white snake transforms into a beautiful young lady and names herself Bai Suzhen. On her way to find Xu Xian, she saves a green snake called Xiaoqing (小青) and the two become sisters. On a rainy day, Bai Suzhen finally finds Xu Xian on Broken Bridge, where he kindly lends her his umbrella and where their romance begins. Later, Bai Suzhen and Xu Xian fall in love and get married.
Xu Xian lends his unmbrella to Bai Suzhen on Broken Bridge
Revealing the True Form
They live a happy life until Fa Hai the monk (法海和尚) transformed by the turtle spirit appears. He tricked Xu Xian to let Bai Suzhen drink realgar wine (雄黃酒) on the Dragon Boat Festival (端午节). The realgar wine leads Bai Suzhen reveal her true form as a large white snake in front of Xu Xian. Xu Xian dies of shock.
Xu Xian dies of shock on the Dragon Boat Festival.
Imprisoned in Leifeng Pagoda
In order to save her husband, along with Xiaoqing, Bai Suzhen steals a magical herb which breaks the law of heaven, and she nearly dies. The magical herb restores Xu Xian’s life. After coming back to life, Xu Xian still maintains his love for Bai Suzhen.
Out of anger, Fa Hai captures Xu Xian and imprisons him in Jinshan Temple (金山寺). Bai Suzhen and Xiaoqing fight against Fa Hai to rescue him. However, because of pregnancy, Bai Suzhen’s power is limited and fails to save her husband. Fortunately, Xu Xian manages to escape from Jinshan Temple himself and reunites with his wife in Hangzhou, where Bai Suzhen gives birth to their son, Xu Mengjiao (许梦蛟). However, Fa Hai soon tracks them down. He defeats Bai Suzhen, and imprisons her in Leifeng Pagoda.
Bai Suzhen is locked in Leifeng Pagoda.
The Collapse of Leifeng Pagoda
20 years later, Xu Mengjiao tops the imperial examination and returns home in glory. At the same time, after years of training, Xiaoqing, who escaped when Bai Suzhen was captured by Fa Hai, gains enough power. She confronts Fa Hai in Jinshan Temple and defeats him. Then Leifeng Pagoda collapses. Bai Suzhen gains freedom and reunites with her husband and son. They live happily ever after.
Xu Mengjiao returns home in glory and visits his parents.
Where to go
Broken Bridge is where Bai Suzhen and Xu Xian met and fell in love. Now, it is one of the three lovers’ bridges of West Lake. In addition, Broken Bridge is noted for its peculiar scene in winter- Lingering Snow on the Broken Bridge (断桥残雪), one of “Top Ten Views of West Lake”.
Address: Beishan Road, Hangzhou (杭州市北山路)
Bai Suzhen used to be imprisoned in this pagoda. After its collapse on September 25th, 1924, it was rebuilt in 2002 according to original style and meanwhile preserved its remains at the base of the new Leifeng Pagoda. Since then it has been a popular tourist attraction. Its unique view "Leifeng Pagoda in Evening Glow" is one of “Top Ten Views of West Lake”. In the pagoda, you also can find a series of wood carvings themed Legend of the White Snake.
Address: No.15, Nanshan Road, Hangzhou (杭州市南山路15号)
Xu Xian used to work as an apprentice in a pharmacy called “Baohe Tang (保和堂)” in Hefang Street. Now, in front of the pharmacy, there is still a copper statue of Xu Xian holding an umbrella walking towards West Lake where he meets his love of life.
Address: Hefang Street, Shangcheng District, Hangzhou (杭州市上城区河坊街)