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Classic Chinese Stories: Madame Whitesnake

Updated on February 4, 2014
I am really looking forward to this new version of the story!
I am really looking forward to this new version of the story!

Madame White Snake

The story of the White Snake is one of the most popular Chinese classical novels and has been retold in many forms over the centuries, including tv series, Beijing opera, and hopefully, in 2011 a new film starring Jet Li!

In its original (oral) form, the story was a horror story. Interestingly this has been retained in the Japanese version of the story, Jasei no in, which is one of the stories in the collection entitled, Ugetsu Monogatari. The first Chinese written version of the story seems to have been in a collection of folk stories during the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644) by popular author Feng Menglong (1574 - 1645).

In the later versions of the Chinese original, the story became a romance. The story is of a 1000 year old white snake demon who has been aspiring and training to become a goddess. A young scholar falls in love with her but unfortunately the course of their love does not run untroubled as there is a zealot priest who is determined to kill the white snake demon.


The Romance

After an initial encounter with the priest Fa Hai, who is determined to kill demons of every description, Madame White Snake and her companion, a green snake demon take refuge in Banbuduo which is a world / plane of existence between the human world and the other worlds. It is not the demon realm but is inhabited by beings from various realms.

The priest is very powerful and tracks White Snake to Babanduo. Madame White Snake sacrifices her chance to become a goddess in order to send the scholar back to safety in the human world. The passage back to the human world entails forgetting all that has happened in Babanduo and although White Snake gives the scholar a way to retain his memory, and thus his love for her, the priest cruelly tricks him and he forgets everything about Madame White snake and his time in Babanduo.

Happy Ending?

Eventually the priest succeeds in trapping the White Snake under Leifeng Pagoda which is a real place and is on West Lake near Hangzhou in China. The current building is a rebuilt version of the original which collapsed as so many people thought the bricks had healing powers that over the years a lot of them disappeared!

Whether or not the story is a tragic romance or a romance depends on the ending you 'choose'. Different versions of the story have different endings. One version is that Xu Xian and Madame Whitesnake have a son who eventually challenges Fa Hai and frees his mother from underneath the pagoda.

The Jet Li film

I am really looking forward to the film! I think it will be released at the end of September 2011 / early October! Watch the trailer!

The Jet Li film

You can (hopefully) find a link to a torrent for this series here.
You can (hopefully) find a link to a torrent for this series here. | Source

Update 2012 Huge Disappointment!

Did the film ever get to the UK? I found it and watched it online and what a huge disappointment. I suppose in making Jet Li the star the director had to make Fa Hai a more sympathetic character. In so doing he made Madame Whitesnake seem foolish, impulsive and inconsiderate of anyone else. This is inconsistent with the developed story in which Bai Suzhen helps many people with her powers. What a shame! Still the music and photography were good.

My favourite version is this one made in 2006 as a series. When I last looked (January 2012) there was a link to a torrent for this series. See the photo for the website details. This is a far more sympathetic version of the story and develops both 'White' and 'Green' characters.

Take your pick!

Which version do you like best?

See results


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    • oldrick profile image

      Richard Ingate 6 years ago from UK

      Thanks for your comments!

    • asmaiftikhar profile image

      asmaiftikhar 6 years ago from Pakistan

      these pieces of chinese literature are the unique pearls.

      that is your best effort. keep writing like this.

    • shea duane profile image

      shea duane 6 years ago from new jersey

      I love folk stories and analizing their meanings for their cultures.

      I can't wait to see the film.

      good hub