The Legend of the White Snake is based on an ancient legend about a white snake that turns itself into a beautiful woman and marries a mortal. The abbot of a Buddhist monastery Fa Hai exposes her and defeats her, splitting the married couple apart. There are, however, many different versions of the story, both in older dramas and in the various regional styles.
The Tale of White Snake was created during theFive Dynasties(907-960AD), completed in theSouthern Song Dynasty(1127-1279AD) and was adapted into dramas in theYuan Dynasty(1271-1368AD). This tale has been adapted into stories, songs, novels, films, TV shows, operas, dance performances and strip cartoons. Its influence is not only felt in China, but also in countries like Japan, Korea, Vietnam and India.
Folk story experts believeZhenjiangand Hangzhou are where the Tale of the White Snake began. The story is one of the four representative tales of the Han people along with theButterfly lovers, the Tale of Mengjiangnv and the Oxherd and the Weaving Maiden.
The social thought, value and beliefs represented in the Tale of the White Snake have helped further the study of southeast Chinese culture. The many ancient traditions, which are described in the tale, make it one of the richest oral heritages in China.