Beijing Opera White Snake Goddess Wedding. Legend of the White Snake (simplified Chinese: 白蛇传; traditional Chinese: 白蛇傳) is a Chinese legend, which existed as oral traditions before any written compilation. It has since become a major subject of several Chinese opera, films and TV series.
The earliest attempt to fictionalize the story appears to be “Madame White Snake Jailed Eternally in the Leifeng Pagoda” (白娘子永鎮雷峰塔) in Jing Shi Tong Yan (警世通言) by Feng Menglong (馮夢龍) during the Ming Dynasty.
At its most basic, the story tells of a young scholar who falls in love with a beautiful woman, unaware that she is a white snake who has taken on human form. A monk intervenes in order to save the scholar’s soul and casts the white snake into a deep well at the Leifeng Pagoda.
Over the centuries the story has evolved from horror story to romance with the scholar and the white snake-woman genuinely in love with one another, but such a relationship is forbidden by the laws of Heaven. There have also been variations on the telling of the story: like the scholar adopting the white snake as a pet while still a schoolboy; or himself being banished from Heaven and becoming a mere human on Earth.
An added character is a green snake (or in some cases a carp) who has also been turned into a woman and serves as the white snake-woman’s soul sister and confidante.