Madame White Snake
Cerise Lim Jacobs
Madame White Snake, a classical transformation myth, is the story of a powerful white snake demon who transforms into a beautiful woman so as to experience love. She meets her true love, Xu Xian, at the Broken Bridge on the West Lake in Hangzhou and marries him. So widely celebrated is their love that a curious Abbot investigates. He sees right through her human form to the snake. When the Abbot learns that Madame White Snake is pregnant, he is horrified by what he considers a violation of all of the traditional taboos of race and religion, the divine and the profane. He decides to intervene and he confronts her husband. Not surprisingly, disaster strikes. Madame White Snake is betrayed by her husband and in the moment of betrayal, she is tragically transformed back into a snake. In its long journey through the centuries, this simple myth has become an icon in the hearts and minds of the Chinese people. The deadly white snake demon gives up her immortal existence to assume human form in the pursuit of the most human of all emotions – love. She holds love dearly for one moment; and then love is lost forever. A powerful metaphor for each individual’s struggle to dream, the myth has spoken deeply to all who have dared to dream. The question of what it means to be truly human is always timely and each generation answers this question in its own voice.