This past Sunday I had the pleasure to visit West Lake in Hangzhou, China. West Lake is said to be the incarnation of Xi Shi, one of the four beauties of ancient China. In 2011, West Lake was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011 and has influenced poets and painters, and Chinese garden designers throughout history. Without a doubt, West Lake is BEAUTIFUL. Surrounded by numerous temples, pagodas, and gardens, it is all carefully preserved for visitors to enjoy. It is a popular spot for family and friends to meet up and enjoy the day. From singing, dancing, doing arts & crafts, and just people watching, your time in West Lake is sure to be serene.
But it wasn’t the beauty of West Lake that first peaked my interest to visit the area, instead it was the legend of the White Snake and the West Lake Broken Bridge (a love story between Xu Xian and Bai Suzhen). Now there are many versions of this legend, but this one if my favorite…
THE LEGEND BEGINS with Xu Xian, a humble young Chinese man who buys tang-yuan, a traditional Chinese food, from Lv Dongbin (one of the eight immortals in China) on the West Lake Broken Bridge. Unsuspecting to Xu Xian, however, the tang-yuan is actually an immortal pill. Xu Xian tosses the tang-yuan into the lake where it is eaten by a small white snake spirit in the water. The water snake gains immortality. Feeling obligated to thank Xu Xian, the water snake transforms into a beautiful young lady named Bai Suzhen. On a rainy day, Bai Suzhen finds Xu Xian on the Broken Bridge, where he kindly offers her his umbrella. From there, the two fall in love and get married.
A nearby turtle spirit witnessed the exchanges between Xu Xian and the White Snake spirit and became envious of their love. Out of jealousy, he plotted to expose Bai Suzhen’s true identity by tricking her into drinking a realgar wine that revealed her true form as a white snake spirit. In such shock at the revelation, Xu Xian dies. In order to save her husband, Bai Suzhen steals a magical herb that restores his life. After being brought back to life, Xu Xian maintains his love for Bai Suzhen and together to have a son.
Angered that Xu Xian and Bai Suzhen are still in love, the turtle spirit tracks down Bai Suzhen and imprisons her in Leifeng Pagoda. She stayed imprisoned for 20 years until the turtle spirt was ultimately defeated and she gained her freedom. Bai Suzhen and Xu Xian are reunited and live HAPPILY EVER AFTER!
I just love a good love story…
How about you? What’s your favorite “love story” travel legend?!