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← The Chinese myth of the immortal white snake - Shunan Teng

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Showing Revision 4 created 04/26/2019 by lauren mcalpine .

  1. The talented young herbalist named Xu Xian
    was in trouble.
  2. It should have been a victorious moment–
  3. he had just opened his very
    own medicine shop.
  4. But he bought his supplies from
    his former employer,
  5. and the resentful man
    sold him rotten herbs.
  6. As Xu Xian wondered what to do with this
    useless inventory,

  7. patients flooded into his shop.
  8. A plague had stricken the city,
  9. and he had nothing to treat them.
  10. Just as he was starting to panic,
  11. his wife, Bai Su Zhen, produced a recipe
    to use the rotten herbs as medicine.
  12. Her remedy cured all the plague-afflicted
    citizens immediately.
  13. Xu Xian’s former boss even had to buy back
    some of the rotten herbs
  14. to treat his own family.
  15. Shortly after, a monk named Fa Hai
    approached Xu Xian,

  16. warning him that there was
    a demon in his house.
  17. The demon, he said, was Bai Su Zhen.
  18. Xu Xian laughed.
  19. His kindhearted, resourceful wife
    was not a demon.
  20. Fa Hai insisted.

  21. He told Xu Xian to serve his wife realgar
    wine on the 5th day of the 5th month,
  22. when demons’ powers are weakest.
  23. If she wasn’t a demon, he explained,
    it wouldn’t hurt her.
  24. Xu Xian dismissed the monk politely,

  25. with no intention of serving
    Bai Su Zhen the wine.
  26. But as the day approached,
    he decided to try it.
  27. As soon as the wine touched
    Bai Su Zhen’s lips,

  28. she ran to the bedroom,
    claiming she wasn’t feeling well.
  29. Xu Xian prepared some medicine
    and went to check on her.
  30. But instead of his wife,
  31. he found a giant white serpent with a
    bloody forked tongue in the bed.
  32. He collapsed, killed by the shock.
  33. When Bai Su Zhen opened her eyes,

  34. she realized immediately what
    must have happened.
  35. The truth was that Bai Su Zhen was
    an immortal snake
  36. with formidable magical powers.
  37. She had used her powers to take a
    human form
  38. and improve her and
    her husband’s fortunes.
  39. Her magic couldn’t revive Xu Xian,

  40. but she had one more idea to save him:
  41. an herb that could grant longevity
    and even bring the dead back to life,
  42. guarded by the Old Man of the South Pole
  43. in the forbidden peaks of the
    Kun Lun Mountains.
  44. She rode to the mountains on a cloud,
  45. then continued on foot passed gateways
    and arches
  46. until she reached one
    marked “beyond mortals”
  47. hanging over a silver bridge.
  48. On the other side,

  49. two of the Old Man’s disciples
    guarded the herb.
  50. Bai Su Zhen disguised herself as a monk
  51. and told them she’d come to invite
    the Old Man to a gathering of the gods.
  52. While they relayed her message,
  53. she plucked some leaves
    from the herb and ran.
  54. The servants realized they had been
    tricked and chased her.

  55. Bai Su Zhen coughed up a magic ball
    and threw it at one.
  56. As the other closed in on her,
  57. she put the herb under her tongue
    for safekeeping,
  58. but its magic forced both of them
    into their true forms.
  59. As the crane’s long beak
    clamped around her,
  60. the Old Man appeared.
  61. Why, he asked, would she risk her life
    to steal his herb
  62. when she was already immortal?
  63. Bai Su Zhen explained
    her love for Xu Xian.

  64. Even if he didn’t want to be with her
    now that he knew she was a demon,
  65. she was determined to
    bring him back to life.
  66. The two had a karmic connection dating
    back more than a thousand years.
  67. When Bai Su Zhen was a small snake,
  68. a beggar was about to kill her,
  69. but a kind passerby rescued her.
  70. Her rescuer was Xu Xian in a past life.
  71. Touched by her willingness
    to risk her life for him,
  72. the Old Man permitted her to leave the
    mountain with the immortal herb.
  73. Bai Su Zhen returned home
    to revive Xu Xian.

  74. When he opened his eyes,
  75. the terrified look frozen on his face
    became a smile.
  76. Demon or not,
  77. he was still happy to see his wife.