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The Chinese myth of the immortal white snake - Shunan Teng

  • 0:07 - 0:11
    The talented young herbalist named Xu Xian
    was in trouble.
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    It should have been a victorious moment–
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    he had just opened his very
    own medicine shop.
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    But he bought his supplies from
    his former employer,
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    and the resentful man
    sold him rotten herbs.
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    As Xu Xian wondered what to do with this
    useless inventory,
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    patients flooded into his shop.
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    A plague had stricken the city,
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    and he had nothing to treat them.
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    Just as he was starting to panic,
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    his wife, Bai Su Zhen, produced a recipe
    to use the rotten herbs as medicine.
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    Her remedy cured all the plague-afflicted
    citizens immediately.
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    Xu Xian’s former boss even had to buy back
    some of the rotten herbs
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    to treat his own family.
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    Shortly after, a monk named Fa Hai
    approached Xu Xian,
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    warning him that there was
    a demon in his house.
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    The demon, he said, was Bai Su Zhen.
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    Xu Xian laughed.
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    His kindhearted, resourceful wife
    was not a demon.
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    Fa Hai insisted.
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    He told Xu Xian to serve his wife realgar
    wine on the 5th day of the 5th month,
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    when demons’ powers are weakest.
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    If she wasn’t a demon, he explained,
    it wouldn’t hurt her.
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    Xu Xian dismissed the monk politely,
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    with no intention of serving
    Bai Su Zhen the wine.
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    But as the day approached,
    he decided to try it.
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    As soon as the wine touched
    Bai Su Zhen’s lips,
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    she ran to the bedroom,
    claiming she wasn’t feeling well.
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    Xu Xian prepared some medicine
    and went to check on her.
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    But instead of his wife,
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    he found a giant white serpent with a
    bloody forked tongue in the bed.
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    He collapsed, killed by the shock.
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    When Bai Su Zhen opened her eyes,
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    she realized immediately what
    must have happened.
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    The truth was that Bai Su Zhen was
    an immortal snake
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    with formidable magical powers.
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    She had used her powers to take a
    human form
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    and improve her and
    her husband’s fortunes.
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    Her magic couldn’t revive Xu Xian,
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    but she had one more idea to save him:
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    an herb that could grant longevity
    and even bring the dead back to life,
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    guarded by the Old Man of the South Pole
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    in the forbidden peaks of the
    Kun Lun Mountains.
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    She rode to the mountains on a cloud,
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    then continued on foot passed gateways
    and arches
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    until she reached one
    marked “beyond mortals”
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    hanging over a silver bridge.
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    On the other side,
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    two of the Old Man’s disciples
    guarded the herb.
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    Bai Su Zhen disguised herself as a monk
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    and told them she’d come to invite
    the Old Man to a gathering of the gods.
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    While they relayed her message,
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    she plucked some leaves
    from the herb and ran.
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    The servants realized they had been
    tricked and chased her.
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    Bai Su Zhen coughed up a magic ball
    and threw it at one.
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    As the other closed in on her,
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    she put the herb under her tongue
    for safekeeping,
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    but its magic forced both of them
    into their true forms.
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    As the crane’s long beak
    clamped around her,
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    the Old Man appeared.
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    Why, he asked, would she risk her life
    to steal his herb
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    when she was already immortal?
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    Bai Su Zhen explained
    her love for Xu Xian.
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    Even if he didn’t want to be with her
    now that he knew she was a demon,
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    she was determined to
    bring him back to life.
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    The two had a karmic connection dating
    back more than a thousand years.
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    When Bai Su Zhen was a small snake,
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    a beggar was about to kill her,
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    but a kind passerby rescued her.
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    Her rescuer was Xu Xian in a past life.
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    Touched by her willingness
    to risk her life for him,
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    the Old Man permitted her to leave the
    mountain with the immortal herb.
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    Bai Su Zhen returned home
    to revive Xu Xian.
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    When he opened his eyes,
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    the terrified look frozen on his face
    became a smile.
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    Demon or not,
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    he was still happy to see his wife.
Title:
The Chinese myth of the immortal white snake - Shunan Teng
Speaker:
Shunan Teng
Description:

View full lesson: https://ed.ted.com/lessons/the-chinese-myth-of-the-immortal-white-snake-shunan-teng

The talented herbalist Xu Xian had just started his own medicine shop where he created remedies with the help of his wife, Bai Su Zhen. One day a monk named Fa Hai approached him, warning him that there was a demon in his house. The demon, he said, was Bai Su Zhen. Xu Xian laughed. How could his kind-hearted wife be a demon? Shunan Teng traces the tale of the immortal white snake.

Lesson by Shunan Teng, directed by Kino Bino.

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Video Language:
English
Team:
TED
Project:
TED-Ed
Duration:
03:44

English subtitles

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