Lady White III

Monday, February 16, 2009
By Joe Hung, The China Post

Fahai (法海) is the prior at Gold Mountain Temple near Zhenjiang (鎮江). He believes he has to get rid of Bai Suzhen or Lady White, who is a 1,000-year-old white snake ogress in the process of becoming an immortal. First of all, Fahai reasons, he must make Xu Xian realize his wife is an ogress. So the monk comes to Lady White's apothecary to meet her husband and persuade him to make her drink xiong-huang jiu (雄黃酒) or realgar-mixed wine. Realgar is an orange-red mineral that consists of arsenic sulfide and that occurs in monoclinic crystals or in granular or compact form, has a resinous luster, and burns with a bluish flame giving off arsenical and sulfurous fumes while burning. The liquor mixed with a small amount of realgar is drunk on the Dragon Boat Festival - celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth moon on the Chinese lunar calendar - by people who believe it will protect them from snake and insect poisoning the year round.

Xu Xian lets himself persuaded. So on the fifth day of the fifth moon, he forces Lady White to drink the realgar wine. She gets drunk and falls asleep, turning herself back to the white snake she is. When he comes to their bedroom, he sees the huge white snake and drops dead. When she awakes, Lady White finds her husband sprawled on the bedroom floor. She then hurries to Kunlun Mountain (崑崙山) to steal ling-chi (靈芝), which is a kin of dark brownish and hard fungus (Ganoderma lucidum), commonly believed to possess supernatural powers. She wants to get it to revive her husband. She succeeds in her mission and Xu Xian comes back to life.

Fully recovered, Xu Xian goes to Gold Mountain Temple to meet Fahai, who accepts him as a disciple. As Xu Xian is kept in the temple as a trainee monk, Lady White and Xiao Qing have to travel to Zhenjiang to get him back to Hangzhou. They plead with Fahai to release Xu Xian. Fahai refuses. He then musters an divine army to capture Lady White, who has to fight back. She calls for help from dragon kings, who start a terrible rainstorm to flood the temple. While the battle is going on, a novice at the temple takes pity on Xu Xian and helps him escape from a cave where he has been imprisoned. Xu Xian makes good his escape from Gold Mountain, which is an isle in the Yangtze River.

Lady White cannot win the battle. She is weak because she is carrying Xu Xian's baby. So she and Xiao Qing have to give up the fight and leave the battlefield. As they reach a fallen bridge near Zhenjiang, they come across Xu Xian, who is on his way out of Gold Mountain Temple. Lady White and Xiao Qing condemn Xu Xian, who repents and asks for forgiveness. He is forgiven and all three of them return to Hangzhou.

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