Hangzhou is a famous travel destination that is well known for its abundance of tourist resources. While some of these resources are revered for their enchanting scenery and close association with significant historical figures and events, others are known for their link to well-known folklores. All in all, it is fair to say that each and every one of Hangzhou’s tourist resources are attractions that are both legendary and charming.
Legend of the White Snake and Butterfly Lovers are both popular folklores in China and they have influenced many generations and as an indispensible part of Chinese culture they have also added a unique charm to a number of nearby attractions.
Legend of the White Snake
Legend of the White Snake is a household name in China and a TV series, based on it, once produced one of the highest audience ratings in Chinese history. Of the legend, many versions have been generated and various types of art form, such as opera and film, have been used to depict the romantic love story.
Among the many versions the most popular goes like this: A boy, known as Xu Xian, in his previous life* saves a white snake from a snake hunter. To return the favor the white snake, having finished practicing Taoist magical arts, uses its powers to transform itself into a lady. The snake-lady then finds the boy and marries him. After marrying, the two live together happily and give birth to a baby boy, however because their love has violated the laws of nature a monk, known as Fahai, is sent to break their marriage. He captures the White Snake and locks her under the Leifeng Pagoda which, because of the filial piety of their son in moving the god in heaven, collapses and in doing so reunites them.
* In ancient China people believed in reincarnation where the soul or spirit, after biological death, can begin a new life in a new body
Attractions related with the legend:
Connecting Beishan Road with Bai Causeway, the Broken Bridge is a stepping stone for people wanting to get to the Solitary Hill – the only natural island in West Lake and a great place in which to view Hangzhou’s famous plum blossom. The Broken Bridge is the most famous of all the bridges spanning the West Lake and its popularity is partly due to its unique view on winter days when the bridge is covered with snow which when viewed from afar appears broken. It is also visited because, according to legend, it was on this bridge that the White Snake met Xu Xian and lent him an umbrella.
Leifeng pagoda, a famous landmark of Hangzhou, overlooks the West Lake on Leifeng Peak and is a five-storied and eight-sided wood and brick pagoda originally built in the year AD 975, which then collapsed in 1924 and was reconstructed in 2002. The Pagoda is closely connected with the Legend of the White Snake as, according to the legend, she is imprisoned inside. Inside the pagoda one can find preserved old relics of the original pagoda and also on display are wood engravings depicting the Legend of the White Snake. Furthermore, with its wonderful location, the pagoda offers a vantage point for obtaining a stunning panoramic view of the West Lake.
Butterfly Lovers – Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai
Butterfly Lovers is the first legend to have achieved international fame and is considered, by many, to be the Chinese equivalent of ‘Romeo and Juliet’. A tragic love story, just like ‘Romeo and Juliet’’, Butterfly Lovers depicts the love of Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai. In the story the two fall in love but are unable to get married as the girl, Zhu Yingtai, is forced to marry someone else which causes the boy, Liang Shanbo, to die of a broken heart. At the end of the story, Zhu Yingtai jumps into the tomb of Liang Shanbo and the two transform into a pair of butterflies fluttering off together in the sunlight.
Attractions related with the legend:
It is in Wansong Academy that, in order to study, Zhu Yingtai disguises as a boy and meets Liang Shanbo (In ancient China girls are not allowed to study.) There they spend their happiest times together and fall in love. Even today Wansong Academy is still viewed as the best place for someone to meet their true love which, in turn, has led to many blind dates being arranged there.
In Hangzhou, there are three locations that are not true to their name: The Broken Bridge is not broken, the Solitary Hill is not solitary and the Long Bridge is not long.’ Long Bridge is only 3 meters long, the shortest of all the bridges in the West Lake. It is only called Long Bridge because in the ‘Butterfly Lovers’, Zhu Yingtai is called home by her father and Liang Shanbo sees her off on the Long Bridge. Neither of the two wants to be the first to walk away and so they walk the length of the bridge 36 times making it as long as 9 kilometers.
Source: Hangzhou Tourism Commission