One day, Xu Xian visited a temple to pray for his family’s well-being and met the antagonist of the story, a Buddhist monk named Fa Hai who sensed the ‘devil scent’ on Xu Xian and warns Xu Xian that he married a snake demon and advises him to press her to drink some wine because it would change her in her real form.
Xu Xian follows that advice and because the white snake is pregnant and her magical powers are weakened, she turns on her snake form. When he saw her in her true form, he dies of fright. White snake was devastated and stole the magical herb from Mount Kunlun to save him.
Meanwhile, Fa Hai seize Xu Xian and forcefully separate him from White snake and captured him to Jin Shan Temple. White snake decided to launch a flood attack against Fa Hai for him to release Xu Xian. Both White snake & Green snake defeated Fa Hai and was reunited at the Broken Bridge with Xu Xian, who managed to escape from Jin Shan Temple.
However, Bai Su Zhen was eventually captured and imprisoned in the Lei Feng Pagoda by Fa Hai after giving birth to a son.
Green snake has been trying to attain immortality so as to be able free White snake from Lei Feng Pagoda. Meanwhile, Xu Xian raised their child who eventually emerged as a top scholar in the imperial examinations. The new imperial scholar paid respects to his mother at the Lei Feng Pagoda.
Green snake finally succeeded in attaining immortality and attacked Lei Feng Pagoda and crumbled it. Bai Su Zhen was able to be reunited with her husband, her son and Green snake after defeating Fa Hai in the end.
Madam White Snake can be interpreted as a reflection of the tension between social norms and individual desires. Xu Xian and Bai Su Zhen’s love affair was one that did not confirm to social norms and Fa Hai represents the force that attempts to uphold social hierarchy and maintain social norms. Fai Hai’s attempts and eventually success in separating them implies the priority or victory of society over individuals.
On the other hand, individuals are rewarded when they confirm to social norms as reflected in Xu Xian’s son who emerged as the top scholar in the imperial exams. As an imperial scholar and who exhibited filial piety, the son achieved two important goals that every Chinese parent could wish for in their son.
As a result, Bai Su Zhen was rewarded through her release from the Lei Feng pagoda but the social norms continued to prevail; she was rewarded with immortality but remain separated from her beloved husband and son.
Madam White Snake’s tragedy is a popular story and has inspired operas, plays and even movies. The story even propelled many places to fame and they continue to be the most popular tourist sites in China, such as Lei Feng Pagoda, located at the West Lake in Hangzhou.