The Global White Snake-9780472132614

The Global White Snake

Luo, Liang

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The story of The White Snake is one of the "four great narratives" of China and yet it is almost unknown in the West. It is as much a founding text in China as The Odyssey is in the West. Like The Odyssey, it is not only an enchanting tale full of adventure, monsters, and romance, it also has something profound to say about human nature. In its more modern iterations it argues strongly for tolerance of the strange, the uncanny, and for compassion for human frailty. It drives home the argument that love is without boundary and is transformative. The Global White Snake is a major, accessible contribution to our knowledge of the story, its traditional interpretations and its importance throughout history; at the same time, it offers a refreshing new reading of the text as surprisingly disruptive and revolutionary. Anyone with an interest in the story, or in the uses of the fantastic and the fabulous, will want to read this book. It highlights a spirit of persistent anti-authoritarianism and tolerance for the strange and the unusual that the average American has not particularly associated with China throughout its modern transformations. The book creates a gentle yet persuasive counterargument to the prevailing discourse of "cultural appropriation" as high crime. It shows how Lady White Snake travels through a multitude of translations and adaptations across cultures, time, geography, and media, transforming from demoness to goddess, and continues the circle all over again, her story bending and twisting in meaning, always on the move and in mediation. It implies that culture itself is that which appropriates. Culture is on the move; its artifacts are always in the process of transformation, and this ability to travel and transform is what keeps them alive as they shed skin after skin to reach new stages of life and afterlife.