The Global White Snake

Liang Luo
Tracing the history and adaptation of one of China’s foundational texts


The Global White Snake examines the Chinese White Snake legends and their extensive, multidirectional travels within Asia and across the globe. Such travels across linguistic and cultural boundaries have generated distinctive traditions as the White Snake has been reinvented in the Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and English-speaking worlds, among others. Moreover, the inter-Asian voyages and global circulations of the White Snake legends have enabled them to become repositories of diverse and complex meanings for a great number of people, serving as reservoirs for polyphonic expressions ranging from the attempts to consolidate authoritarian power to the celebrations of minority rights and activism.
The Global White Snake uncovers how the White Snake legend often acts as an unsettling narrative of radical tolerance for hybrid sexualities, loving across traditional boundaries, subverting authority, and valuing the strange and the uncanny. A timely mediation and reflection on our contemporary moment of continued struggle for minority rights and social justice, The Global White Snake revives the radical anti-authoritarian spirit slithering under the tales of monsters and demons, love and lust, and reminds us of the power of the fantastic and the fabulous in inspiring and empowering personal and social transformations. 

"This splendid book is the most thorough and enthusiastic study of the White Snake legend in its diverse forms across a global media landscape: from Chinese operas, Japanese anime, Asian films, to stage adaptations in the U.S. The more widely the legend about this seductive deity travels and is transformed in different cultural transformations, the more subversive and transgressive its message becomes. Reading this well researched account is as spellbinding.”
—Leo Ou-fan Lee, author of Shanghai Modern: The Flowering of a New Urban Culture in China, 1930–1945
“In the Chinese legend of the White Snake, woman is not seduced by the snake but is herself the snake. Originating as a very local legend on the deadly dangers of seduction and infatuation, the story grew into one of China’s most popular love stories that allowed its adapters past and present to explore all possibilities of the relations between the sexes. The story also spread widely throughout East Asia and beyond. In this richly illustrated monograph Liang Luo studies the continuous developments of the legend in print, on stage, in cinema, and in digital media in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Korea, and Japan as well as Southeast Asia and Northern America from the late nineteenth century to the 2010s, offering an engrossing and highly original window onto the imagination of the Other in East and West.”
—Wilt L. Idema, author of The White Snake and Her Son: A Translation of the Precious Scroll of Thunder Peak with Related Texts
“This rigorous and exciting study presents a folk narrative and its transmutations that will provoke new theoretical directions for examining the relations between traditional and tradition-inspired narrative. The Global White Snake brings together the relevant sources, versions, and theory that will show readers a clear idea of the White Snake narrative tradition and its meanings in various literary, performative, and social contexts. The compelling, stimulating, fascinating scholarship will deepen and expand readers’ understanding of the Chinese vernacular literary/live-performance traditions, as well as the emerging means of transmission and creativity in virtual, online, digital formats.”
—Mark Bender, author of The Nuosu Book of Origins: A Creation Epic from Southwest China

“In Liang Luo, the beloved White Snake has found her bard for her numerous retellings and variants across the centuries from folk legend to the Shanghai screen, television, internet animation, feminist novel, and riotous musicals and opera; from forbidden love, struggle against Buddhist norms, and spiritual awakening to women's rights and homosexual love; and from Eastern China's cultural cities (Zhenjiang, Hangzhou, and Suzhou) to transformations in Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, and the U.S. Lucidly and engagingly written, Liang Luo has not only made accessible a wealth of cultural riches to the Anglophone world, but charted their deployments across Republican, Cold War, and global cultural politics.”
—Michael M.J. Fischer, author of Anthropology in the Meantime: Experimental Ethnography, Theory, and Method for the Twenty-First Century
The Global White Snake is an astonishing achievement, filled with dynamic examinations of the ancient legend and its many recent global adaptations.  Blending insights from media theory, transnational literature, queer studies, folklore, and animal studies, this learned and accessible book shows how cultural objects move around the world and, just as important, how the world makes new meaning out of borrowed cultural objects.  The capaciousness and fluidity of the white snake legend itself are matched only by the brilliance and generosity of the account Liang Luo offers in this book.”
—Peter J. Kalliney, author of Modernism in a Global Context

Liang Luo is Professor of Chinese Studies at the University of Kentucky.

Praise / Awards

  • "...Her generous reading style and open attitude toward source selection provide readers with a wonderful example of how we might approach texts with earnest curiosity for what they might teach us, rather than trying to prove our own intelligence by illuminating all the ways the texts fail. This reader hopes more works in the field will continue to employ a similar cross-regional perspective and hopes even more that they might do so with similar grace, intellect, and care as Luo."
    Cha: An Asian Literary Journal
  • "The Global White Snake is a hybrid study that brings together folklore, transnational literature, LGBTQ+ studies, animal studies, media studies, and cultural studies... Written with passion, clarity, and sophis- tication, Luo’s book is an essential text for scholars and students in Chinese studies, East Asian studies, and comparative literature. The book can also form a meaningful dialogue with the recent scholarship on postcolonial animalities."
    The Journal of Asian Studies
  • "The book is lucidly and engagingly written. By its end, the reader is presented with lingering questions of what may happen to meanings of cultural objects when they move around the world, and whether we should redefine “humanity” when new windows on the imagination of the “Other” open up one after another in the present era."
    American Review of China Studies
  • "...this book is critical to our understanding of transnational circulations and transcultural mutations of the White Snake legends. This book offers abundant sources and multi-faceted possibilities that welcome future discussions, such as the economic factors that have triggered many White Snake productions. Moreover, it is an innovative reinterpretation to recontextualize folklore and myth with the perspective of global history."
    Asian Theatre Journal

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 402pp.
  • 57 color illustrations.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2021
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-13261-4

Add to Cart
  • $85.00 U.S.

  • Paper
  • 2021
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-03860-2

Add to Cart
  • $39.95 U.S.

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