1. Legend of the White Snake 《白蛇传》

Legend of the White Snake is a Chinese tale that centres around the romance between a scholar Xu Xian and a snake spirit named Bai Suzhen.

The tale begins with Xu Xian unknowingly buying immortality pills disguised as tangyuan (glutinous riceballs) from a deity at the Broken Bridge in Hangzhou. After eating them, Xu Xian did not feel hungry for three days. When he confronted the deity, he laughed and made Xu Xian vomit the tangyuan into the lake.

Bai Suzhen, the white snake spirit who dwelled in the lake, ate the pills and gained 500 years' worth of power. She felt grateful to Xu Xian. The tortoise spirit from the lake became jealous of Bai Suzhen for gaining this power.




  White snake spirit feels grateful to Xu Xian

The white snake spirit had a companion named Xiaoqing, a green snake spirit she once saved. Eighteen years later, they transformed themselves into women and met Xu Xian again at the same Broken Bridge on a rainy day. He kindly lent them his umbrella, creating a connection that led to Xu Xian falling in love with Bai Suzhen and their eventual marriage.


Xu Xian meet Bai Suzhen on bridge in the rain and Xu Xian lends them his umbrella

The tortoise spirit, now disguised as a Buddhist monk named Fahai, remained resentful of Bai Suzhen. Wanting to separate her from Xu Xian, he advised Xu Xian to let his wife drink realgar wine (believed to cure diseases) during the Dragon Boat Festival. This caused Bai Suzhen to reveal her true form as a large white snake. Xu Xian died of shock after realising that his wife was not human.

Bai Suzhen and Xiaoqing then travelled to Mount Emei to obtain a magical herb that could revive Xu Xian. He came back to life and realised that he still loved Bai Suzhen.

Fahai tried to imprison Xu Xian at a temple, but Bai Suzhen and Xiaoqing fought to rescue him. Bai Suzhen’s powers were weak, as she was pregnant with Xu Xian's child.

Xu Xian eventually escaped and reunited with Bai Suzhen, who gave birth to their son. Fahai tracked them down and imprisoned Bai Suzhen under a pagoda, the Pagoda of Thunder Peak, while Xiaoqing fled, vowing to defeat Fahai.





Fahai and Bai Suzhen in a battle, with Leifeng Pagoda in the background

Twenty years later, their son became the Zhuangyuan (top scholar) in the imperial examinations and returned home in glory. At the same time, Xiaoqing finally defeated Fahai after years of refining her powers. Bai Suzhen was freed from the Pagoda of Thunder Peak and reunited home with Xu Xian and her son.


The pagoda featured in the Legend of the White Snake is from the Five Dynasties period. It was severely damaged by a fire in the mid-Ming dynasty, leaving only its distinctive brick core intact. Before neglect and vandalism led to a total collapse in 1924, it was a popular tourist site – its ruined beauty made more poignant by the scenic surroundings in Hangzhou’s West Lake.

Look for the Tushanwan model of the pagoda in the Special Exhibitions Gallery on Level 2!



 Pagoda of Thunder Peak

Pagoda of Thunder Peak
Tushanwan Workshop
China, Shanghai, about 1912–14

中国上海,大约1912到1914 年



2. Tale of Liuhe 《六和的故事》

In the ancient city of Hangzhou, there was a mighty river called the Qiantang River. Within its depths dwelled a troublesome dragon who lived in a palace. When angered, the dragon created huge waves that crashed onto the shores, capsizing fishing boats and destroying farmland.


 Dragon create huge waves in Qiantang River and cause danger to fishing boats and farmlands

The people of Hangzhou lived in fear. Among them was a brave boy named Liuhe, whose father drowned and whose mother was swept away by the powerful waves. Devastated, Liuhe threw stones into Qiantang River every day, which caused the dragon’s palace to shake violently.


Liuhe threw stones into Qiantang River from the hill, dragon palace shook violently

The dragon tried to stop Liuhe by offering him gold, silver, and other treasures. Liuhe declined, insisting that he would continue unless the dragon released his mother and stopped the waves from harming people. Reluctantly, the dragon agreed. After this, the tides calmed. To honour Liuhe’s bravery, the people of Hangzhou built a pagoda and named it after him. This is the Pagoda of Six Harmonies (Liuhe Ta).


Calm Qiantang River with Liuhe being thanked by the people

The Pagoda of Six Harmonies was thought to have the power to quell fierce tides. While it has only seven floors, a restoration in the Qing dynasty added thirteen eaved-galleries (two per floor), giving it the appearance of a thirteen-storey structure. The pagoda was a favourite of the Qianlong Emperor (r. 1736–95), who left an inscription on each floor.

Check out the model of this pagoda in the Lobby on Level 1!



 Pagoda of Six Harmonies

Pagoda of Six Harmonies
Tushanwan Workshop
China, Shanghai, about 1912–14

中国上海,大约1912到1914 年