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White Snake, Black Snake Folk Narrative Meets Master Narrative in Qing Dynasty Sichuanese Cross-stitch Medallions
Textile Society of America Symposium Proceedings
  • Cory Willmott, Southern Illinois University
Date of this Version
1-1-2006
Disciplines
Citation

Textile Narratives & Conversions: Proceedings of the 10th Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, October 11–14, Toronto, Ontario

Comments

Copyright 2006 by the author.

Abstract

The cross-stitch medallion in figure 1 was collected by my grandmother, Katherine Willmott, in the early 1920s when she was a missionary in Renshow, Sichuan Province, West China. Many years after I inherited it, I learned that it depicts a folk narrative called “White Snake; Black Snake” that was traditionally performed both on stage in the legitimate theaters and in Chinese shadow puppet dramas (Highbaugh n/d:6).

The story may be summarized as follows: There were two female snakes, White Snake and Black Snake, who were inseparable friends. They both changed into beautiful young women. White Snake got married and bore a son who by and by passed his examinations and obtained a post as a government official. This was the dream and ambition of every Chinese wife and mother. Out of jealousy, Black Snake told White Snake’s husband that his wife was a changling from a snake. She also explained how he could prove her words.

Accordingly, he beat his wife with a whip. She then changed back into a snake and crawled into a nearby pagoda. Upon his triumphant return as a government official, the son learned of his mother’s fate and offered prayers of “heart-broken respect” to her at the altar before the pagoda. The pagoda in question actually exists “beside the West Lake, near Hangchow” (Highbaugh n/d:6-7).

Citation Information
Cory Willmott. "White Snake, Black Snake Folk Narrative Meets Master Narrative in Qing Dynasty Sichuanese Cross-stitch Medallions" (2006)
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/cory_willmott/1/