ATEC 11th International Forum: 'White Snake' Premiered

On the evening of May 17, The Central Academy of Drama presented its play, White Snake, on the Proscenium Stage at the Theatre Centre on campus, which kicked off the series of shows by ATEC member schools in the following days. The love story of Xu Xian and Bai Suzhen, presented in an innovative form, deeply touched the audience.

White Snake is based on a renowned folk story in China. Bai Suzhen and Xiao Qing, having gone through a thousand years of self-training, turn into young girls from two serpent monsters. Longing for the mortal world, they head for the West Lake in Hangzhou, a city in southern China, where Bai encounters her lover, Xu Xian. They fall in love with each other at the first sight and get married soon. But their happy life is interrupted by Fahai, the abbot of Jinshan Temple, who has seen through Bai’s incarnation, and informs Xu of the secret of BAI’s background. Doubtful and half-convinced, Xu tests BAI with some realgar wine (which can reveal Bai’s true identity) on the Dragon Boat Festival as Fahai suggests. Since then, the couple are forced into a series of live-or-death struggles and sufferings.

The play was divided into four chapters, namely ‘Spring’, ‘Summer’, ‘Autumn’ and ‘Winter’, each of which respectively implies the couple’s fate. Besides, the stage design and the performers’ actions all carry hidden meanings. For example, when the couple’s life was smooth and sweet, their route on stage was clockwise, but the route turned anticlockwise when troubles occurred. What should be pointed out is the contrast between Bai’s unswerving faith in love regardless of Fahai’s interference and her husband’s doubt on her.

Based on an old fairytale, the play, however, bears its own characteristics. It relies on simple but expressive body language and poetic lines, decorated with movements of traditional Chinese dance, suggestive actions of Xi Qu, soft lighting and traditional Chinese music. All of these factors keep the widely-told story new and attractive even to today’s audience.

Director Wang Xin praised the legend of White Snake as a piece of treasure in Chinese history that contained the thoughts, spirits, ethics, cognition and aesthetics of Chinese nation. The story itself officially became a national intangible cultural heritage in 2006. Its charm and vast room for imagination has invited various adaptations, which in turn have kept it alive. On the occasion of the 11th ATEC International Forum, the teachers and students from The Central Academy of Drama decided to bring this story into theatre. The performers are passionate and creative students from the departments of Acting, Directing, Beijing Opera, Musical Theatre, Dance Theatre, etc. Most of them are Year 1 students, but they all have a good command of body language in theatre and have reinforced this skill through the performance.


Cultures are to be imparted, and civilizations need interaction. Via this forum, the participants have exhibited the cultures of their countries and have learned from each other. These precious Asian civilizations will be improved and passed on.