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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Parody and nostalgia : contemporary re-writing of Madame White Snake Yau, Vickie Wai Ki


Between 1950s and 1990s, Hong Kong had a frenzy for writing and re-writing materials from classical literature and myths. The myth of Madame White Snake is one of the most well known stories that survived a long period of time. The earliest known version of Madame White Snake was a supernatural story in 1550, which later became a prototype of numerous subsequent versions starting in 1624. This prototype was repeatedly re-written throughout history and was also made into different genres including plays, playlets, novels, films and television dramas. One of the latest versions was written by Li Pikwah, a popular novelist in Hong Kong, in 1993, titled, Green Snake. Green Snake is a parody of Madame White Snake written from the perspective of Little Green, the servant of Madame White and an auxiliary figure in the tradition. The novel is also an autobiography of Little Green, who satirically criticizes the story of Madame White Snake in retrospect. Little Green’s autobiography is a nostalgic reflection of the past as well as a critique of the structure of the story that has survived throughout history. These implications made in the story hint at the author’s personal yearning for traditional China as a Chinese resident in Hong Kong. Her nostalgia for traditional China is not idealistic but paradoxical, because her re-writing of the story was an avenue to understand and re-negotiate her identity. Li is also well-known for her other novels, which are parodies of classical literature, traditional myth and legend. Many of these works were also made into films in the 80’s and 90’s. These novels and films were part of a phenomenon in contemporary Hong Kong literary and popular culture that tried to grasp a cultural connection with traditional China in order to embrace the return to mainland China in 1997 after a hundred years of British colonial rule.

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