Chinese lore- Pan Hu

I love lore and myths in general and so I figured that I will start a new series of posts on Chinese lore that I’ve collated and manually translated across to English. My followers and other readers can read it for inspiration or just for entertainment. Anyway, it will be stored under the Inspiration sub-category for Writer’s Craft for those who might be interested in searching for the new series later. Here’s the first one of the series, which will be on a mythical creature called Pan Hu.

 

Physical Description:

A dog that has five colours on its body: indigo, white, red, black and yellow.

Lore:

In the time of Emperor Ku, an old woman working in the Palace was suspected of having tinnitus (an affliction of the ear) and was treated of it when the doctor extracted a small worm from her ears. She kept this worm as a pet in a gourd that has been cut in half with a covering lid. Not long afterward, this worm has turned into a dog that has five different colours on its body. The Emperor Ku found out about this event and named the dog Pan Hu- Pan which means a large dish (as in the physical object, not a large serving of food) and Hu is a gourd.

Emperor Ku was waging war against the Western Rong, who had an especially capable general. After numerous failures, the Emperor declared that he will marry his own daughter to the one who was able to present him with this general’s head as well as giving him many monetary rewards. After a while, Pan Hu came forth with the general’s head in its mouth.

Emperor Ku was at a loss as to what to do given that Pan Hu was a dog and his retainers all opposed the keeping of his promise in this regard. In the end, it was the Princess who came forth and persuaded the Emperor that Pan Hu was not just simply a dog and therefore his promise should not be easily broken. Thus, Pan Hu brought the princess with it to live in Mount South after the marriage.

Pan Hu and the Princess together had six sons and daughters respectively and the siblings married each other after their father’s death. The Princess returned to the Palace and told the Emperor about his grandchildren. The Emperor sent an envoy to bring back his grandchildren but none of them wanted to leave the mountain, preferring its quiet to the noises in a city. The Emperor heeded the desires of his grandchildren and gave them land in areas with famous peaks and plenty of water sources and gave them the title of Man Yi. Their descendants, thereafter also known as Man Yi have since scattered and lived in regions such as Liang Han, Ba Shu, Wu Ling, Chang Sha and Lu Jiang.

In an alternative version, it was said that Pan Hu was a worm that fell out the Empress’s ears and it was the Princess herself that kept and fed it. After it defeated the enemy general, it suggested that it would be able to turn into a man if he kept himself isolated within a large bell made of gold for seven days. Yet, on the sixth day, the Princess accidentally opened up the bell in her concern for Pan Hu and thus Pan Hu’s transformation was incomplete- he had become a creature with a man’s body but a dog’s head. Despite this, Pan Hu and the Princess still successfully married.

As with all of my serial posts except for Moonlake’s Book Discoveries, the posts for this series will happen at irregular intervals aka according to the whims of the author.

Moonlake’s Lyrics (9)

Another set of lyrics touching on the archaic Chinese feel, theme song for a popular HK series around 5 years ago. To be honest, I didn’t like it that much while I was watching the series but started liking it when I heard it sung not by the original singer but by the male protagonist of the series instead. It really brought out the archaic feel of the lyrics. The lyrics themselves are not particularly meaningful or beautiful per se and it sometimes straddle the lines between archaic and modern but well,

The title of the song is called “Red Butterfly” and its lyrics is as follows:

Love will not be diluted by a cold wash of rain             will not diffuse no matter how the fierce wind blows

Even In between sad clouds and the moon                 still not lonely

Your eyes that are capable of *destroying cities are more brilliant than flowers and grasses

Yet your eyebrows and glazed eyes show absentmindedness and one filament of lament

*Flowing water clearly shows us through                        even paved with wind and snow the road on the way will be bright

A dark grey sky                                                               love gets admiration

What love in the love is considered pure                        you willingly become a red butterfly fluttering its wings

Tasted setbacks enough                                                having a bleeding wound is still not enough to whittle away or destroy it

What love in the love is considered pure                       exerting the utmost effort even if facing despair

Stay till the last together not afraid of experiencing adversity

Drinking merrily along the shores of a beautiful river       playing a tune that carries across thousand miles

The sunset carrying a clear wind                                      already faintly materialises

Your beauty is more beautiful that of clusters of different flowers  but my heart can only wish for it

(The sight of) Red butterfly flying across the sky is very beautiful I will remember it for life

Repeat *

What love in the love is considered pure                        you willingly become a red butterfly fluttering its wings

Tasted setbacks enough                                                having a bleeding wound is still not enough to whittle away or destroy it

What love in the love is considered pure                       exerting the utmost effort even if facing despair

Stay till the last together not afraid of experiencing adversity

*destroying cities= a phrase referring to great beauties, coming about because of known ‘historical’ incidence of a beauty contributing to the fall of kingdoms

Moonlake’s Lyrics (8)

Today’s lyrics is one that I like because of its “empowering women” theme. The chorus sort of turns the direction a little towards love because it is the theme song of a HK TV drama. Its title translates to “Mere (little) women, half the sky”

Don’t laugh at me for thinking like a man
Lofty aspirations originally belong to both you and me (here you and me refer to the two genders)
There’s nothing wrong with possessing such
The sky for little women is also broad
Like those for a man

Questioning the right and wrongs encountered while I float and sink in this world
Who can regulate over them? That is
Why I have to be independent
The heart of a little woman hidden within my eyes
Who can guess through it

No need to sigh over the quick turning in winds and tides
I will always give you more encouragements
No need to declare that I only know how to speak grand words
You will see how I make break throughs
Women are born intelligent and quick
Just like fire within water
Will provide help to you in secret
Also can support half of the sky
Distinguish between rights and wrongs
Always know what this world loves

Tricks for overcoming Writer’s Block

I haven’t found much time to write today so today’s post will have to be a shortie. I’ve decided to share some of the tricks I use to overcome the Writer’s Block or being stuck in more general terms.

My foremost trick in overcoming Writer’s Block aka perfectionist streak is to always put square brackets around the passage that I’m writing. This is my method of tricking my brain into thinking that I’m writing a rough draft and then I will just write. Else my perfectionist streak always come to the fore and messes around with my head creating the impression that I have to put down the perfect wordings for a particular passage. Other people might prefer to use dot point lists, type using a different font, different colour etc. but you get the general idea there.

My second trick, used whenever the cause of the Writer’s Block isn’t my own perfectionist streak but rather some part of the story that is still in the nebulous of my mind aka not well defined yet, then I start asking questions of myself on particular points. Then ta-ta, the answers usually come straight after my typed question. Sometimes, I don’t get just one answer but a few alternative ones. Then I get to sift through them and pick one that I like more.

Sometimes I also find that if I close the Word doc that I’m working on and go to do a random writing exercise, then the Writer’s Block goes away by itself.

These are all the tricks that I’ve discovered so far. Others are welcome to leave comments about what other tricks that one could use to combat the Writer’s Block.

 

Moonlake’s Lyrics (7)

Today I will be sharing a set of lyrics that has an archaic Chinese theme for no other reason besides that I personally like it. Others might or might not be able to use it as an inspiration prompt. Also, my translation might be somewhat off given the archaic theme but I did my best. To give it a little context, the song is actually written for a TV drama starring a famous beauty in the era known as the Period of the Three Kingdoms in ancient China. For those with some knowledge on this period, this beauty was the daughter-in-law of Cao Cao (a feudal lord having the strongest kingdom in that period and considered a villain but his kingdom was the one that eventually triumphed over the other two). Specifically, she was married to the eldest surviving son of Cao Cao but reputedly she came to a bad end and the younger brother of her husband wrote a poem dedicated to her. In this poem, she was likened to a Goddess of a particular river.

The title of this song translates to Fairy within Water. Its lyrics is follows:

Long river, sunset, sparse flowers

The sad bird within its shell left its land of birth

How could the *streams and mountains be more lovely than you

Your beauty and virtue shower the land

A fairy within water who has her eyebrows lightly done

Wandering in a solitary boat for the sole purpose of having a look

The mortals are just waiting for one smile of yours

A hundred species of flowers are flowering for a thousand miles

Amidst a time of discord               Broken hearted dream

Yet floating shadows like pain but hasn’t started to hurt yet

Flower amidst a time of discord

Used up half of a life but love not yet thick

Love hard to promise                        Broken hearted tears

Begrudge autumn sights for being about to recede but not yet receded

Flower amidst a time of discord

Chasing the flowing waters back and forth alone

Bright eyes like snow that reflecting a true heart

Temporarily ask new rain on empty mountain

Saying farewell to a smile of yours today

Makes life and death leave its own regrets

The wind asks

Does *fragrant grass evoke hatred or not
*1. Streams and mountains also mean the Crown, referring to the land under one’s dominion

2. fragrant grass can refer to women, or rather, women who touch one’s heart, snippet from the Chinese phrase “where in the world are there not fragrant grasses?” that basically means you can always find another love.

Writer’s Tool: Palm Cards

I am sure that a lot of writers use palm cards as an organisation tool and different people use it in different ways. In this way I’m just discussing my particular usage of them.

To be honest, I started using them when I got stuck on a particular scene. I had a gut feeling that I needed it but when I actually tried to write it, something just felt wrong. After doing a Google search on getting stuck and writer’s block, I decided to act on one piece of advice I came across which was to do a plot sketch using a medium different to the one you usually use to write with. For me, that would be my PC and I suspect that’s the mode of operation for most writers nowadays. Anyways, so I tried to act on this advice and decided to use palm cards since I just happened to have a stack of them sitting on the top shelf of my computer desk and I knew that I would just be replicating what I do on my PC if I take out a notebook (For some reason, I’m tempted to either write straight paragraphs on blank pages like a blank Word document or a blank page of a notebook or dot point lists are in reality just dot point sentence lists with the starting noun removed).

And then magic happened. Something clicked in my brain and told me that I should write on each palm card:

  • A one-liner summarising the main event in a section. Underneath the one-liner, dotpoints on sub-events
  • A listing of the side-plots and plot hooks for the section
  • Thoughts from self and beta reader about what to fix

I write these three things in different colours so that each section stands out. For the particular novel series that I’m working on, each book covers 4 palm cards. I stick them onto a single notebook page in subsequent order so that it functions as a de facto whiteboard.

I’m very happy to result on that particular incidence, this exercise told me that the scene was definitely needed. Having that secure in my mind, my brain told me straight away that the weirdness I had detected was I had failed to create in my own mind and hence could not put down on paper the motivations for the conflict occurring in this particular scene. Also, my main take-away from was that if you feel really stuck, then tweaking the way you are approaching your writing might make all the difference.

Now, extrapolating outside of that particular incidence, I found that this palm card story board that I had created was also particularly useful for me in that it helped me to keep track of the various plots and plot hooks going on not just within the current novel I’m working on but across books (I think I’ve mentioned that I’m a side-plot maniac and I have planned all these hooks that link up events across Chapters, sometimes even across books, so yeah I have a tendency to lose track of them even when I usually do a Chapter skeleton before actually writing. My beta reader definitely alerted me that this is inherent in my writing).

So, I’m sure that’s only one use for palm cards. Feel free to leave comments on the alternative ways for which you have used palm cards as a writer’s tool.

Random writing (14)

The following is derived from flipping to a random page of a fiction and taking the new line that I see.

Prompt used:

“Get off me! Can’t a man be drunk once in a while? I ask you. Tonight of all nights.”

 

“Get off me! Can’t a man be drunk once in a while? I ask you. Tonight of all nights.”

“Of course you can. You can de drunk tonight and every night afterwards if you so wish to.” Tristan said in a cool voice and released his hold on Gabriel, who promptly fell down to become a drunken heap.

Tristan did not move or speak, merely kept his soulful glance on the fleshy ball that Gabriel had become, all his limbs curled up around his abdomen, a posture of utter vulnerability crying out for protection.

After a while, Gabriel uncurled himself and glared up at Tristan. “What do you want of me? Why does the world still want me? I don’t.”

Moonlake’s Lyrics (6)

For my 2nd post of today, I would share the lyrics of another song also by the title of “Wide sea and broad sky”. This one is in Mandarin and a newer song. Personally, I like the other one slightly more (probably because it’s in my mother tongue and anyway I like old songs more). Both are rock songs but the other one is more soft rock, I guess. Anyway, both songs have a similar theme.

I have once suspected                                                   I am walking in a desert

No matter what dream I sowed                                it never grew to fruition

I have barely opened my wing                                   when the wind turned silent

Being used to injuries and hurts                                                is that considered a gain

Fortunately for me                                                          I have never turned back

Finally I discover                                                               that truly there are oases

Having shed sweats                                                        life becomes profound/dignified

Only after walking through dejection can one see a new universe

# Wide sea and broad sky                                            after having been courageous

Have to use dedication                                                  to break the lock of destiny

Those who are callous                                                   thank you for having looked down on me

You make me learn how to not lower my head  living more spectacularly

In front of the window in the small hour                               after losing sleep for the whole night

Seeing the dawn                                                              already rising its head from the clouds

The sunset is lying low (as in the process)             The sunrise is the ripening

If it is light then it would be brilliant for sure

Repeat #

Wide sea and broad sky                                                                after wild wind and heavy draught

Turning back my head                                                    smiling and letting go of past sadness

Those who understand me best                                               thanks for silently accompanying me all this way

Letting me have good stories to tell

Watching the future                                                       arriving step by step

Moonlake’s Lyrics (5)

Today I’m going to share the lyrics of another classic aka old Cantonese song that is inspiring. The title of the song translates to “Wide sea and broad sky”, a term used to describe how open and wide nature (the world) is.

Today I                 watch the snows drift by on a cold night

Drift to far away with a heart that is gradually cooling

Chasing amidst wind and rain     cannot distinguish between shadows and tracks

Broad sky and wide sea,               you and I             would they change (who isn’t changing)

How many times              facing cold stares and contemptuous laughter

Never once given up the ideals within my heart

Momentarily absent-minded     the feeling of seemingly lost something

Has already inadvertently grown dim      the love within my heart (who understands me)

*Forgive me for having lived my entire life with uninhabited indulgence and loving freedom

Yet I’m also afraid that I will fall down one day

Anyone can turn his back on ideals

Why would I be afraid that it would just be me and you one day

Still free and self-centred

Always singing my song aloud    walked through a thousand miles

Repeat *

Anyone can turn his back on ideals

Why would I be afraid that it would just be me and you one day

Repeat *

Random writing (13)

Prompt used:

“Wolf-teeth moon          She looks habitual

I raise the cup                    drain it of all the wind and snow

Who tipped over the cupboard of the past life   enticing dust and quarrels

The hymn of Fate            numb reincarnations

You frown                           cry for the youth that will not return when called

Although history has already become dust           my love is not snuffed out”

She’s used to the colour of the moon now, desolate, rusty, somewhat unappetizing, like the ruins of a forgotten dynasty. I raise my cup in toast to her, draining the liquid within in a single gulp. It tasted slightly bitter, like a path well-worn through the pounding of wind and snow must have felt. I glance at her again and wonder who was it that stumbled into the storage chest of the last Reincarnation and scattered all its content hither and thither, letting loose a storm of dust motes and strife. Here the hymn of Fate starts again but after being numbed by numerous reincarnations, it falls on deaf ears. I glance at her again and retreat quietly into a corner to brood.