Live and Let Live (4)

I had found the inspiration to write up one more snippet after all but I think it would be the last. The main reason is that I don’t think it helps me to improve my writer craft since it is some kind of signature feature of my writing that I tend to delve into character’s inner dialogues a lot. However, I will keep the practice of posting random writing snippets every two weeks, just to use as an excuse to keep in practice for novel writing. What I would do from now on is work on areas that are my short points. I think I’ve mentioned that one of them is characterisation and one area I’ve pinpointed is character emotions. So this will be the theme that my future random snippets would be based on: character sketches displaying how they deal with specific emotions.

Anyway, here’s snippet 4 (and likely the last snippet, I’ve writer’s whims so who knows what I will do):

“I’m not your enemy and I’ve done nothing to harm you so stopping treating me like one. If anything, you’ve brought me nothing but trouble. I must’ve owed you a debt in my past life” Right, here we go again, I’m the sole cause of everything that had gone wrong in her life. If she had made a bad decision, she made it because of me. And she told me not to villainise her, right then stop villanising me. How is that fair? Everything I’ve done wrong is due to a character fault, and note, a character fault that she had tried her best to steer me away from. Meanwhile, she’s the all-noble mother that had to sacrifice this and sacrifice that and put up with all the wrong choices because of me, because she had my welfare in mind. And if I suggested that she had some ulterior motive i.e. she wanted to fulfil what she couldn’t through me, she would jump up to the ceiling in rage! Well, I couldn’t do the same with her when she provoked me into rage. So I just turn cold. I just turn cold inside, which is effectively what she does whenever we have an argument when I was growing up. She moulded me into a soft-hearted malleable person who jumps in the direction of whoever beckons by threatening to withdraw her affections and turning cold whenever I didn’t want to go her way. And then when I woke up one day to the truth of who I am and how I should be and want to be, she doesn’t respect that. For her, you are either a success or a failure according to her view, it doesn’t matter what insights and epiphanies you have or have learnt. Well, sorry, Madame Judgemental, I don’t care for your opinion anymore because I hold the exact opposite life philosophy and what makes you happy doesn’t make me happy. And I’m no longer cowed by your cold-war tactics, two can play the same game.

Moonlake’s Lyrics (14)

Originally, I was meant to post the 4th snippet for the Live and Let Live series. However, I was struggling with the last snippet already so I need time to think about how to proceed with it. So today I will post another lyric. This time I will posting an old song from a quite famous Mainland female singer called Faye Wong and it’s one of her more famous songs. The title of the song is “Red bean”. She actually sings the Cantonese version as well but I didn’t really like that one. For me, the attraction of this particular version was the match between the tune and the lyrics- the two just seems to go together perfectly. Firstly, however, I just want to add an aside about the song title- red bean in Chinese is also referred to as the Bean of Lovesickness which comes from a reference to read beans used in this poem written in ancient times on the theme of love.

The lyrics goes as follows:

Haven’t yet really felt how it is like in the weather*when snow flowers bloom (i.e. cold weather)
When we shake together we will better understand what is tenderness
Haven’t yet walked through deserted sand hills while holding hands with you
Maybe after that we will learn how to cherish longevity/forever

*Sometimes      sometimes
I would believe that everything has an end
Meeting and parting       have their own times
Nothing would be deathless

But sometimes I
Would rather choose to not let go
And wait until you’ve seen enough sights
Maybe then you will stay with me to watch the sight of *a small creek leisurely flowing by

Haven’t yet simmered red beans (lovesickness) enough and made them into a lingering wound for you
And then partaking of it (the red bean stew) together would make us better understand the sadness in lovesickness
Haven’t yet really felt the tenderness in kissing whilst awake
Maybe it is because you are besides me that you pursue the freedom in being alone

Repeat * two times

Chinese Lore- Legendary Chinese bows (2)

Continuing from last time:

No. 5: The Heaven Shaker

Lore: wielded by Xue Ren Kui, a famous general in the Tang dynasty. In 661 AD, Xue Ren Kui was fighting against the Uighurs, a group of nomads from Northern Asia who were strong riders and whose bows could create winds that shake the heaven. In particular, his adversary was Hali Khan who had the nickname of the Master of Condor Shooters within Mt. Heaven (Tian Shan) who led an army of over a hundred thousand. In particular, he sent out over ten particularly strong warriors to challenge the Tang army, among them three of his most valued generals that were named Yuan Lung, Yuan Hu and Yuan Feng. It was said that Xue Ren Kui was totally unfazed and calmly drew back this bow three times in succession. The result was that each arrow found its target and Lung (Dragon), Hu (Tiger) and Feng (Phoenix) were all killed. This threw the Uighur army into turmoil and they all surrendered. This event was celebrated as the “Conquering of Mt Heaven by three Arrows” by the Tang soldiers and populace.

No. 4: The Condor Shooter

Lore: the weapon of Genghis Khan

No. 3: The Conqueror

Construction/Special Properties: The body of this bow is made from a metal called Xuan Tie (which is really a fictional metal) and weighs 127 Chinese grams (just over 76 kg in modern terms). Reputedly the bowstring of the Conqueror is the back sinew of a black semi-dragon (a black Jiao Lung). It was said that a black Jiao Lung is the ultimate representation for coldness and as such, the bowstring of the Conqueror is unusually strong and immune to both ice and fire as well as damage dealt by conventional weapons.

Lore: the weapon that Xiang Yu, aka Conqueror Xiang, always carries with him. He was a renowned hero, the Lord of the Chu Kingdom and the major competitor against Liu Bang who founded the Han dynasty. The story goes that Xiang Yu heard of a black Jiao Lung being a major menace to nearby villages around a river named the Wu Jiang (Dark River) and set out alone to find this dragon when he was 15. It was said that having found it, Xiang Yu fought with it for one day and two nights and finally killed it. After this deed, it was said that he extracted the main sinew from its back to make the bowstring of the Conqueror.

No. 2: The Sun Sinker

Lore: the bow that Hou Yi used to shoot down nine suns. There’s a myth about how for a period of time, there were ten suns in the sky. The result is that the earth became parched and the crops failed. People were dehydrated and fell into comas. Meanwhile, ferocious beasts were running rampart, which was previously living in lakes (that have now run dry) and forests (that have become as hot as if aflame). The plight of the mortal realms touched the immortals and the Heavenly King Ti Jun sent Hou Yi who was good at archery to help the mortals. Thus with the red bow that Ti Jun gifted to him, Hou Yi shot down nine of the sons, leaving only one in the sky.

No. 1: The Xuan Yuan Bow

Construction/Special Properties: Forged by Xuan Yuan Huang Ti or the Yellow Emperor (one of the legendary Three Soverigns and Five Emperors), from the trunk of a species of tree that is especially tough within Mt. Tai, the horns of a species of ox known as Yan Niu (Swallow-Ox or Ox of the Yan region, not sure), the sinew from a type of elk known as Jing Mi (Thorn-Elk?) and glue made from fishes in the river

Lore: The Yellow Emperor used this bow to kill his nemesis Chi You with three arrows to the heart. In the Investiture of the Gods (a classic Chinese novel, not quite as classic as one of the Four Classics but still very famous), this bow goes by the alternative name of Qian Kun Bow and was used by Li Jing (a mythical character that was a great general and then ascended to immortality) to kill a minor villain with a single shot

Chinese Lore- Legendary Chinese bows (1)

I almost forgot about today’s post but luckily I seemed to have developed some kind of reflex around posting on Mondays and Fridays (not bad since it’s close but not yet half a year since I started this blog).

Anyway, I have to admit that I’m still on my lethargy phase with respect to novel writing and random writing (except for the Live and Let Live series). At the Citadel, I’m cooking up another submission for the Villain quest and doing a whole bunch of research-based writing based on ancient China. So today I will be sharing some of these here.

Descriptive writing has ever been my short point so I’m going to point everyone to the following link containing pictures of these legendary bows: http://baike.baidu.com/view/1300606.htm”>. Note that the picture for no. 8 detailed here is missing as well as those for no. 5, 4 and 2 that will be posed up the coming Monday.

No. 10: The Dragon Tongue

Construction/Special Properties: reputedly its bowstring is made from the sinew of a dragon, giving it high speed and accuracy.

Lore: In the era of the Three Kingdoms, Lu Bu, the greatest warrior of that era, had used the Dragon Tongue to successfully shoot his halberd, thereby averting the awkward situation when Yuan Shu sent an emissary to force him to join in invading Liu Bei’s stronghold

No. 9: The Travelling Son

Construction/Special Properties: A strong bow, whose arrows fly at the speed that a *travelling son eager for homecoming wishes to travel at

Lore: the weapon of Hua Rong, ranked ninth among the one hundred and eight generals of the Water Margin (one of the 4 Chinese classics in literature) heroes, which together make up a grass-root rebellion group in the Northern Song dynasty.

Note: a travelling son is a generic term in ancient China for a son who is currently living far away from his parents. Back then, there’s a kind of a cultural dogma that’s against being apart from your parents encapsulated in the saying “when your parents are around, one should not travel far”. In reality, of course, some still do, especially for scholars for the purpose of studying and then later on if they become an official.

No. 8: The Divine Arm

Construction/Special Properties: Actually a crossbow whose body is made from a particular specie of mulberry trees, whose bowstring is made from silk, with the end of the bow being made of sandalwood and iron/steel making up the mechanic parts.

Lore: Some say it is wielded by the patriotic general Yue Fei who was instrumental in repelling the Jurchen invaders in the Southern Song dynasty but died at the hands of the corrupt official Qin Hui. Others say that it the multiple-shot crossbow invented by Zhuge Liang in the era of the Three Kingdoms.

No. 7: The Sentient Treasure

Lore: the weapon of Li Guang, a valiant general of the Western Han dynasty who was instrumental in repelling the Xiong Nu invaders (a race of nomads dominant in Central East Asia) and was given the nickname of General Fei or Flying General by them.

It was said that one day when Li Guang was out hunting, he saw a tiger crouching amidst a bush from afar and shot it. When he walked close, he found that it was actually just a stone but the arrow has sunk deep within the stone. Apparently a poet in the Tang dynasty had composed a poem that detailed this event.

No. 6: The Ten-thousand Stone

Construction/Special Properties: Composed from purple sandalwood that are harder than steel but much lighter

Lore: the weapon of Huang Zhong, one of the five Tiger General of the Shu Kingdom of the era of the Three Kingdoms (the others were Guan Yu, Zhang Fei, Zhao Yun and Ma Chao, basically the five greatest warriors of Shu). Huang Zhong was the eldest among them (in fact substantially older than the others) but he was such a valiant warrior that he managed to slay Xia Hou Yuan, cousin to Cao Cao and one of his eight Tiger Riders. Consequently, Huang Zhong was a classic image for a healthy and capable elder in Chinese culture. The name of this bow was a reference to weight (stone is a unit of measurement in ancient China since it was said that Huang Zhong can wield a bow that has the strength of two stones (a little over 19kg in modern terms) i.e. one needs to exert about 19kg of force to use such a bow. It was also said that he never missed a shot.

Live and Let Live (3)

As promised, the belated snippet #3:

 

“What is the ultimate purpose of education? To get a paying job…” Next she’s going to tell me about why the career I’m thinking would not provide me stable pay etc. Every time I wanted to discuss a possible area to head in that I might be interested, she would start picking faults with it and pull out real life examples that she had sussed out. I’m getting tired of her games. She’s been doing it my whole life, subtly influencing the direction of my life. Whenever I mentioned something that’s contrary to how she wants me to live, she would offer ‘advice’. And if I don’t heed her advice, she would start arguments with me and otherwise ‘insinuate’ her thinking into me in everyday life. I don’t know whether she knows that I’ve known her game all along but maybe she doesn’t care as long as she got her way. Oh yes, she always got her way, up until now. Now I’m just so sick of the way that she’s been manipulating me that I no longer whether I would lose her affection if I go against her anyway. I don’t even want to listen to her ‘advice’ anymore, her advice that is dressed up all nicely in rationality and practicality. I don’t care about those anymore, they aren’t me, or at least, not all of me.

Chinese Lore- Gan Jiang and Mo Xie (2)

Firstly, I haven’t forgotten that I’m supposed to be posting a new snippet for Live and Let Live. However, I figured it would be weird if I did not continue with the lore of Gan Jiang and Mo Xie that I posted up at the start of this week. So the Live and Let Live snippet would be moved to next Monday and I will continue with the Chinese lore. Here goes:

Gan Jiang and Mo Xie are inseparable, whether as swords or individuals. The pair of swords are separately named for their crafters- Gan Jiang, the male sword, is named after the husband. Similarly, Mo Xie, the female sword, takes the same name as the wife. It was said that the smith Gan Jiang was very diligent while Mo Xie was a tender loving wife. Whenever Gan Jiang was working at the forge, his wife Mo Xie would be fanning him and swiping sweat for him.

When Gan Jiang was commissioned to craft a sword for the Lord of Chu, three months had gone past but the “essence of steel” used for the crafting wouldn’t melt. Gan Jiang sighed and Mo Xie cried. If the material wouldn’t melt, then the crafting would be a failure. And if the crafting failed, Gan Jiang would be killed by the Lord. But Gan Jiang could think of no failure and could only sigh.

Then one night, Mo Xie suddenly smiled. Seeing her smile, Gan Jiang became afraid. For he knew why she smiled. Gan Jiang told Mo Xie, “No, don’t do it.” Mo Xie said nothing but merely smiled. When Gan Jiang woke up, he found that Mo Xie wasn’t besides him. Broken-hearted, he hurried to where he knew Mo Xie was. What Gan Jiang saw was Mo Xie standing atop the forge like a fairy. Mo Xie saw the shape of Gan Jiang rushing towards her from afar in the morning light and smiled. She heard him yelling her name, in a bare croak. Mo Xie was still smiling but tears fell down her face at the same time. Gan Jiang was crying too. With a bleared vision, he saw Mo Xie falling. The last words he heard was “Gan Jiang, I haven’t died, we will be together yet….”

The material within the forge melted and the crafting was successful. Two swords, one male and one feminine, came out and Gan Jiang named them for himself and his wife. Gan Jiang only gave the Lord of Chu Mo Xie and kept the only sword himself. This news was soon heard by the Lord and he sent warriors who laid siege to Gan Jiang. In despair, Gan Jiang surrendered. Then he opened up the container in which he stored the male sword and asked, “Mo Xie, how can we be together?” The sword suddenly jumped out of the container and became a beautiful white dragon that soared away. At the same time, Gan Jiang also disappeared and the Mo Xie sword that the Lord of Chu kept besides him also disappeared simultaneously.

Meanwhile, within a desolate region thousands of miles away, there appeared a young white dragon in a big lake called Yan Ping Jing (modern Nan Ping within Fu Jian). This white dragon was beautiful and kind, summoning the most opportune climates for the local citizens. As time went on, this desolate region grew rich from good climate and rich crops, so much that the local city changed its name from “Poor city” to “Abundant city”. Yet, the locals often found that the white dragon was always looking up as if waiting for something on the surface of the lake. Some even saw that its eyes often contained tears.

Six hundred years had gone past. Through pure chance, the Mayor of Abundant City dug out a stone container hidden underground when he initiated reconstruction of the city wall. Within the container, there laid a sword that had the name Gan Jiang engraved upon it. The Mayor was overjoyed and carried this legendary sword besides him always. One day, when he went near the Yan Ping Jing, his sword suddenly jumped out of the scabbard on its own and into the water. Amidst his shock, the water roiled and then two dragons, one white and the other black, surfaced. The two dragons gave several nods to the Mayor in rapid succession and then twined their necks together in intimate movements. Then both of them sunk down into the water and disappeared. Then local citizens of the Abundant City discovered that the white dragon who always look about with tears in its eyes in Yang Ping Jing and rumoured to have been seen for six hundred years was no longer there one day. The next day, however, an ordinary couple moved into Abundant City. The husband was a very good smith but he only took commissions to make farming equipment and turned down any orders for crafting weapons. When he worked at the forge, his wife would always be found besides him either fanning him or wiping sweat for him.

Of particular interest is that the bit about Mo Xie sacrificing herself to quicken the crafting process is supported by scientific evidence. Specifically, it was found that the large amount of phosphorus contained within human bones (I think it’s within bones but not sure) can act to quicken the smelting process.

 

Chinese Lore- Gan Jiang and Mo Xie (1)

I’m still in my lethargy phase (sort of) so I’m going to recycle a bit of Chinese lore I just delved into for my Citadel submissions (for the What makes a weapon magic quest), which is on a pair of legendary swords. The male sword is called Gan Jiang while the female one is called Mo Xie, named for the husband and wife of a smith couple. There are two different legends surrounding this set of swords.

 

Today I will be sharing the first legend:

Gan Jiang and Mo Xie were citizens of the Kingdom of Chu (more like a province of China in modern terms). Being famous smiths, they were asked to craft swords for the Lord of Chu. It took them three years to finish and the product was a set of two swords. The slow completion time angered the Lord and made his mind turn to killing. Meanwhile, Mo Xie was about to give birth. Hearing of the Lord’s plans, Gan Jiang told his wife, “I took three years to finish the sword crafting for the Lord. He is angry and will surely kill me when I go to him. If you give birth to a son, then tell him the following when he grows up: look towards the mountain in the south once he sets foot outside the door, there’s a conifer tree growing on top of a stone, the sword is at the back.” Then he went to the Lord with the female sword only. Like Gan Jiang expected, the Lord was very angry and asked for a detailed examination of the sword. The sword examiner told the Lord, “The product should be a pair of swords, this is only the female one, the male one is missing.” This made the Lord even angrier and he order Gan Jiang killed.

The son that Mo Xie gave birth was named Chi (meaning Red). When he asked about his father, Mo Xie told him the words left by Gan Jiang. Thus Chi found the male sword and plotted to have vengeance on the Chu Lord. At the same time, the Chu Lord had been dreaming of a boy whose eyebrows are spaced wide apart, who swore vengeance on himself. Consequently, he put out a bounty for such a boy. Hearing of this news, Chi fled deep within the mountain. There he met a wandering swordsman who asked him what was the matter when he found Chi crying. Chi told him everything and he told Chi to give him the sword and his own head and said that he would help Chi to get his vengeance. Chi agreed and committed suicide. Chi’s corpse held both his own head and the sword in his hands but his body stood rigid. The wandering swordsman promised to not let him down and only then did his body fall down.

The swordsman presented Chi’s head to the Lord of Chu, which made the Lord overjoyed. The swordsman told the Lord that Chi’s head is the head of a brave warrior and that is should be cooked in a pot. The Lord followed his advice and yet Chi’s head remained intact even after three full days’ cooking. Moreover, the head actually jumped out of the cooking pot and stared angrily at the Lord. The swordsman said, “Lord, this child’s head cannot be cooked. Please come besides the pot and then I’m sure that the head will be cooked.” The Lord believed him and immediately walked to the side of the pot. The swordsman suddenly swung his sword towards the Lord and the head of the Lord fell into the cooking pot along with the sword. Then the swordsman beheaded himself and his head fell in too. Then all of the three heads in the pot were cooked and it was possible to distinguish between them. In the end, the pot of “head head” soup was separated into three equal portions and buried under the name of “The Tomb of the three Lords”. Now this tomb can still be found within the province of Yu Nan.

 

Characterisation- Feelings

I’m working tomorrow so my normal Friday post is shifted to today. Today I’m going to share another list I had compiled- feelings. During my novel writing process, my beta reader told me that one of my trademarks is that I delve too much into protagonists’ heads and not enough into their feelings. So during this latest bout of Writer’s Lethargy, I compiled the following list:

·         accomplished
·         agonised
·         angry
·         anguish
·         antigonistic
·         antipathy
·         appalled
·         bored
·         broken-hearted
·         bullied
·         calm
·         care-free
·         cheap
·         cheated
·         compassionate
·         composed
·         confident
·         content
·         degraded
·         denied
·         diffident
·         directionless
·         dirty
·         disenchanted
·         disgusted
·         disillusioned
·         dumb
·         energised
·         euphoric
·         exasperated
·         excited
·         exhausted
·         faint
·         fake
·         fatigued
·         fulfilled
·         gainsaid
·         gentle
·         genuine
·         gratified
·         happy
·         hopeful
·         horrifed
·         indifferent
·         insignificant
·         inundated
·         joyous
·         kind
·         languid
·         lazy
·         lively
·         lost
·         malicious
·         manipulated
·         murderous
·         nourished
·         numb
·         nurtured
·         oppressed
·         overwhelmed
·         pale
·         pampered
·         protected
·         proud
·         queer
·         reassured
·         repulsed
·         rested
·         sad
·         safe
·         sated
·         satisfied
·         self-assured
·         shocked
·         sorrowful
·         suffocated
·         suppressed
·         tearful
·         tested
·         thunderstruck
·         timid
·         tired
·         torn
·         tortured
·         underwhelmed
·         victimised
·         violated
·         watchful
·         wistful
·         wonder
·         yearning

Chinese Lore- the Nine Sons of the Dragon

To be honest, I’m currently going through a phase that I call “Writer’s Lethargy”. So I’ve decided that it’s time for me to re-use old work and so today’s post will be a Chinese lore. In Chinese, there is a saying about the nine sons of the Dragon being all different, which is mainly to refer to the fact that siblings could be very different to each other (and possibly varying in ‘quality’). Below, you guess it, I’m going to describe each of them.

Qiu Niu- Depicted as a typical Chinse dragon, Qiu Niu is said to have a passion for music and its head often serves as ornamentation for the tops of musical instruments

Ya Zi- Depitced as a creature with the head of a wolf and a dragon’s body, its preference for killing makes it a common decorative component on sword-grips. Its name also appears in a Chinese idiom/proverb (the special four-charcter phrases in Chinese) describing vengeful personalities.

Chao Feng- Chao Feng itself is considered an incarnation of birds and takes the image of a phoenix. It is said to like precipices and therefore figurines of Chao Feng are placed on the four corners of roofs. However, these figurines are normally of a four-legged beast form.

Pu Lao- Another with the look of a typical Chinese dragon. Reputedly, it likes to cry. It is represented on the tops of bells, serving as handles

Suan Ni- A lion-like creature that likes to sit down. Figurines of it are commonly found upon the bases of Buddhist idols under the Buddhas’ feet.

Bi Xi/Ba Xia- A creature similar in form to a Trionychidae (a form of soft-shelled turtle which can be found in Asian diet, viewed as a delicacy and prized for the its supposedly health strengthening effects) which is said to be fond of literature. It is put on the sides of grave monuments. Alternativley, Ba Xia is a big tortoise that likes to carry objects. Figurines of Ba Xia are commonly the support structures for grave monuments.

Bi’an- A tiger-like creature which likes litigation. Figurines of it are placed over prison gates to keep guard.

Fu Xi- Unclear of its entire apperance but it is certain that it has the serpentine body typical of a Chinese dragon. Fu Xi looks after anything of an artistic nature and is depicted as spiraling in a vertical sense at the top of stone monuments

Chi Wen- It has the head of a dragon but the body of a fish. It likes swallowing and is placed on both ends of the ridgepoles of roofs to swallow all evil influences.

There is also an alternate version where Qiu Niu, Chao Feng and Fu Xi are replaced by the following:

Tao Tie- A horned, clawed beast with a tail roughly corresponding to the relevant body part of a cow, tiger and goat. Its face decorate a wide range of tools and storage devices made from an alloy of bronze, tin and lead whose name translates to Indigo Bronze. It is associated with gluttony and greed. In modern terms, part of its name is used in a term that refers to food connoiseirs.

Ba Xia (pronounced with different inflections than the Ba Xia in version A)- With a typical Chinese dragon’s apperance, Ba Xia is said to like water and his image is sculpted into the foundation pillar for bridges.

Jiao Tu- A conch or clam, which does not like to be disturbed. It decorates door knobs or the doorstep (in ancient times, door knobs have a flat surface which is in the shape of Jiao Tu’s face that is attached to a ring of metal which is used to knock)

Hope that would be of interest or use to someone and stay tuned for my post at the end of the working week (for Australasians, that is).