Moonlake’s Writing Updates (1)

Firstly, the good news: I’m officially part of the Strolenati commercial epub group and in the process of writing my first short story for sale (all right, I wrote and abandoned a short story before but that was basically a self-amusement project)! We are just starting and there’s now less than 5 members including myself and only one so far has finished his story and hey, it’s a start. Anyway, I started off with an attempt to ‘rip out’ a part from my abandoned novel. I came up with three directions that I could go (based on three different side characters in my novel and events that happened to them in the past that I had made up using the 10 by 10 character grid) in one night plus suggestions given to me by my beta reader. After some thoughts, I chose one of the three that I thought up and one night, I actually got the whole first paragraph ‘dictated’ to me by my muse. However, that proved to be a false start and I’ve gone back to the drawing board and came up with another short story based on the same world of my abandoned novel but featuring a character that I only alluded to as a legendary figure. Long story short, I’ve gotten the full outline for it done already and I’m going to go into characterisation stage and then writing stage on it soon.

 

This then brings me to the bad news that I’ll be announcing in this sub. I will be taking a break from blogging for a month to do the write-up for this short story. I feel a little bad that I’m abandoning the few followers who have stumbled on my blog of their own accords and decided to follow such a ‘green’ blog that is wont to fall into random rumblings a lot of the time. However, it’s really that with the break away from novel writing, I really felt that my material for blogging are drying up quick. Increasingly, I’m feeling like blogging is a chore to me that distracts from creative writing. So I’m taking this opportunity to build up more material for future blogging as well as giving myself some free space to concentrate on this epub project that have just come onto the radar.

 

So in conclusion, bye for now to my followers but I will be back, with more material that I could share without feeling that I have to desperately scrap them out of a cobwebbed corner or feel pressured that I have to conjure something then and there when I feel totally uninspired.

Chinese Lore- Legendary Chinese Broadswords and Knives (Dao) (2)

The broadsword that I’m describing today has really dramatic and awesome lore.

 

No. 7: Cold Moon

Appearance & Construction:

Forged by Madam Xu of the Warring States period before the Qin Dynasty.

 

Lore:

There is a very grand lore surrounding this blade. Specifically, it goes as follows:

Madam Xu was originally a scholar and she often sung songs to the moon. One night, a ferocious wind suddenly arose. The whole sky first became dark with heavy overcast and then became framed in a halo of red, with the moon surrounded by comets. Then a single loud thunder sounded, followed by a pillar of golden light rushing to break up the thick clouds and then rushing back down to ground again. This downward motion of the golden light caused a big reverberation that made Madam Xu unconscious. When she woke up again, the sky was clear and the moon’s light shone clear for thousands of miles, accompanied by starlight interspersed here and there. Everything appeared as if the dramatic scene she had just witnessed never happened. And then she heard an otherworldly call from amidst the winds. So she walked in the opposite direction of the winds. It was a summer’s night and supposed to be very hot and yet it was really chilly. Madam Xu walked into a forest and deep within it, she saw a terrifying sight. All of the trees in a radius of ten miles had been hacked to pieces and in the midst stood not really a simple fallen meteor but almost a blade completely formed that emanated a strong coldness. Struggling against such cold, Madam Xu pulled the blade free and saw that it was crystalline throughout and showed an ethereal beauty under the moonlight. The blade was still very chilly to the touch and upon closer observation, it was shaped like a new moon. Thus Madam Xu named the blade Cold Moon.

 

Placing this blade within her abode, Madam Xu suddenly had the urge to learn the craft of forging broadswords and set out to do so. Moreover, Madam Xu had quite the knack for it and learnt very fast. Then Madam spent ten full days and nights in her house forging Cold Moon into completion, not partaking of any food but merely subsisting on water. When Madam Xu emerged after the ten days, her friends observed that she had a haggard look and all her hair had become silvery white but her eyes shone bright. And the blade in her hands shone with a fierce light that was terrifying to behold. It was said that the smith who had taught Madam Xu the business of crafting had originally wanted to test his own broadsword against Cold Moon but he could not even get it out of the scabbard. For Cold Moon was the king among broadswords and no broadsword would dare to match against it.

 

Soon the reputation of the Cold Moon had travelled far and wide and alerted the Lord of the Zhao Kingdom (State). So he sent an emissary with ten thousand gold to purchase the Cold Moon. However, Madam Xu refused, saying that the blade is not of this realm and should not be handled by a mortal. Feeling insulted, the Lord of Zhao sent out assassins to get the blade and kill Madam Xu. That night, one hundred and twenty assassins laid siege to Madam Xu but she held out strong wielding Cold Moon. Specifically, it was said that all who were injured by the blade would have their blood frozen and their tendons and bones broken. Yet, at the end, Madam Xu’s stamina ran out and she killed herself with the blade. When the Lord of Zhao attained this blade, he continuously experienced nightmares and heard Madam Xu wailing whenever a cold wind blew. His royal concubines and sons all died from sicknesses. So he placed the blade under a three-footed instrument called Ding (originally one used for cooking but subsequently became used for ceremonial purposes only) to forcefully contain the hatred housed in the blade. Yet, the Zhao State still perished within a year. After the unsuccessful assassination of the founder of the Qin dynasty by Jing Ke using Cold Moon, this blade fell into the hands of Qin Shi Huang (the Beginning Emperor of Qin) and he became the only one who could ‘tame’ the blade. After the demise of the Qin dynasty, however, the whereabouts of this blade became lost.

 

 

Chinese Lore- Legendary Chinese Broadswords and Knives (Dao) (1)

Another of my Chinese lore posts and this time it would stretch across a number of posts. Pictures for some of the “weapons” in this submission can be seen at http://baike.baidu.com/view/795444.htm. What’s available are for no 4 up to no 9. Same as usual, I’m starting with no. 10 and working backwards to no. 1.

No. 10: Pao Din’s Cooking Knife

Appearance & Construction:

An ordinary cooking knife in both appearance and construction, with an iron rectangular blade attached to a wooden handle. Such a knife is an all-purpose cooking knife that can be used to cut, dice and pound meat into minces and paste form for making meatballs.

Lore:

Pao Din (which is not his actual name but is a term that just means “a cook whose surname is Din”) is renowned for his skill at killing a cow and dissecting it into various parts for cooking. In particular, it was said that he had attained his own Tao (refer to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tao for more details on this concept) in dissecting a cow. Specifically, he would always cut a cow at the empty gaps between tendon and flesh so that the blade of his cutting knife would meet no resistance. Consequently, while normal cooks have to change their cutting knives every few years, the blade of his knife never even gets to be honed. Also, there is an idiom directly evolved from this that is used to describe how someone could fulfil a particular task with ease. It is called You Ren You Yu which basically refers to the fact that the blade he wields can flit in and out of a whole cow with ease (The first character is the same character as swim but here it refers to the movement of the blade, Ren is the character for the cutting edge of the blade, You Yu means more than sufficient/adequate).

Overall, this knife is the only blade among the top 10 that are not married by human blood. In actual fact, it is a symbol of the Taoist Pathway of Nourishing Lives (Yang Sheng Zi Tao) that espouses the view that the commitment to drifting with the currents and passivity (i.e. letting everything naturally evolve by themselves) is the only way to attain the state of “You Ren You Yu”.

No. 9: the Tang Broadsword

Lore:

A name that encompass four different classes of broadswords that have standard use in the army, it has become a very renowned ‘brand’ for Chinese broadswords in modern days. However, there is no record of any broadswords that go by such a name in actual history but such types of broadswords were roughly created some time during the period spanning from Western Han to the Tang dynasty. Specifically, it was said to come about from the attempt of smiths and soldiers in seeking to redesign blade heads to combine the characteristics of a longsword with the Western Han Ring Sword.

No. 8: The Kun Wu Broadsword

Appearance & Construction:

Named for being constructed from the material mined from Mt. Kun Wu.

Lore:

It was said that on Mt. Kun Wu grew a special type of flame-red copper. Moreover, the legend says that a blade made out of such copper is able to cut through jade.

Character Sketches (1)

What I’m using to do these character sketches are based on my list of catalyst events and feelings that I had previously shared on this blog.

Today’s entry was based on the following prompt: Feeling Composed amidst the Rise of a New Power. What I did was to brainstorm for 5 minutes on this prompt and then I took the direction that could most show off an emotion in a dramatic way. It was a bit of unfortunate thing that my first attempt was based on the feeling of composed (which I see as a very mild feeling) but I compensated for it by choosing to write about someone who was composed in the situation of the rise of a new power but then had his composure cracked.

Below is the actual snippet:

“Do you know that the new Duke of Uprowe…..”

I listened to the waves of gossip floating around me and felt only disdain. Those idiots, they should have stood as a bystander like I did and bided their time rather than jumping headlong into the harebrained schemes concocted by the two imbeciles Henry and Roland. And now look where that left them? Scrabbling madly when an upstart came forth to annihilate the two imbeciles.

Just then, the buzz around me suddenly fell silent. I looked up and saw that a man dressed fashionably for court was approaching ahead of his two attendants. It just happened that his face was shrouded by the dusk lighting from where I was standing and when it finally emerged into my vision, I felt cold sweat developing on my forehead. How could this be? I’d only glimpsed him once when I pulled out my sword from his limp body. But there could be mistaking it: this upstart was the son of my once mortal enemy, who I had thought died alongside with his repugnant father, at none other than my own hands!

Doing a bit of post-writing analysis myself, I think that my signature of getting inside of character heads (to coin my beta reader) is still running dominant in the snippet above. This does water down the strength of the emotion in this scene. As for more, I can’t judge for myself. So what are your thoughts?

Chinese Lore- Legendary Chinese String Instruments (Guqin) (2)

Continuing from last time, here’s the next snippet and the last one of this series will be posted this Friday/Thursday.

  1. Scorched Tail

Appearance & Characteristics:

Made from a scorched block of wood from a Chinese parasol tree, its name is derived from the fact that the tail of this instrument shows visible scorch marks.

Lore: Crafted by the scholar and musician Cai Yong of the late Han/Three Kingdoms era from a block of scorched wood he discovered during his wanderings/fleeing across the land to avoid military unrest. Specifically, he found that the block of wood has a unique sound and carefully crafted a guqin out of this piece of wood. Much to his expectations, the instrument that came about had an extradordinary ‘voice’.

Three hundred years later, the Emperor of a short-lived dynasty who held this instrument in his hands asked a famous musician of that time to perform for him using the Scorched Tail. After playing for five days, this musician composed a song titled the Song of Vexation on the spot and presented it to the Emperor as a gift.

  1. Green Silk/Elegance

Appearance & Characteristics:

There is carved onto this instrument four Chinese characters that mean the “essence of Tong and Zi” that imply that this instrument combines the best properties of an instrument made from the Tong (probably Chinese parasol) and Zi (catalpa ovata) trees.

Lore:

Gifted to the famous scholar Sima Xiang Ru of the Han dynasty by the noble Liang Wang (Lord of the Liang region) for composing a beautiful verse for him titled the Jade-like Verse (Ru Yu Fu). In particular, Xiang Ru was already a skilled player. With the Green Silk in his possession, both himself and the instrument reached their height of fame, so much that the name Green Silk became used as a generic term to refer to an instrument of high quality/a renowned instrument.

Moreover, this instrument also played an important role in the love story of Xiang Ru and his wife Wen Jun, which was not just romantic but famous because it had a *‘happy ending’. The basic story goes as follows: Xiang Ru was a very talented scholar that was quite well known but poor. One day when he was invited to the house of a rich merchant who was appreciative of his talents. There was a party going on and he was asked to perform with the Green Silk Knowing that the merchant’s daughter, who had quite a reputation for being talented at both literature and music and also happened to admire himself, Xiang Ru took the opportunity to declare his love for her through performing the love song Feng Qiu Huang (Male Phoenix courting Female Phoenix). The result was that Wen Jun eloped with him and they eventually became a happy married couple.

Note: Recently, I’ve found that there’s more to the love story and it isn’t as happy an ending. Specifically, after becoming a court official, Xiang Ru had apparently thought of dumping Wen Jun and/or taking a concubine. While this did not eventually come to happen and the two of them stuck together to the end, I think most who found out about this latter development would feel somewhat cheated of this actual ending.

Chinese Lore- Legendary Chinese String Instruments (Guqin) (1)

Over this and the next post, I will be covering the 10 greatest guqins in ancient China. Guqin literally means ancient string instrument. It is basically a musical instrument of the zither family (multiple strings stretched across a flat body). It typically has seven strings but there is a more ancient version with five string only. There are two voice boxes on the back of a guqin, one big and one small. The big one is known as long chi or ‘dragon pond’. The smaller one is called feng zhao or ‘phoenix lake’. Apparently, its shape is modelled along the body of a phoenix and it is a complex instrument to make since it contains multiple parts that have to be fashioned in a certain way that conforms to various aspects of significance within Chinese culture. There is no clear ordering for which of these instruments are superior compared to others. The ordering is in reverse chronological order of construction period/when records of them first appeared. The reason for such an order is just that the four most ancient ones have way more lore attached to them whereas the other six are quite bland in comparison. So basically I’m operating on the base of “save the best for the last” here.

Just in case someone is interested, this link (http://afe.easia.columbia.edu/timelines/china_timeline.htm) provides a timeline illustrating the transition between different dynasties and periods in ancient China. Pictures of all these instruments can be seen in here: http://www.360doc.com/content/12/0422/12/4604492_205612846.shtml.

  1. Rushing Thunder

Appearance & Characteristics:

Covered all over by snakeskin patterns, with its name carved on the back above the ‘dragon pond’. Moreover, to either side, there are sets of poems engraved by previous owners. One set says, “Many times I travel in the four directions, renowned guqins can be encountered but not obtained. Unexpectedly I have a pleasant encounter with the Rushing Thunder, my wish of many times is finally met.” The other set says, “I have encountered so many puzzles and terrors that there is no longer anything worth sighing, whenever I play the Rushing Thunder my excitement is stoked. Companions for thirty years, I can’t part with it for the purpose of developing my character.”

  1. Legacy of Antiquity

Appearance & Characteristics:

Covered by broken lines like flowing water, with its name carved on the back above the ‘dragon pond’.

  1. The Sole Tranquillity

Appearance & Characteristics:

The top of this instrument is painted in alternate strips of black and red, with crisscrossed patterns of the plum blossom and snakeskin. The back of it is covered by broken lines among cow fur. The name of this instrument is carved onto the top of the ‘dragon pond’ voice box while inside the voice box are carved four Chinese characters referring to a specific year in late Tang (the first year of a particular Emperor’s reign).

  1. The Saints’ Legacy

Appearance & Characteristics:

Another Tang masterpiece, the name of this instrument is engraved onto the top of the “dragon pond” voice box on its back while below is stamped the word for “include”. On two sides of the “dragon pond”, sixteen words that made up four phrases are engraved onto this instrument and filled up with golden paint. The rough translation of these phrases is “Huge riverbed greeting autumn, the cold river printing out the moon. Everything is unhurried, the lonely Chinese parasol split apart in melancholy.”

  1. Jade Penchant of the Highest Heavens

Appearance & Characteristics:

The entire body of this instrument is predominantly covered by a pattern similar to that on the torso of a snake and occasionally by the type of broken lines that appear among cow fur. Its back is covered by broken lines that are protruding upwards like sword blades. Consequently, every few years, the musician who owned this instrument must sand down such protrusions so that it would not affect the quality of the sound that this instrument produces. The engravings found inside this instrument point to its being made around the middle of the Tang dynasty.

  1. Spring Thunder

Appearance & Characteristics:

The name of this instrument is carved onto its back in green. On the two sides of its ‘dragon pond’, there are inscriptions of two separate sayings that praise its sound. Sounds produced from this instrument is deep and clear at the same time. It is crafted in the Tang dynasty by a famous craftsman of such instruments.