Chinese Lore- Legendary Chinese String Instruments (Guqin) (3)

Now, the last of this series:

  1. Pillar Circler

Appearance & Characteristics:

Its name came from a story published in a famous ancient text: a renowned female singer from the Han region in the Zhou dynasty who was travelling to the Qi kingdom but ran out of money half way and so had to resort to singing on the street to beg for money. Her melancholy sword circled in the air like the call of a swallow. Moreover, it was said that her voice still circled and reverberated among the pillars within houses three days after she had left. Thus, this instrument had a strong echo.

Lore:

When this instrument was actually constructed is unknown. However, legend says that it was brought to the Lord of the Chu kingdom (known as Chu Zhuang Wang, that’s not his actual name but a title, Wang is the Chinese character for a feudal lord) as a tribute by a person named Hua Yuan. It was said that Chu Zhuang Wang received the Pillar Circler, he was totally immersed in the beautiful music it produced. There was once when he didn’t go to court for seven consecutive days and forgot all about the affairs of the kingdom. His wife got really worried and said to him, “Lord, you are too immersed in music! In the past, Lord Xia Jie loved to hear Mei Xi playing the Se (another string instrument that have 50, 25 or 23 strings). Similarly, Lord Zhou lost the kingdom to decadent music. Now, Lord you are so immersed in the music produced by the Pillar Circler so as to not go to court for seven days. Do you also want to forfeit your kingdom and your life?” That made Chu Zhuang Wang think. In the end, he decide to heed his wife’s advice. So he ordered the Pillar Circler to be broken up by iron hammers and this highly sought after instrument became history.

  1. Horn-bell

Appearance & Characteristics:

The timbre from this instrument is very grand, like the long note from a horn or the ringing of a temple bell (that is usually as tall and wide as one man), such that music produced from it would vibrate strongly in audiences’ ears.

Lore:

Made in the Zhou dynasty, *Bo Ya (a skilled player of the guqin who was renowned because the story about him and his friend created the Chinese term for a friend who has a keen appreciation for one’s talents zhi yin which literally means “know music/sound”) had once owned it. It subsequently fell into the hands of Qi Yuan Gong, the virtuous Lord of the Qi Kingdom during the period of the Spring and Autumn Warring States. He was a man who had great musical talents and had quite a collection of high quality guqins. Among these, he especially treasured Horn-bell. He had once asked his retainers to knock on the horns of oxen and sing accompaniments while he used the Horn-bell to perform. It was said that the effect was very poignant and the servants who were serving on the side all ended up in tears.

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

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).