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).

Chinese Lore- Tian Gou (Heavenly Dog)

Physical Description:

A fox-like creature whose head is white, said to be originating from a pre-histoical mammal.

Lore:

Originally seen as an animal that can counter evil, it somehow became the synonym to comets which are seen as bad omen in ancient China.

In particular, the Tian Gou eating the Sun or the Moon is a common story passed down through folklore, which was how the ancient populace explained the phenomenon of sun or moon eclipses. During such times, the populace often rang gongs, played drums or even used firecrackers so as to ‘scare away’ the Tian Gou. Closely related to this story is the legend that when Chang E stole the immortal pills rewarded to her husband Hou Yi for shooting down nine Suns (and thus only leaving one sun in the sky), Hou Yi’s hunting hound chased her all through her ascent up to the sky. Hearing its bark, Chang E hid herself in the Moon. Meanwhile, all the hair on the hound’s body stood up erect and its body kept on expanding. Then in one motion, it leapt up and swallowed the Moon whole.  When the Heavenly King and Queen heard about this event, they sent the Heavenly Guards to apprehend the black dog. When it was brought forth, the Heavenly Queen recognised it as Hou Yi’s hunting hound and gave it the title of Heavenly Dog and the responsibility of guarding the Southern Heavenly Door. As a result of the honour given to it, the hound spat out Chang E and the Moon. Thereafter, Change E made the Moon her home.

There is another story concerning how Chang Xian (an immortal in Chinese lore) shot the Heavenly Dog. In this story, the Heavenly Dog was obstructing the constellations from going to the mortal realm as children. When Chang Xian shot the Heavenly Dog and made it run away, the people were then able to get children and as a result, Chang Xian was known as “the children-giving Chang Xian”.

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.

Most Ridiculous Excuse made up by a Villain

This is not really writing related but I’ve just finished watching a TV series where the villain made up the most ridiculous excuse I’ve ever heard to justify his actions. I thought it might serve as inspiration somehow as a means of shedding light upon the extent to which the human brain is capable of conjuring excuses as a means of self-defence or just for entertainment values.

The TV series is a spy thriller set in modern day China and basically the villain is the father of the main character. The setup was that the son works for National Security whereas the father had been the secretary to a City Mayor, just recently retired due to terminal illness. When exposed for being “the mole” who’s been leaking out confidential information to international spies, the son went to visit the father and asked him why he betrayed his own country. His father’s answer was, “I did it for you.”

It was mentioned in passing in previous episodes that the main character’s parents had divorced during his childhood, with his father being re-married and totally neglecting him such that the main character was still harbouring a grudge against his own father now. Going back to the scene of the final confrontation between father and son, his father tells him that apparently he regretted his negligence of his son and wanted to make amends. Then the father went on to tell a story where he was tutoring his friend’s son (who was in primary school, at an age that brought back to him fond memories of his own son) on an essay whose topic is “Is money all-powerful?” and how he had originally told the child that he should write, “no, money is not all-powerful, in fact, it is quite dirty and lead people towards corruption.”. The child’s response to that was, “But money can help out children in Africa. Also, if money is dirty, then why is Chairman Mao printed on it?”. According to the father, this then led him onto the stray path he wandered onto because it suddenly occurred to him that he needed to set aside x amount of money for his son so that he can live a good life. He went on to see how through taking small bribes for a period, he achieved his original target but then inflation set in and he had to amend his target and the snowball effect basically set in.

My first reaction upon hearing this was “What?!” and I picture the main character falling into utter confusion over hearing this obviously made up excuse for falling towards the seduction of money.

And that’s all I want to share, for now.

 

Daily Inspiration Prompt

Given that it’s the new year (it’s the new year over here in Australia), I’m putting up my very first post on the topic that I feel has the closest association to the concept of freshness, about finding inspirations.

I’m going to put up a long comprehensive article about the different ways that one could find inspirations, just share with you the one way that I’ve been using so that I’ve been producing with ease 1 entry per day that goes into my Idea Journal for 3 months ever since I started on it. By the way, my Idea Journal is just where I file away any random ideas popping up that can go into my writing, for those unfamiliar with the term.

The mechanics:

My way is a simple exercise where random words are picked out in clusters and then free association is used to create an idea that links up all of them. I first got the idea from a book called The Creative Writers’ Workshop by Cathy Birch that I borrowed from my local library. I call it the 10 column exercise. As the name indicates, you make ten columns in a spreadsheet. In my case, they contain single words that fall into the following categories: locations, objects, personal characteristics, words that I like or unusual words, verbs, races in my settings, adjectives, catalyst events, systems of world elements and divination elements. Each column is of different lengths although I’m trying to build my spreadsheet so that each column will have 100+ entries. So far, there are still 4 columns that haven’t reached this requisite length and one of them is actually very close.

Besides this 10-column spreadsheet filled with words, you also need a calculator and some books for the process of picking out words according to my method. However, you can always make up your rules if you find that cumbersome.

My rules for picking out words were/are in 3 steps:

I would pick up a random book and flip to a random page. The last digit of the page would be noted down in my spreadsheet as the number of categories from which words will be picked out of. Lately, I’ve changed to the more convenient practice of looking at the time whenever I embark on this exercise. So if it was 9:05 when I opened up the spreadsheet and wanted to pick a bunch of words, then I would be pick out 5 words in total for that day.

I would then essentially repeat this page flipping exercise for the subsequent stages of picking out which specific columns to use and then the actual words themselves. I change books at each stage. At the last stage, I use the actual page number rather than its last digit and I divide this page number by the total number of items in the column and the actual word chosen is the one with the same row number as the remainder derived from this division. If the page number is a multiple of the total number of items in the column, then the last word on the column is chosen.

A further note about my method is that words from the same column can be picked out multiple times. For example, one day I had three locations turn up: steppes/lea, waterfall and palace.  On rare occasions (2 so far for me), the same word turns up twice. Come up with different rules of selecting words if you don’t like such aspects.

An illustration of what this process could yield:

One a particular day, this process had given me 6 words: fortune, oasis, pristine, satyr, ocean and dance.

I formed the following idea that link up all of them that could be dropped into any fantasy setting:

  • Pristine oasis forming on a desert next to an ocean
  • Satyrs dancing on the oasis which was taken as a sign of fortune by those who see the sight

On another day, a set of 5 words (oath/geis, steppes, smother, crystal, damask) yielded the following idea of a location for another in-work setting of mine that I have no real use for in terms of converting to fiction and so only occasionally get attention from me:

  • A crystalline steppe- where the grasses are actual crystals
  • The grasses can be woven into weapons of damask steel quality
  • The steppe becomes smothered by a geis that shrouds over it palpably