Remarkable Women in Ancient China (13)- Huang Chong Xia

Who is she:

  • A real historical figure known to have passed herself as a man for long periods of time. I know most of you would say that Mulan is far more famous but the original reference to Mulan came from a long poem starring her and other than that, there is no evidence that she was a real person (she could be but you don’t know anything about her other than that she joined the army in place of her father) 

Notable Life Events:

  • Lived in the era of Former Shu (907-925 AD) of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period, born to a noble family but orphaned and grew up under an elderly maid instead 
  • When she grew up, she wanted to travel instead of staying at home so she dressed up as a man to travel in the Sichuan region. During a fire, she was framed and jailed so she wrote a poem declaring her innocence and sent it to the head official, Zhou Yang, presiding over the Sichuan region, who took over her case and proved her innocence. Appreciating her talent, Zhou Yang recommended her for a position at court. 
  • Yang asked her if ‘he’ would become his son-in-law, at which point she wrote a poem about her gender and then resigned her position at court. 

Why is she remarkable:

  • Mainly for the feat of passing herself as a man for long periods: in ancient China both genders tend to wear clothing that make the adam’s apple less prominent compared to modern clothing but I think she still had to correct her posture and everything. Perhaps her orphan status meant that she did not have the posture of a conventional high-born lady but that is just my personal conjecture. 
  • She was not the first female court official ever but probably the first one after the reign of the Empress Wu Zetian of the Tang Dynasty 

Moonlake’s thoughts on her: 

She sure is an adventurous type and highly intelligent and capable (it was said that the local populace under her governance prospered) but other than that, I’m not seeing any other aspects to her. 

Moonlake and Historical fiction

So historical fiction is my third genre but it is often solely neglected because: 1) I just haven’t really found a comfort author to stick to and for the majority of my life, I have been sticking to comfort authors; 2) I don’t have a personal interest in history so much. Rather, I feel history fiction has a similar draw of fantasy to me, by bringing me into a different ‘world’. But nevertheless, here is a post devoted to my history with this particular genre.

My first historical fiction was the Taiko by Eiji Yoshikawa, the English version of it which had been translated into totally beautiful prose. Plus it is an epic story so it wooed me off my feet and I have acquired it for my personal shelf. It also helps that I was very familiar with the series of Koei PC strategy games by the same name to the book which contain snippets of historical events here and there via cut scenes. But long story short, that seemed to have been a once-off for me. I wasn’t interested in Musashi, the other celebrated work by the same Japanese author at all.

Some time later, I found Ellis Peters and Peter Tremayne. But in truth, I was more into them for the mystery angle as opposed to historical. My next serious foray into historical fiction was really Shadows and Strongholds by Elizabeth Chadwick, a coming of age story.

But now along comes Guy Gavriel Kay (he’s a serious historical fantasy writer as far as I can tell so it’s not his fault that I’m bypassing the history due to my own personal interest, again) and I’m actually liking his style very much. For me, his works have a strong epic fantasy vibe in that he tells multifaceted stories like a tapestry woven by multiple shimmering threads that you can follow separately as well as together. So I’ve been following him ever since River of Stars. My library only has the Fionavar Tapestry in audiobook formats and now that I’ve had a positive experience with audiobooks I see I will definitely get into this series this year.

Adventures aboard the Chen Xing- Chapter 13

I rushed back to Old Scorby for help, knowing that Aurora’s medical skills while a little superior to mine would still be insufficient. Of course, I secured the door as best as I was able while at it. Which was to say lean it in a way that made it look like closed. If someone did not look too closely at the hinges.

The old boy blinked at me. “Weren’t you just here?”

“Old Terry is terribly injured. Is there by any chance another doc around who will keep things hush hush? No idea what that attack was about so better not chance anything.”

His eyes almost popped out of their sockets and then he seemed to ponder for a while before saying that he could make a call with someone who owed him a favor.

“Right, you do that and I will go back to Old Terry’s place to wait for him. And let’s make a little code word between us to be safe.”

He looked shaken by my caution. “Yeah, that’s wise. Wh- what happened? I take it by the look on your face that it wasn’t an accident?”

“Someone busted the door off its hinges. When I came in, one guy was dead on the floor blocking the door. Old Terry was slumped against the wall, barely slurring out Help Me.”

He stood up. “I’ll make the call, but if you don’t mind, I’d like to go with you. Terry and I go way back.”

“Okay, then. Let’s go, old boy.” We rushed back to Terry’s place and it was not long at all before a woman in an overworn but diligently scrubbed overcoat came in. She brought a med-kit with her and asked for the patient with a worried expression.

I looked across Old Scorby to confirm that this is who he called in.

He nodded. “This is Jessica. She’s trustworthy.”

I led the way to the back. Jessica rushed over and checked on Terry. “You patch him up like this?”

“Best I could. I’m not a doc.”

“Well, I think you saved his life. Give me a hand here?”

“Right.” I said as I stepped forward. She put to work straight away, asking me to move Terry to a better position, hold things for her etc. She’s a fast, focused worker. I tried to keep up to her pace.

Then the woman cussed at him, saying something about how he has to live so he can make good his old debt to her. I didn’t see that coming, to be honest. But it wasn’t a good time to ask about anything so I just focused on what’s at hand. At some time, I realised the old boy had left.

The woman leaned back and took a deep breath. Old Terry looked much better even though he was still out. “You did good,” Jessica told me. “You ever think about becoming a surgeon?”

“I’m an action girl. Being surgeon is too tame a life for me.”

She laughed and gave me a pointed look. “If you think being a surgeon is tame, I’d hate to see what you consider wild. Ok, I’d say he needs a place to recuperate. It’s going to take awhile for that wound to fully heal.”

“Can he be moved? I don’t think this place is quite safe.”

Jessica stood up and walked over to the dead guy. “You know where this guy came from? Looks like someone really didn’t like him.”

“Nope, already dead by the time I got here and was blocking the door.”

“You see these holes? Some kind of nasty blade did that. And there are a lot of holes.”

I looked at the holes thoughtfully, wondering if I had seen them before. I decided that I wasn’t sure.

Scorsby comes wandering back in then. “Oh, you’re done.”

“Yep, where did you disappear off to? Ever seen blades that can make these?” I asked him.

“I was calling in a few guys to come help me take Terry to my place.”

“Right. What about those blade marks, make you remember anything?”

“No, not exactly.” He said after taking a look.

I shrugged. “Thought that might be a pretty unique lead but…”

“I can ask around.”

“Do that. When should I check back in with Old Terry?” I switched my gaze from Scorby to Jessica.

“He’s going to be awhile.” “Anything Jessica might be able answer?”

“Great minds think alike.” I winked at the old boy before asking Jessica.”What do you think about coming to a girls’ only BBQ with my household specials?”

Her eyes brightened. “That’d be nice after today”

“Then come with me, let’s walk together back to the Xing.” I said as I waved goodbye to the old boy.

We got to the Xing after the girls who had gone shopping. Aurora gave me a wave in greeting, “We got everything on the list, and Guppy some new clothes.”

“Sounds like the shopping went well. This is Jessica. Aurora here, Estella with the green hair and little Guppy.”

“A pleasure, welcome to the Chen Xing.” Estella beamed at Jessica. Which somehow made her feel intimidated, it seemed. “I’m sorry, I’m a little tired. Tough surgery.” She said.

“Surgery?” Aurora looked over at me in mild concern.

“Go relax at the lounge or if you want a shower and rest, feel free to use my room.” I told Jessica.

“Well… if you don’t mind, maybe a shower and a little rest.”

“Yeah, make yourself at home. We’ll help you get your stuff loaded later this evening, if you have more than a bag or two.” Then Estella started showering Jessica with a list of services rivalling a hotel as she led her away. I was taken aback.

“She seems nice,” Aurora told me with an approving smile. “So, she’s a surgeon?”

I quickly summarised the entire sequence at Old Terry’s, chuckling at how Jessica tried to talk me into being a surgeon.

“Nice job getting her to sign on, we could really use a medic given the scrapes we sometimes wind up in, my skill at patching people up is nothing to write home about. Yet.” Aurora said with an approving nod. “Maybe she can show me a thing or two in the coming weeks, did you tell her about the moon yet and our plans for a return trip?”

I thought about signing Jessica on, that surely was not my intention. “I just brought her here because the BBQ seemed a good chance to get her talking. I didn’t really think of signing her up onboard but.. well, she seems nice enough. Old Scorby thinks she’s trustworthy.”

“Oh, we saw you arrive with her and invite her to share your quarters and I naturally assumed she was someone you asked to join the group.” Aurora shrugged, “Talking about what? Is she the one that treated the guy you shot back in the tunnels?”

“Didn’t get a chance to ask her anything, she was busy patching up Old Terry.”

“Who’s Old Terry?” She asked with a raised eyebrow.

“That other doc that Old Scorby pointed me to first, that I found nearly dead. Apparently, him and Old Scorby go way back.”

“Ah, and she saved him?” She nodded in understanding, “Least we can do is roll out the red carpet for her for a bit, it would be great if you could convince her to sign on though, we could really use a medic out there in the black, especially now we have Guppy on board.”

“You have a point there. She laughed when I told her that I’m an action girl and I think being a surgeon is too tame. So she could fit in.”

“She nodded when I offered to help bring her things on board tomorrow,” Estella told us when she came back.

“Looks like we have a chance to draft her onboard at least.” I said.

“Oh, I thought she was related to you or an old girlfriend with how casual you two seemed and the way you offered your quarters.” Estella shrugged. “We’ll make a sales pitch after the BBQ tomorrow, we got all kinds of tasty stuff.” She quickly rattled off the shopping list of spices and meats. “And a bunch of extra spices for trade once we put this place behind us.”

“The offer was because space was limited on board and I didn’t feel like clearing out extra space for her quick shower and nap. Your mind works funny, gal.”

Estella grinned sheepishly. “Hey I’m not one to judge, but when someone comes homes with a cute girl and immediately invites them to spend the night in their room, one does tend to draw certain conclusions.” She looked slightly embarrassed at the too hastily drawn conclusion.

Aurora chuckled and shook her head. “Either way, she’s the one that saved the doc that worked on the guy Sam shot, so she’s earned some bbq at the very least.”

“So the guy tried to kill the doc after he patched him up eh?” Estella sighed “Awfully short sighted of him trying to chill the only saw bones willing to patch up him and his criminal pals.”

“If they were smart they probably wouldn’t be working for Jake.” Aurora replied.

“Well, no, that guy was dead with multiple blade holes in him. So perhaps the doc was just victim in the crossfire? Dunno. Old Scorby’s on the hunt for those special blade marks.”

“Funny thing, those blade marks, I thought I’ve known it somewhere but couldn’t remember.” I added after a pause.

“Blade marks? What did they look like? Can you describe them?” Estella leaned forward curiously.

“Cake after you eat your steak and potatoes, not before.” Aurora told Guppy with a laugh, “You can balance the cake when you get it, not before.”

“Humph” “Opens a lot of wicked holes.Something about them I cannot quite pin down though.” Guppy and I replied at the same time.

“Could of been something else,” Aurora said thoughtfully. “Could the guy have had some kind of nasty parasite in him that tore out making the holes?”

Estella shuddered at the notion and then went back to her previous train of thought, “I was thinking if its holes it could of been gun shots?”

“Aurora? What’s that? On your skirt?” Guppy pointed at the hem of Aurora’s skirt.

“Jesscia thinks it’s a blade.” I finished my reply before looking over at Aurora’s skirt and there was a pale dot near the hem on one side.

“We can ask her tomorrow over breakfast.” Estella said before following my gaze.

“Hmm,” Aurora prised the thing off and looked it over.

“That’s nothing, something you will know when you are a bit older, kiddo.” I tried to smooth over the incident while Aurora examined the device, in case it’s a listening bug.

“Estella, get us airborne on the double.” Aurora ordered, “This is a tracker.” Then she hurried outside and yelled for Roland.

“On it!” Estella turned and ran to the bridge. She nodded to me as she ran past, complimenting me on my quick thinking.

I decided I had better check in with Jessica.

Estella’s voice boomed from the intercom, “We got company in bound, take a gander out the view ports and see you recognize any of them?”

I had arrived at my quarters. There was no outside view in the corridor so I continued with what I came to do. Not wanting to startle Jessica, I knocked on the door. But there was just silence. So I assumed she was too sound asleep and rejoined the others.

“Did our new guest recognize the trucks?” Aurora asked me.

“She’s sound asleep, I think. Knocked on the door, silence. And what trucks?”

“Make sure please,” Aurora nudged me, “And wake her up to let her know we’ve lifted off, she wakes up and finds herself in deep space she might think we’ve kidnapped her and react badly, we don’t want her freaking out and trying to take poor Hue hostage, he’s been through enough with the plants.”

Speak of the devil. H squared wandered onto the bridge and looked questioningly at Estella. Vines was trailing behind him.

“Load of trucks down there.” She gestured to the window. “They were riding for us when we took off, guess they folllowed the tracker, apparently we’ve got some powerful enemies to muster than kind of assault force.”

“Right.” I walked back to my quarters where upon hearing silence again, I opened the door and entered. Sure enough, Jessica was deep asleep. I tapped her on the shoulder. She didn’t move. But as in something-wrong-not-moving, just fast asleep. I took her right hand and shook it. “Wake up, Jessica.” Her eyelids fluttered a bit but she seemed stuck to sleep. I bent closer to her ears and said I needed to talk to her. That earned a bit more eye movement and she

Jessica’s eyes fluttered a little more and she moved just a tiny fraction.

This was really a beauty sleep. I rolled my eyes. “Fire!”

She stumbled up, took a step, and fell down on the bed again. Her eyes looked like they were trying to open but then snapped close again. Did my bed have a sleeping enchantment on it? Aurora said something to Estella on the intercom about our tail. I didn’t pay too much attention, figuring that was a problem for later. I put my hand around Jessica’s waist, picked her up and plomped her down on a chair.

“Need rest… power too draining…” She mumbled.

“I just need to tell you that someone put a tracker on Aurora and now we are being chased so we hightailed to space. We didn’t want you to think we had kidnapped you.”

She looked confused but nodded.

“Do you need help getting back to bed?” She was all slumped down with jelly-like limbs.

She nodded so I picked her up, carried her back to the bed and pulled the blanket back over her.

“Looks like we’ll make a clean get away for now,” Estealla briefed us over the intercom, “Come join me when you all get a chance so we can sort out what to do next.”

“On the way.”

“That girl sleeps like the dead.” I complained when I arrived on the bridge. “I barely managed to keep her awake enough to hear me.”

“Could she have been drugged?” Estella asked me with mild concern. .

“She says too drained. I assumed that was the surgery. Aurora, you want to check her over?”

“Let her sleep for now, if she says she’s drained then sleep will help, if she’s been drugged sleeping it off will help, either way, rest seems good, my current theory is a rival company of Roland’s boss’s hired the mercs to run us off, they don’t want Rolands group muscling in on whatever business they have going on the surface.”

Guppy piped up “I could watch her, maybe draw some extra eyebrows…”

Aurora giggled, “Sure, go keep an eye on her, but don’t use her as a canvas, it’s rude.”

I wagged a finger at her. “No, Guppy, no drawing extra eyebrows on potential recruits. Well, not until they become official crew.”

Guppy rolled her eyes. “Aww, yer no fun.” She said and wandered off.

“Once they’re crew you can do it, but don’t be surprised if they get you back by short sheeting your bed or something.” Estella called out to her.

“Let her try…” Guppy sang and giggled as she walked away.

“You don’t think they’re after us because someone thinks we kidnapped Guppy, do you?” Estella asked quietly about a minute later.

“Doubtful?” Aurora shrugged, “Anyone watching would see us buying her loads of clothes and letting her carry that wicked knife of hers, pretty obvious she’s not here against her will being treated like that.”

“From what Guppy said before, I can’t see they miss her that much.” I said.

“Good point,” Estella kept an eye on the ether-scope to track the other ships’ movements as she spoke. “Unless our new guest is wanted for something, but with Scorsby vouching for her I doubt it?”

“They wouldn’t know she was invited back to our ship,” Aurora pointed out, “We didn’t even know she was coming until Sam showed up with her.”

“So what happened during the shopping trip? Where did you acquire that tracker thing?” I asked.

Aurora filled me in on the trip and the mousey man with a spice packet. “Guessing he stuck it on my skirt when he was holding out the spice packet with his other hand.”

“I was behind him so didn’t have a good angle to see,” Estella added. “They seem determined to be rid of us, and apparently don’t think we’d just sell out if they offered us more money to work for them instead.”

“That was a deft move, the sneaky bastard.”

“Only other thought I have is Jake, he got pinched by someone, and made up some crazy story about us sitting on a treasure map or a hold full of diamonds or something to save his skin, and now they’re after us for the payout?” Aurora our resident theorist veered off on another train of thought.

“We could turn and fight the mercs, cripple their ship, question survivors on who hired them?” Estella offered with her eye on the scope. “We got enough of a lead to set an ambush.”

“Go for it.”

After thinking a while, Aurora told us her knowledge of the merc ship. “They’re ex military types, so I wouldn’t like the odds on a boarding action, we’d be out numbered several to one, but we might be able to cripple them in a surprise ambush, but there’s a fair chance we could wind up crashing and be back where we started last time, just on the alien plant moon instead of a scrapyard.”

“Okay scratch that idea,” Estella started to nod but then paused with a devious smile. “Unless.. you still got some of that plant from before in the converter? We can rig up a few spore mines of plants, let them blow and overrun the enemy ship, then board it and mop up the survivors.”

“You’re devious,” Aurora showed her an approving grin, “Let me go check if there’s enough left to make some kind of bio-mines.”

“They might have a score of mercs, but if we can get a score of plant soldiers, we’ll have the edge.” Estella added.

“The converter turned it all into fuel, but the moon is near by, easiest option is just to land there, pick up some more of the red ones since we have a lead on the ship and make mines out of them?” Aurora came in after a few minutes.

Estella looked at me. Right, let’s have everyone’s input. I kept forgetting that. “Yeah, and the plants would probably do most of our work for us.” I said, which was like not saying anything.

Estella skipped right over what I said. “Sure it sounds like a plan, assuming we want to stick around anyway? Aside from the moon and its secrets, is there any reason we want to mess around with whoever is hiring the mercs?” She asked. “I mean yeah there’s Jake and the bounty on his head, but other than that?”

“I’d like to know if they’re after us because of our working for Roland’s boss, or because of some other reason, we leave now and it’s something else, they’ll be still hunting us, and could show up later when we’re not in a position to handle them as readily.”

“Ditto.” I said.

“Good point,” Estella nodded, “I’ll put us on a looping course through the rocks and set us down on the surface where we were last time, once we land we should have a couple hours to harvest plants and take off before the ship closes the distance.”

“Perfect, I’ll rig up some mines from a few spare barrels in the mean time, and see about rigging up a couple torpedoes with spore warheads. It was a 2 day journey to get there last time, wasn’t it?” Aurora asked.

“About a day with the new fuel,” Estella said, “Enough time for our new guest to rest up and be ready to help out at least.”

“So much for the BBQ, ah well, after we deal with this merc ship.” I lamented.

“We got a day, plenty of time for the BBQ.” Aurora said.

“It would be a day if I set a straight course, playing asteroid hide’n seek like we are now, closer to a day and a half honestly, so yeah, we can still have a feast with time to spare.”

“Right. I will go do the marinades.”

“Sounds good to me,” Aurora said, “The meat’s fresh so we might as well have the barbecue as planned.”

Moonlake’s Movie Discoveries

I figured I would do something differently in place of the usual reading related posts. As I’ve blogged about before, I’ve been binge watching Disney and other cartoon movies and I did buy a bunch of action DVDs in preparation of COVID lockdown about a year ago. So this post will be in the spirit of my book discoveries- less review as opposed to personal summary. The more favourable ones appear on the top and I’m not covering all of the children ones. I’ve watched all of the ones on and am making my way through right now. The children section will be much larger, I still haven’t got through the whole movie collection with Mum given that we went back to watching mainland Chinese spy thriller TV dramas instead. 


Of the Disney princess series, I have very fond memories of Beauty and the Beast and I did reckon the live-action movie equivalent to be very true to the cartoon and I liked that as well. I also liked the Aladdin series, Brave, the first Mulan and the two Frozens. But to be honest, I actually preferred the old plain 2D cartoons as opposed to the newer ones which seemed to be heading toward 3D but using doll figures. Or that was the effect for me. 

As a grown up now, I actually prefer live-action movies now. The ones I liked besides B&B include the Enchanted, and the two Maleficient movies. The Enchanted was basically Snow White and Cinderella retold and rolled into one- it was just light-hearted, entertaining and quite amusing. I liked the Maleficients because it provided an alternative retelling of Sleeping Beauty that flipped it on its head and I always like that for freshness. I did not like either the live-action Aladdin or Mulan. The former was not really an improvement on the cartoon version at all and dragged the story out with the introduction of the female empowerment theme. I mean seriously, in Aladdin? Mulan was also problematic because I was not a fan of how it went across to the realm of fantasy almost with the introduction of qi and the other elements that brought me out of the story as an ethnic Chinese such as the General yielding control to Mulan (that’s never going to happen in real life and I do expect there to be more adherence to reality for a live-action Mulan somehow). 

I wasn’t expecting to like the Monster High series but I did. It spoke to the part of me that felt I was a little kinky and just the slightest anti-social. However, I was not keen on the newer movies somehow revamping the background of the school’s founding. It’s like finding an anachronism (something that doesn’t belong to a given era for those not familiar with the word) in a book or a TV drama/movie. The same went for the Swan Lake series- I could not believe they could turn the one fairytale into so many different movies, branching off it (granted, I think they borrowed from other tales for a number of them after they could not write further scripts involving Rothbart or Rothbart-equivalent’s come-back). I obviously liked the latter ones better, after the kids came along. 

Of the Barbie series, I tend to like the ones starring Barbie and her 3 sisters because it was more about family and that’s a theme I prefer to the standard prince/princess tales. I also liked the one starring Barbie as the fairy Mariposa. Found the most recent Barbie movie Barbie: Big City, Big Dreams to be so-so even if it’s from the sisters series but that’s because this one just stars Barbie herself and has nothing on the other sisters. 

The Smurfs trilogy held sentimental value for me because it was once my favourite cartoon. Then I liked the Croods duology about a caveman family and the New Grooves duology (Emperor’s New Groove and Kronk’s New Groove). 

The Madagascar trilogy was actually rather fun and took me by surprise because I’m not actually fond of animals in general. 

I was surprisingly moved to tears by the Trolls (caught me completely off guard) but I did not like Trolls: World Tour so much. I also had a similar experience with the Boss Baby: Back to Business. And on both occasions, that was driven by a song (not the same song). Perhaps just the right song at the right time. 


Olympus has Fallen 

This is a fast-paced action movie and the premise is just exciting- the White House overtaken by terrorists and the president being taken hostage? You get the idea. Mum and me also bought the other two of the series because I was slack (I felt like I was going cross-eyed at the JB Hi-Fi DVD movie aisle trying to select movies, eventually Mum and I teamed up, she would pick out all the DVDs based on the cover and I would read the blurb). These other two were no good, especially the third in the series. And we actually watched the trilogy in exact reverse chronological order, something I only realised because later I got curious and checked rotten tomatoes (something I should have done arguably when I picked the DVDs, ah well.) 

The Commuter 

This is a good thriller that gets you gripped with tension as the story line progresses. So this is on par with Olympus has Fallen actually, just a different sort of tension. 

A Night in the Museum trilogy 

I watched part of the first when I was at my GP (or family doctor) and enjoyed it- I tend to enjoy family-themed movies as well as action blockbusters (and I do think action blockbusters are getting into the realm of inferior products for me). So I binge watched the 3 movies in one day and enjoyed all 3. It’s got excitement but also heartwarming moments that just makes this so much my cup of tea and a general recommendation if you are viewing them as a family with children. 

The new Jumanji duo

I was quite fond of the old one and I was not enthused about the new premise when I first learnt about it so I did not watch either at the movie theater. But now that I’ve watched both at kidsmovies, they are actually quite all right. Not as good for families with young kids as the original but perfectly good for families with teens or above. 

Gemini Man

I picked up the DVD for Will Smith. It was okay but I was not expecting the sci-fi-ish twist to the plot and did not like it. Had some action in it but nothing memorable that I could latch onto. It’s sort of on my indifferent rating, sliding towards meh but not yet meh. 

Mile 22

Mostly a film of just mindless action and gun fights, flimsiest plot that does NOT support the big twist right at the end. 

Chinese Lore- A Selection of Mythical Flora (6)

Bai Gao

Physical Description:

A tree that looks like paper mulberry but has red patterns.

Special Properties:

Its sap looks like paint but tastes sweet. Those who eat it will feel full in the stomach and have their tiredness relieved. It can also be used to dye stones and jades.

Jia Fruit

Physical Description:

A tree which bears peach-like fruits, has leaves similar in look to jujube trees, yellow flowers with a red hull.

Special Properties:

Consuming its fruits can completely take away tiredness, making you never tired again.

You Tree

Physical Description:

A tree with red patterns and leaves shaped like quinoa.

Special Properties:

Eating its leaves or making a herbal tea with the leaves can cure jealousy.

Sha Tang

Physical Description:

A tree that resembles the Chinese cherry-apple tree in shape, bears yellow flower and red fruits that taste like plums but without the hard pit inside.

Special Properties:

The tree itself is resistant to water damage. Consuming its fruit means that you will never drown.

When I was a child…

The prompt comes from Everything needs fixing by Karla Cordero. I had no idea what the piece is about when I was writing it and after I re-read it for the first time, I still think it’s just a collection of random jumbled recollections about my childhood. But now that I’ve come to see my Wild Writing pieces as collages, I think perhaps this is what this piece is: a collage of my childhood. 

When I was a child I didn’t really know what it means to be sad. Life was always good to me. I was always lucky. 

When I was a child I had never seen a rainbow in real life. I only knew they were supposed to come out after the rain. But I never saw one with my eyes. 

When I was a child I had no trouble sleeping. In fact, I could not really not sleep, even if I vowed to. One year I learned about the Chinese custom of staying up all night for Chinese New Year’s Eve I think it was? I somehow decided I would try my hand at it. I stayed up watching cartoons. But then I think I crashed at around 2 am or 3 am.

When I was a child I lived in Hong Kong. Such a different world there. All noise. All fast pace. We had subway there. Each station had multiple exits labelled A, B, C up to F. Sometimes there were less, not sure if there were more. I could find my way better there, using buildings as landmarks. I’m a city girl, that’s how I navigate, using buildings. And tall buildings, that’s a mark of Hong Kong, or was. Now it’s the norm of all modern big cities, especially in Asia. When I was a child I took piano lessons for a while, in a bid to increase my music score. In Hong Kong, every subject counts, except for Bible Study. I went to a Lutheran primary school. It was called Sharon’s. I found out only after I graduated, when I looked closely at the school emblem. Before I only knew it by its Chinese name. 

P.S. the photo isn’t me, this is just a freestock photo of a Chinese girl child.

Moonlake’s Book Discoveries- March 2022


The Liveship Traders Trilogy by Robin Hobb

In terms of characters, I think I can easily feel for Wintrow. Althea at the start was a bit too headstrong for me except when she faced off with Kyle in book 1 and when she showed her determination for her cause. Same with Malta who started off being so selfish that I was annoyed. Out of the Vestrit women, I prefer Ronica even though she did screw up and get everything started. I like Brash and am really really annoyed by Kyle. At the end of it, I’m much more on board with everyone. 

I also like the interweaving of the liveships and dragons into this otherwise tale of the plight of the Vestrit family and mostly its women. I was never into dragons that much despite an avid fantasy reader but I think Robin Hobb breathes some new life into the concept that I appreciate. 

The Stress of Her Regard by Tim Powers

I just wanted to read something standalone and fantasy in between a potential future foray into Robin Hobb’s Rain Wilds Chronicles and Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry via audiobooks. The story was engaging up to a certain point but then I feel like the personal urgency for the main character just slacked off. Perhaps I’m the wrong audience for this book since this is supposed to be a supernatural take on historical figures but I had no idea who most of the poets were. 


The Ninth grave by Stefan Ahnhem

I did like the book overall. It is fast paced, has many twists and turns. I am slightly confused sometimes when the scene shifts between one of the victims and police officers in Denmark and Sweden but everything does tie together in the end. 

I actually started this book because I was interestested in the Fabian Risk novel later down the track. I read one chapter of the next book that this is prelude to and I’m not sure I’m actually that attracted to the premise. I guess I will leave it to my whim. 

Blackout by David Rosenfelt

It’s a solidly written cop mystery. There is not a lot of twists but there is one.

Black and Blue by David Rosenfelt

I got onto this book from Blackout because there was a sneak peek of this at the end of Blackout. I did guess the major gist of the book even though as per usual, I was fooled by the author’s misdirection. Nevertheless, I found the premise of this book more engaging than book 1 and I enjoyed the read.

Literary Fiction:

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

My book study group proposed this novel for us. It’s a solidly written book. I’m pleasantly surprised by the author’s smooth prose and the ending even though it’s not really my genre and cup of tea.

Moonlake’s Writing Updates- March 2022

I’ve actually finished draft 0.82 of the WIP and I’m taking a rest for it for a while as per usual. That was in fact finished in February. I might need a little structural analysis time on it in April but I will cross that bridge when I come to it. 

Currently I’m working on my next tentative project which is an entirely different trilogy. And sometime in between when I last talked about it and this post, I’ve managed to find a tentative title for book 1. It’s either going to be titled The Grace to Fall or Grace in Falling. For this project, I’ve decided to break away from the focus on historical events informed by my research and considered substituting for events that my protagonist would be more active in. I think that is a very right direction for me to but I just need to steep in this protagonist for a bit more so I’ve actually turned to free writing on her now. 

And that’s all for now. Until next time. 

This is a memory worth keeping…

The line is from a poem titled Poems by Nikki Grimes. 

This is a memory worth keeping:

  1. The tug-of wars using blankets Mum and I used to play when I was a child
  2. The craft book she bought me and one of the arts was titled “Piggy Mum making rice cakes” and how I jokingly said it made me think of her because in Cantonese her first name sounds like Pig. 
  3. The karaoke I used to sing with my best friend, me to read out the lyrics right besides her in case she didn’t know how to pronounce some words. She’s got a fear of not pronouncing things properly. Once she shoved the mic right at me for a radio show we were making for History oral about Gandhi and there was this Indian name she could not pronounce. 
  4. How she used to say the sky is grey and I would have answered back the sky is blue. Once she said that and I made my reflexive reply and she said “No, look, it’s raining.” That was funny. 
  5. Not an actual memory but when I realised that I wanted to be a writer and could actually be one. A writer is just someone who writes. Knowing that was liberating. Perhaps the most liberating thing I had ever known. 
  6. My first ever memory. I was up on a rooftop or somewhere. I had steamed egg stew- not steamed eggs, eggs crashed into a bowl and you use chopsticks to whip it so that the yolks and the white will mix together. And then you steam the well-mixed egg liquid until it solidifies. 

Chinese Lore- A Selection of Mythical Fauna (5)

Ao (pronounced ou as in ouch) 

Physical Description:

A massive turtle 

Special Properties:



When Nu Wa mended the hole in the sky, she was said to have broken off the four legs of an Ao to mark the furthest point in the four directions. There are also a legend of there being three mountains where the divine dwell in that are borne on the back of an Ao. 

In the main room of the Imperial Palace in the periods stretching from the Tang Dynasty to the Song Dynasty, there are stone sculptures of a Dragon and an Ao place on the central stone block that acts as a step up to the throne. All scholars who passed the test to become an official of the Court will line up in a queue under this stone block. Only the one who passed the Court Official test with the highest score had the honour of standing in the position facing the head of the Ao figurine. From this, the Chines idiom (one of the special 4 Character phrases) for describing the champion in any endeavour “Be in the sole view of the Ao’s Head” is born. 

Spin turtle

Physical Description:

A turtle with the head of a bird, the beak of an eagle and the tail of a snake

Special Properties:

Its call is akin to wood being split open. Holding onto it can improve hearing in water and facilitate travel to watery depths. 


Fabled animal local to a strange body of water 

Translation Quirk:

Besides the bit about its call being akin to wood being split open, the entire section of Special Properties could be mis-interpretation on my behalf. While I’m confident about some linkage between holding onto it (or wearing if I’m translating the text in a literal sense) and improved hearing (the literal translation would be “make one not deaf”), I’m not at all sure about the travelling in watery depth bit. 

Chong Ming Bird 

Physical Description:

A bird that looks like a chicken but it has two pupils in each eye.  

Special Properties:

Its call is like that of a Phoenix and it has strength. It can fight with large beasts like tigers and wolves. 

Translation Quirks

This bird is probably named for having two pupils to each eye. Chong in Chinese means repeat or double. Ming means bright. 

Yin Yuan 

Physical Description:

A duck-sized bird with a bee-like shape 

Special Properties:

Its sting will kill other birds and beasts as well as withering plants.