Saturday, 22 February 2014

The Crazy Adventures of the Wu Gate by Ying Zhao (午门囧事 by 影照)Review - Ancient, ME, 4 stars



    I'm sure everyone knows my reading tastes quite well - a preference for ancient books and happy endings. I dislike the time-travelling trope and stay clear of mixed and sad ending books as if they were a bout of measles. So, how did I end up reading one of the more famous time-travelling c-novel books and getting my heart broken in the process? Mind you, I even cheated and read the ending and the epilogue beforehand so I knew which of the three male leads to ship - but darn it, heart always overruns logic and even though the female lead clearly ended up with the right guy, why does my heart hurt for the wrong guy? 

   The Crazy Adventures of the Wu Gate is a very famous book, part of which is because the author could have locked up sections of her book for VIP access but chose not to to repay her fans who had followed her all these time. This of course is extremely rare for popular books. So, you can actually read the whole book (all three parts here) at the official site. As of my writing of this review, on JJWXC, this book has 1,013,004,416 points. That is amazing, some comparisons: Tang7's Ten Thousand Miles of Peach Blossom (84,900,256 points) and Dian Xian's Heavy Sweetness Ash-Like Frost (176,386,816 points). Just by the number of points alone, this c-novel is a giant. 

  So, where shall I start? I was just googling stories with 囧事 (crazy/silly adventures) in the title because those c-novels are usually funny and light-hearted, even completely ridiculous and silly. The Crazy Adventures of the Wu Gate stood out with so many discussions and reviews. There were warning signs ahead already --- this book is very divisive, it will break your heart, it will make you laugh, it will make you cry. 

  I particularly love the author's post-script at the end where she explained the genesis of this novel and why she wrote it (I'm translating her words with some paraphasing): 

    In essence, the ending was fixed already at the start. The female lead will not remain in the ancient times, she will not remain in the ancient times and enjoy the love of all the male leads. 

    The reason is simple - she has read too many novels in which the female leads can control and direct everything, and is loved to death by a whole group of handsome guys. In her heart she was thinking, why should these female leads be loved by so many people? Why should the entire world revolve around them? 

   So with a streak of rebellion, she started to write this story. A story about a simple girl who travelled to the past - she did not know how to read poetry, how to draw, did not know how to strategise, she was just greedy, lazy, a little cowardly but she had her street smarts, naivety and a kind and sensitive heart. 

  In the author's mind, this represented many girls. 

  And just like the traditional time-travelling novel, she arranged for the female lead to meet different kinds of handsome guys. At the start, they would all treat her very well - see her in a different light, do many things for her, let the readers start to have romantic fantasies. 

  And then, at the end of each part of the book, the author will break the fantasy - it turns out that all those were just illusions, the romance and sweetness was planned, there was a motivation, there was an aim behind it. 

   Thus, there is no love that arises with no reason, there is no hate that starts with no reason.








  How could I not read the novel after such an amazing postscript? This was a meta-time travelling novel! So, I knew which guy to ship and started the novel, and BAM! I never realised the author wanted to make me cry too. 

   Before, I go to the summary I posted in SSB, I would like to explain what is ME (mixed ending). To me, it means the girl ends up with a guy, but depending on which guy you ship, it will either be a happy or sad ending for you. I still liked the guy she ended with a lot, but my heart still aches - so mixed ending for me. What would it be for you?

   Synopsis I posted on SSB:

  "Why must I travel back in time (in chinese, 穿越 chuan yue)? Why must I travel (穿 chuan)?"
   "不穿 (Don't wear) will be cold..." 

    If you once thought this was a time travelling novel...

    What is a Benz? Beautiful men step aside. As a knowledgable woman who has gone through higher education, how can I tolerate a backward life without a computer, without chocolate, without a flushing toilet bowl? No matter what I must return back to the future! Thus started, Gu Qing Qiao's silly ridiculous legend, a side-splittingly funny case that started with one bowl of roast pork rice. 

   But sadly, we may have guessed the start, but we weren't able to guess the end...



My own brief summary:

     Gu Qing Qiao has time-travelled back and took over the body of the (adopted) daughter of a high ranking official. She learns from a monk that if she gathers four treasures, she will be able to open the Wu Gate and travel back to her time. So, the novel's three parts essentially tells Xiao Qiao's (her nick name, Little Qiao) journey in gathering the four treasures to return to her time and in which she meets three extraordinary men who are caught up in her mission. Who will she choose? And, will she leave these men behind and return to her time?

SPOILERS AHEAD:

1) Duan Yu (Left of the picture above)

    The first male lead she meets is Duan Yu. He is a prince, the uncle of the crown prince and the brother of the emperor. He is the most eligible man in the capital. He is extraordinarily good looking (then again, they all are) and first meets her as she goes to the kitchen to eat roast pork rice. He finds her interesting and asks for her hand in marriage; she declines but he assures her that since she must marry inevitably, why don't she marry him since he does not like her? So, she agrees and they become engaged. Xiao Qiao has a distinctive plum blossom birthmark on her body and she loves roast pork, she thought she heard some male called Qiao Feng (her favourite character from a Jin Yong novel) and made a joke if he had a wolf claw tattoo on his chest as well. This catches Duan Yu's attention and he sends out word to find such a male and to kill him at all costs (at first, you think it's because he is jealous and then you realise...)

  Major conspiracy! Duan Yu thinks that Xiao Qiao is actually the last descendant of a royal family that was overthrown by his brother's empire, because the plum blossom is the girl's mark for this royal family and the wolf claw is the boy's mark for the royal family. Plus, Xiao Qiao has one of the four treasures, which is known to be able to grant the gatherer a wish... and he thinks that Xiao Qiao is gathering the four treasures to bring back her royal family into power again. This of course stuns Xiao Qiao because that is the furthest from her mind - she is captured by Duan Yu and thrown into royal prison. She is stunned by Duan Yu's viciousness.

  So, Duan Yu's love story ends here for Xiao Qiao --- she clearly had feelings for him, but after this her heart turns cold. Duan Yu is a prince after all - he put his empire before her. And, when he finally realised his true feelings - it was too late. What's interesting of course is that it was another subversion by the author... the first male that appears is not necessarily the male lead.

2) Lu Zi Zheng (I must comment that the Zheng in his name represents a Zither, which gives it an extra poetic quality) (Middle of the picture above)

   This is the second male lead, Lu Zi Zheng. He is described to have a beauty that is almost demonic, beautiful beyond imagination. He is obviously cunning, sly and bloodthirsty. When Xiao Qiao first meets him, he was injured and she rescued him. She was forced by him to bring chicken necks to recover from his injury for three years by the time the novel starts. Xiao Qiao is always bullied by him and he likes to laugh at her. Finally, at the start of the novel, he says he has to go to fulfill his mission and leaves with her an item to protect her, it is one of the four treasures and Xiao Qiao is beyond happy.

  Ok, before I go on to explain Lu Zi Zheng's story... let me describe the third male lead!

  3) Yuan Shi Qiong (Right of the picture above)

  Yuan Shi Qiong is described as having a dignified beauty. He is the most powerful pugilist in the world and belongs to a sect in which Xiao Qiao joins in order to find the third treasure, a famous sword. He is rather black belly like the above two male leads and finds Xiao Qiao funny, he decides to help her to get the famous sword. 

   *The twist* it turns out that Yuan Shi Qiong became the most powerful pugilist becomes he made a bargain with the famous sword - that he will die when the true owner of the sword comes, but in the meantime will possess more power than any mortal. So Yuan Shi Qiong had actually planned to kill Xiao Qiao, but he falls in love with her and her heart, and so to fulfill her wish to return to her time, he lets himself die as promised to the famous sword in order for it to be given to Xiao Qiao. He dies for her! 

   In a bittersweet twist, the other disciples gives Xiao Qiao Yuan Shi Qiong's two beloved parrots to her, without telling her of his death. She is curious because one of the parrot is renamed to Xiao Qiao, and she feels a bit spooked. Because, previously, Yuan Shi Qiong had named one parrot with the name of the first man he ever killed and the other parrot remained unnamed because that would be the last person he killed. It turns out that Yuan Shi Qiong named the other parrot Xiao Qiao, because the first parrot was named for the man who died because of him, but the second parrot was named Xiao Qiao because he died because of her. 

   The epic ending: 

   So, the story culminates with Xiao Qiao finding three treasures and realising that the fourth treasure is the Wu Gate itself, which can only be re-opened with a prick of her blood because she had arrived from the future under a special star. 

  Throughout the story, Lu Zi Zheng asks Xiao Qiao if she trusts him, but he decides in the end that she doesn't because she never tells him her plan of returning to the future (although Xiao Qiao does tell this to Yuan Shi Qiong). Xiao Qiao is also confused by Lu Zi Zheng because he has so many identities - the sorcerer of the demonic tribe, the sorcerer of the current kingdom, etc - she always asks him who he really is? And, he will tell her all of those are me. He shares with her his tragic past - in order to become the sorcerer, he was trapped with 300 other children, and only one can survive. He is a person made of bloodshed. 

  Almost every time she is in trouble, it is Lu Zi Zheng in his various disguises that saves her. Lu Zi Zheng asks Xiao Qiao if she remembers the promise she made to him at the start, she says yes, to never fall in love, because she has a goal she needs to fulfill. In one moment, Lu Zi Zheng tells her he wishes she could put her somewhere safe. He asks her if she will give up her dream and go away with him. Xiao Qiao laughs - didn't he make her promise she will never forget her dream? She won't fall in love. 

  At the end, Lu Zi Zheng's assistant asks why he is delaying the final plan - did his heart soften? Xiao Qiao overhears and realises that Lu Zi Zheng had schemed her from the start - their meeting in the forest, etc. Lu Zi Zheng was the real descendant of the previous royal family - the crown prince with the wolf claw. He had used her to gather all three treasures and will be using her wish in order to turn back to the time of his royal dynasty and ressurrect his royal empire. He tells her that Yuan Shi Qiong was the only one who had guessed at his masterplan and had managed to hurt him, but he had sacrificed his life for her. 

   *Biggest twist* In the biggest twist of all, when the Wu Gate is open, the gods of the four treasure does not let Lu Zi Zheng fulfill his wish. Apparently, Yuan Shi Qiong has become one of the gods (the god of the famous sword) and had gotten the promise of the other gods to fulfill Xiao Qiao's wish instead. So, Xiao Qiao sees Yuan Shi Qiong and asks him if he will be with her forever - Xiao Qiao does not look back at all, and leaves with Yuan Shi Qiong through the Wu Gate back to her time. She asks if he will be with her forever and Yuan Shi Qiong smiles. The famous sword crumbles - signalling that the Wu Gate can never be re-opened again. 
   
   Heh, so the third male lead, the one who arrived last, and only in part two, turned out to be the one who got the girl in the end. 

   But, the male lead, the clear male lead, is Lu Zi Zheng. In the epilogue, Duan Yu has a special place in his mansion for Xiao Qiao with some of her old stuff. It has been five-six years, but he has not married. It is as if he is waiting for Xiao Qiao to return. A servant sees an extremely beautiful man with silver hair coming to this special place often. He places a very grand and ornate robe in the special place - it turns out to be a wedding gown belonging to his tribe that no longer exists. Xiao Qiao never got to know that the plum blossom birthmark did not only represent a female descendant of the previous royal family - it also represented the bride of the crown prince. The servant never disturbs the man with the silver hair --- he sits there sometimes, watching the night sky, and sometimes it seemed like a young girl is leaning back towards him too. 

   The author says she wrote this story for Lu Zi Zheng. She wanted to write a male character who does not sacrifice for love and becomes a normal person, who does not sacrifice his life mission - he gambles on his entire life's happiness for one wish. She likes the failed Lu Zi Zheng and she wrote the novel for him. 

   At first, I did not believe the author. But now, after writing this, I realised - yes, for Lu Zi Zheng, the one who lost everything, who lost the last softness of his heart, I wrote this for you too. 


17 comments:

  1. This sounds EPIC. I may have to read this next. I'm in the middle of 三嫁 but paused right where Mu Er was kidnapped and haven't picked it back up yet. Maybe because I know how the story ends. Yup, I'm the type of person who always has to jump to the end and read that first so I can best know how to prepare my weak, weak heart.

    Anyway, this book sounds deliciously subversive. I too like the idea of LZZ of gambling away his love for his dream. While I'll swoon just as much as the next female reader for the male lead who gives up everything, including his country/jiangshan, to be with his love/meiren, one side of me can't help but wonder, if I were the female lead, could I really be happy in the long run with a guy who would give up what are essentially his duties to be with me. And I don't consider myself to be an especially patriotic person! But I am a pretty responsible person, and I can't help but think that after the initial happiness wore off at being "the chosen one", the next thing I'd feel would be guilt and that can't possibly be a good ingredient for long term happiness.

    As an example, Yue Fei likely wasn't the best husband in the world, but he was a damn fine general and always did his best by his country. (Too bad his country didn't do its best by him!) Imagine what a different legacy he would have left behind had he thrown away his duties in order to flit off with his wife. (Although things probably couldn't have gotten much worse for the Song Dynasty; they would've just speeded up their demise by a decade or two, that's all!) Heh, now I begin to see what all the fuss was about when Tong Hua had Huo Qu Bing fake his death in order to be with Jin Yu, in Da Mo Yao.

    (Apparently I need to learn to be more "ordinary". XD That always seems to be the refrain from female characters wedded to great men: "I don't want to be the wife of a great man! I just want to be an ordinary woman with a normal love." And yes, I am paraphrasing very, very badly from Shao Nian Yang Jia Jiang / Young Warriors of the Yang Clan.)

    Of course, my feelings are different if the male lead is choosing not between love and power for the sake of duty, but between love and power for the sake of greed. If love causes the male lead to soften and even turn over a new leaf, then that's all good by me.

    By the way, Decembi, sorry I don't comment on your blog as much as I'd like. For some reason, I can't comment on your blog on my Mac, which means I have to comment on my iPad, but I am extraordinarily slow at typing on the iPad, not to mention I'm too lazy to break out the Bluetooth keyboard. XD Haha.

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    1. Hey Mei,

      It's no problem, no apologies needed. Always happy to hear from you <3! I'm now at the airport, waiting for my flight, think I arrived too early haha. Yay for free HK wifi, but also boo, I am so sleepy so excuse me if I'm incoherent.

      Ahahah, I'm just glad that you read Three Marriages. So what do you think of it? I have a huge crush on the couple, but also know that most readers find the story too long. My sister also stopped halfway I think. But, I forever crush them <3 haha. I think I read it all in one go, and nearly killed myself with the lack of sleep. It's quite dangerous so I generally only read ancient novels on weekends now.

      I don't know if the author was ultimately successful in her aims - so that's up to the readers' debate (and there's a lot of debate haha). She is also known for her 无里头(?) style of humour, where someone can die in on chapter, and the next chapter is full of jokes again - a lot like Stephen Chow? Her jokes are a hit and miss since I don't get most of the cultural context, but I quite enjoyed her style. She broke my heart though, so I haven't dared to read any of her other novels.

      Ahahaha, thanks for all your historical examples, they are very good. You are indeed extraordinary. I think the jiangshan/mei-ren dichotomy is always v interesting, because I would certainly find it a huge responsibility/burden if the male lead gives up everything for me. It's a bit too much to bear. That's why Victorian novels are so great to read - all these tension b/w familial responsibilities, society and private wants - when the stakes are high and the romantic tension is bearable. One of my friends memorably said that such male leads are precisely who they are because they have to sacrifice their emotions for their responsibilities. Juliet will sigh, alas why is Romeo Romeo?

      I don't know if the male lead chooses it so much for duty instead of revenge - his world view is so convoluted that right and wrong is not easy for him. I definitely think the female lead went with the right guy (heck, I would probably have chose him to, for sanity), but a big part of me wants to write a fanfiction where the future self of LZZ is in the female lead's present time and he gains a second chance to be with her.

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  2. That was a great summary of the novel, decembi! Maybe I will go and listen to the audiobook. I actually do not mind sad or bittersweet endings, as those types of ending usually make me think about a story the most after finishing it. Happy endings make me smile but then I simply forget about those stories and move on.

    I, too, especially love peanuts’ statement at SSB that the guy who loves the girl purely and wholeheartedly should get the girl, because such a man is truly deserving of her love.

    Since I have not read the novel (or listened to the audiobook), I don’t want to make too many assumptions. However, I feel that there is no need to feel sad or pity Lu Zhi Zheng. He has clearly made a conscious decision to sacrifice love for ambition. Whether that is the right choice, it does not matter. What matters is that he feels it is the choice that he will be able to live with most for the rest of his life. The minute he has made that choice to abandon his love for Xiao Qiao, he has already prepared his heart and mind to lose her. Therefore, there is no need for us to pity him, for that is the path he has consciously chosen. Life is full of choices, and some choices may lead to regret later on. Unfortunately, we must live with decisions we make, and so must Lu Zhi Zheng.

    Mei - I have a MacBook and was having a lot of difficulty posting comments on decembi's blog initially, too. However, I discovered that I have to use Firefox in order to post comments successfully. When I was using Safari, I kept losing the long comments I posted. Also, I couldn't post as "anonymous" but have to used my Google account. I hope this helps you.

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    1. Thank you! I was a bit worried I gave away too many spoilers, but there were a lot of details and nuances I couldn't capture and a lot of side characters that I liked :) so hopefully you will enjoy it when you read it. I really don't enjoy sad or bittersweet endings, it's funny because most of the english literature I read is serious and more open-ended, but I guess I see c-novels more like fairy tales.

      Heehee, I agree, peanut's statement is classic!

      What you wrote about LZZ is very sound, and that's what I thought too mostly when I started reading - I read the ending and epilogues and I was all ready to board the correct ship, but my heart couldn't help aching for LZZ I guess, regardless of his choices. Oh, the writing quality varies, but the author's epilogues are vvv good. I hope that's captured in the audio books.

      Haha, I also use a Mac. I always use google chrome. Hope that helps! I'm sad that it's so hard to post comments on my blog :(

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  3. Um... I am interested in translating this novel. Can I do so on your blog? Btw, I have been reading from your blog on a weekly basis since the start of this year. I am really thankful for your translations as my Chinese is not very good. It is kind of awkward as it is my first comment though ^^

    -SparklingDawnLights-

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    1. Hello SparklingDawnLights, thanks for your support :)!

      I'm really glad you like this novel and that you are thinking of translating it. However, I'm too busy to edit and manage guest bloggers hence I have only had Moonblossom guestblog before. Why don't you email me at onesecondspring@gmail.com and I can see how I can help you from there?

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  4. I am looking for an ancient c-novel to read so this book came at the right time. It sounded funny, entertaining and heart-lurching, but I hesitated when the author said that she wrote this book for Lu Zi Zheng. Does anyone else thought that it this sounded like Tong Hua and Meng Jue of Yun Zhong Ge? once the thought crossed my mind, my enthusiasm dimmed considerably.

    I like the principle where everyone went after what they want . Afterall, life is about making choices which you hope you will not regret when you are at your deathbead, so no matter the ending, the journey to the end is equally, if not more important, than the outcome. I'm glad that Duan Yu, Zi Zheng, Xiao Qiao, and Shi Qiong all experienced love, (sorry about their loses), struggles, before eventually reaching where they were. Because the most is written about Zi Zheng, it is probably the easiest to feel for him - be it sorrow for the little boy who willed himself to survive over 299 others, anger over the sadistic setup, and sadness if he did not recover his lost throne in the end (since Duan Yu did not sound like a destitute ex-prince at the epilogue). This sounded a tad too sad so I'll put this aside for the moment. Thank you so much for sharing with us this hugely popular book!

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    1. Hey Moonblossom ;), i have not read (probably never will) read Yun Zhong Ge so I can't tell. But I personally really like Lu Zi Zeng *inserts sigh and swoon*

      I really agree with your beautiful mini review. I think the writer got better as she wrote and some of her one chapter epilogues are just pure simple brilliance. Personally, I loved the end - crazy, wistful and apt.

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  5. BTW, I came across this website which can be useful in view of the recent clampdown on c-novel sites. There are not as many stories in it (for example, I cannot find 午门囧事 there) but there are quite a lot of stories and the page layout is pretty neat - meaning one can read in peace without having to close a lot of pop-ups before starting a chapter. Check this out this moon-island if you need another source:
    www.misland.cn

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    1. Thanks for the recomnendation!! The clampdown makes me sad :(. I'm quite worried a lot of my old favourites are no longer accessible, but I do plan to buy the books haha

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  6. I really sorry I did not know you were so busy, sorry to trouble you. I decided to post my translations on my blog sparklingdawnlights-.tumblr.com so please take a look a it and give me feedback if you have the time, thank you! :)

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    1. Hello Hikari, no problem at all! :) I'm so happy someone is translating this novel. Like I said in the email, feel free to email me if you ever have translating problems and I will try to help. It's just harder for me to manage my blog these days!

      I'm really excited for your translations. Will post the link on SSB so that more people will know of it. I will also advertise it when I do a #talk entry.

      All the best! <3

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  7. Thank you so much!

    Hikari

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  8. Hihi,
    I think the author of this book has published another book. I discovered it recently, I haven't read it yet but I thought maybe you would like it. It's called 江湖路弯弯, not sure if you've heard of it haha.

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    1. Cool! Haven't heard of it!! Will put it on my reading list ♡

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    2. I already translated the synopsis! Do you mind helping me to post it in the book bar so that more people can read it? The author's books are always so funny XD

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    3. Sure. can you email me the book cover picture, synopsis and c novel link?

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