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.
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?
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.