Friday, 21 March 2014

#talk 7: Lost You Forever & Three Classical Male Leads in C-Novels

   After I read the Crazy Adventures of Wu Gate (see side bar for review), I had wanted to write more about some of the famous male archetypes in C-novels. I just finished The Emperor's Strategy (天子谋), and it made me think of Lost You Forever a lot, though I haven't checked the chronology, I really doubt that it was inspired by Lost You Forever, and more likely that these novelists cleverly use their favourite male archetypes in new and original ways.

  I will be writing more about the Emperor's Strategy soon (I can hear peanuts telling me to post the synopsis on SSB haha) on this blog, but first, let me share about three famous male archetypes!

  The first real three male leads c-novel I read was the Crazy Adventures of Wu Gate, and it's pretty apt that this novel has 3 books just like how Lost You Forever has three books! Each book in the Crazy Adventures of Wu Gate then becomes dedicated to one particular male lead, although in Crazy Adventures of Wu Gate, it was pretty clearly who was the first male lead (and yet he didn't get the girl, despite breaking her heart, alas).

  So, if you see the above picture, I would say the leftmost is Yuan Shi Qiong, the middle is Lu Zi Zheng and the right is Prince Duan Yu. The author, Qing Zhao, stated in her weibo that Lu Zi Zheng is the best lover, Prince Duan Yu is the first love and Yuan Shi Qiong is the husband. And, I thought that was quite the perfect description - so don't be too sad if your male lead doesn't get the girl in the end, perhaps their love was just meant to be exactly that way.

  But, after reading quite a few c-novels, I would classify the Three Classical Male Leads as (1) The Brother, (2) The Husband and (3) The Lover.

  I would use Lost You Forever as the best example of this (holy) Love Trinity. Please don't read this unless you want to be spoiled!

  (1) The Brother

    In Lost You Forever, the brother is Zhuan Xu. The person who had always looked after you perhaps in your childhood, or in your weakest most formative years. Some may argue that he could be the first love too - I haven't read the childhood parts in Book 2 of Once Promised so I can't fully judge. I personally prefer Xiao Yao's love for Zhuan Xu to be completely platonic - it's the kind of love you give without wanting to receive. To meet someone and feel that person is your blood and kin, more important than yourself, who understands exactly where you come from, who is basically your root. I think in Xiao Yao's memories, wherever she starts, wherever she begins, it's Zhuan Xu.

   Even when Zhuan Xu committed the unforgivable sin, to have become the person she should hate most in the world, it's not that Xiao Yao cannot forgive him, but she cannot forgive herself for not being able to truly hate him. His hands are her hands, his sins are her sins.

  My favourite image of Zhuan Xu and Xiao Yao is with Zhuan Xu pushing Xiao Yao on the swing surrounded by phoenix flowers. Ah, to be young again, perhaps that is the purest of feelings. But, perhaps that is so pure, that you can't taint it with anything else - I can help you with all your ambitions, but I cannot be your ambition. I can only always be your younger sister.

(2) The Husband

  In Lost You Forever, the husband is Jing (my dear Jing). Although most readers often find the husband the trustworthy soft "reliable" type, I actually often observe that the husband type is the most cunning - one only needs to look at Ren Feng Yao in Both are Foxes or Yuan Shi Qiong in the Crazy Adventures of the Wu Gate. Jing himself is the head of the Tu Shan Clan who descended from the nine tailed foxes! They are wily creatures whom the other male leads often proclaim to be so smart that luckily they do not want what they want.... which is 江山 (empire). Usually, these male leads have seen through the world, seen through the meaningless struggles of powers, and choose their 爱人 (beauty) instead. Perhaps, they know the secret golden rule of c-novels "If you want to be the emperor, you will lose the girl" (I've only ever read one novel in which the male lead becomes the emperor and gets the girl, though he loses her for most of their prime years. Hah.) 

  Jing's love is the love that endures. The safe harbour. It's not meant to be tumultuous, but it can weather all storms - be the person who sits quietly next to you, or pushes you when you need to, gently. It is not that you deserted passion or chemistry, but he is the ever constant sun that rises and sets each day, warming you, even as you are the wan inconstant moon. He chooses you, over all else, and you choose him, not because he is the safe choice, or the default choice, but simply because his is the hand you want to hold. 

(3) The Lover

   In Lost You Forever, the lover is Xiang Liu. Sometimes, the lover is also the soulmate. The one that burns. That dark flame in your heart that threatens to smoulder all else, incinerate your rationality into pieces. When the two meet, you can hear the crackle, the simmering, that ever precarious gap between their feelings and abyss. Because, to them, to fall is the abyss. 

  Often, the lover lives by a principle so sharp that he is the blade that cuts you. Is he the lover because your heart hurts? Xiang Liu is Xiao Yao's soulmate, that one person else in the world, whose heart beats in sync with hers. Made up of the same mixture of loneliness and longing, light and dark, love and loyalty, their love is the metallic taste of their blood, so earthy, and utterly them. Only Xiang Liu can eat Xiao Yao's poison, and only Xiao Yao can heal Xiang Liu's wounds. 

  Xiang Liu can only die for Xiao Yao, and not live for her. It's too late - the boat has passed, forever she sees his past selves and wistfully wishes she had met him earlier. But, his ship has sailed, he will die for General Gong Gong. The last of the Sheng Nong warriors don't dream of returning Sheng Nong to power - for that day has long passed, they only long for the beautiful honourable death of a soldier. So, he gives her the skill to protect herself, crafts the perfect bow for her, saves and protects her lover, and quietly leaves - without wanting to leave any trace of sweetness in her heart, so she won't cry for him. Be happy and carefree, that is all I ask of you. 

  Some lovers are selfish, they burn too brightly and burn you along with their dreams and ambitions. So, you stay back, go back to the warm sun or the cool harbour. Some lovers incinerate themselves - stay in the light as I descend into darkness.

  Some people are sad because Xiao Yao never heard Xiang Liu tell her all he did and his feelings. But, all I see when I see Xiang Liu is that he has always been saying I love you. And, Xiao Yao, as his soulmate, how can she not know? She knows. But, she doesn't pursue. Because some things only spiral into darkness, so she will stay in the light. In the darkness of nights, in the deepest of oceans, dwelling in an all extinguishing blackness, perhaps then you will see the eternal part of her that shall always burn for him.


  1. I applaud thee, this was very very accurate and well said - "I can help you with all your ambitions, but I cannot be your ambition. I can only always be your younger sister." Ah all of your words are spot on! I love the descriptions of the archetypes. I would just go for the lover/soulmate maybe because I'm not like XiaoYao, I think regardless of the ending it would be worth it!

    1. Hahaha! Thanks for your kind comment :). Are you a Xiang Liu shipper? I'm a Jing/Xiang Liu shipper I think, and I'm always torn between the two so I'm not so sure myself. But, I like what you say - regardless of the ending it would be worth it! I do think in the situation of Jing was still dead, and Xiang Liu had shared his feelings honestly with Xiao Yao, she would have wanted to die with him but Xiang Liu would have never let her do it. Aww.

    2. I'm a full fledged XiangLiu shipper! Haha, I always thought XiangLiu had a chance after Jing's supposed death. XiangLiu's sacrifices really exhibits a selfless love but he was loyal to his responsibilities until the end as a General, thus TongHua's ending was reasonable. There was an unspoken mutual understanding between XL and XY, I believe XY knew he loved her but just never went for it. The tribute for XiangLiu at the end really shows he had a spot in her heart, something more than friends, maybe a stronger feeling than Jing's. Reading the epilogue made my heart ache so much. Ugh, I need a XiangLiuXiaoYao fanfic to heal my heart!

    3. Hahaha I know that wanting to read fanfic feeling! I totally agree about the unspoken mutual understanding <3. I think even Xiao Yao herself won't know who she will choose if she had the chance to equally choose btw Xiang Liu and Jing!

  2. With all the spoilers at Koala's and some here and there, the ending has been sort of spoiled for me.

    I'm a full Xiang Liu shipper so I was heart broken to say the least. I only know that he doesn't get Xiao Yao and that was enough to put me off the book. If it wasn't my laptop I was reading it on, the book would have gone flying past the room.

    Regardless, I do like the point you made about the three male leads. I have always enjoyed shady characters in books so Xiang Liu was a treat for me. I know a few books where my support for the anti hero almost had people at my doorsteps with pitchforks. Lol. Only kidding.
    I'm taking some time off Lost you Forever, as the spoilers not it annoyed me to no end but also tainted any pleasure of guessing the ending. :(

    Still, I'll carry on reading, Once Promised and Heavy Sweetness.


    1. Hello Escapism Fanatic,

      I'm so sorry if I've spoiled you unknowingly! My entry was always meant for people who knew the story already. I've edited the above to warn about spoilers now.

      I can only imagine your pain. because I was heartbroken too. But, still I thought there was a kind of poetic beauty to all of it --- and I was already guessing at Xiang Liu's end because he reminded me so much of Chi You, except Xiang Liu never dared to pursue Xiao Yao openly or give her any promises. In a world of chaos and power struggles, warriors like Chi You and Xiang Liu can hardly have good ends if they choose the wrong side. :( Xiang Liu's epilogue is one of the most beautiful parts of Lost You Forever.

      Once Promised will be full of beauty and heartbreak, but Heavy Sweetness should promise lots of fun and laughter besides the slight angst at the end. But happy ending!

    2. Oh not! I'm so sorry that I made you feel this way. I didn't mean you specifically spoiled anything for me. I was already spoiled :)

      I was rather cross when I'd unknowing read a spoiler but felt really sad later. I'm a rather sensitive person who tends to cries for other people. Hence my reason never to watch The Titanic again as it reduced me to a pool of tears. And yes, I'm that bad. I'm not giving up on the book as I know it's a treasure of wonderful writing, I'm just distancing myself from it.

      I think you are right, though. Warriors with honours like Chi You and Xiang Liu can never have a happy ending. They will sacrifice everything for their loyalty.

      I haven't read any other spoiler apart from the obvious so I won't mention it here.

      Anyway, thanks for the kind words as they do make me feel better.

    3. Haha! I can understand the emotional distance! I do that too, I have not finished Book 2 yet. Hahaha.

      I'm glad you feel better! :) Since I'm a Jing/XL shipper, I suppose I kind of am cheating and getting the best of both words, but I'm always happy for my XL because I really know Xiao Yao loves him too.

    I think of the 3 male leads in Chang Xiang Si, only Zhuan Xu didn't have a happy ending.

    Jing was a smart person and knew what it was that he wanted, and all the rest which he can foresake. So, he had a happy ending with the person he wants most. His love is not the most epic, but he is the right match for Xiao Yao. The scene where he broke down seeing Xiao Yao's lifeless body and remained in a coma was one of my favourite scenes and it was only then that I realised the extent of his love for her.

    Xiang Liu knew that he couldn't give Xiao Yao a lifetime of peaceful happiness, so he led her to peaceful happniess. He remembered what Xiao Yao said when they first met outside of Qing Shui Town: "I can't protect myself, I have no one to rely on, and I have no place to return to". So, he taught her archery to protect herself, and I believe her bow was the work of Xiang Liu too. He helped/saved Jing numerous times so that she will have someone to rely on. He gave her the sea map so she can find a place to build a home to return to. After years of preparation, he brought her to peaceful happiness. Xiang Liu had once said that the best ending for a general is to die in war. He did it too. Dying on the battlefield, he has all his wishes fulfilled, so his ending was good in a way too. I can imagine him smiling as he died, with a carefree aura.

    Only Zhuan Xu, who did so much to hold Xiao Yao and protect her but in the end built distance between the two of them, had a regretful ending.

    If the epic scene for Xiang Liu is the epilogue, the epix scene for Zhuan Xu must be the parting scene where the two of them sat under the Feng Huang tree. I cried for him (even though I wasn't on his ship!) because I felt so bad for him. Although to others it seemed like he used Jing's strategy to gain control over the wild plains and to do that he had to give up his most beloved treasure, it was actually the other way round. He had wanted to hold onto his most beloved treasure and to do that he had to use Jing's strategy to gain control over the wild plains. In the end, he got the power, but lost his treasure; what's the point?

    1. Karened,

      Your comment and analysis is really beautiful and true.

      I agree that Zhuan Xu was the only one who had the true "Lost You Forever" ending, since he could never have the only thing he wanted despite everything else. I guess he can only live in the comfort that as long as he is in power, he will protect Xiao Yao.

      Teehee, I really love Xiang Liu and while I was sad at his end, it was really the beautiful death that he longed for, and that his pride and principle could live for.

      And I really love what you said about Zhuan Xu and his epic scene! How true, how true. Is Zhuan Xu your favourite?

    2. My favourite is Jing (he has the advantage of a more beautiful and poetic name hehehe), although I feel for Zhuan Xu and Xiang Liu too. Tong Hua's characterisation is layered and filled with surprises, so by the end of the novel, I was won over by all 3 leads and understand how their actions are driven by....really, fate. The fate of being born as who they are, the fate of meeting Xiao Yao at particular phases of their lives...

      Who is your favourite?

    3. Heehee! My favourite is Jing too! Though, at the end, I did kind of become a Jing/Xiang Liu shipper (because Xiang Liu reminded me so much of Chi You).

      I like what you said about the fate of being born as who they are. Although I wonder if that can be considered fate or just following the choices that are most true to yourself? Then again, I remember Xiao Yao being sad she didn't meet Xiang Liu before he met Gong Gong. Hahaha. Every thing in its own time.

    4. I have yet to read Ceng Xu Nuo because it seem like an epic love with a bitter(sweet?) ending, and I don't handle sad endings too well.

      Fate is...a lazy way to say, "I'm tired to trying, let's just leave it resolve itself (often by coincidences and/or acts by other people". :P

      I was thinking, the 3 types of male leads can be used as a psychological test! hehe

      I chanced upon this image, and it felt so apt for the 凤凰花 scenery!

    5. Oh, I love Once Promised a lot a lot a lot. But I have not finished Book 2 except for the ending. For me, it's less bittersweet than Lost You Forever because A'Heng and Chi You so clearly loved each other, so clearly knew about each other's love and fulfilled that promise till the end. Plus, they had the best reunion scene ever in Lost You Forever. I actually find it less painful than what Zhuan Xu and Xiang Liu received.

      Haha! Depending on which male lead one likes? Heehehee

      It's so pretty! I agree, perfect!

  4. i read lost you forever at koala's and always waiting for xiang liu-xia yao moments, although they don't have a happy ending, i still love this pair.

    1. Me too!! I'm a Jing-Xiang Liu shipper :). In my heart though, the ending was bittersweet but perfect.

  5. Waah i dont like the safe harbor, give me back my lover anytime. :-(

    1. Hahaha! Few people get the lucky coincidence of having their lover also a safe harbour :)

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