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Faraway Wanderers - Reading Guide

Chapter Text

Faraway Wanderers
— a careless tale from jianghu.1


by Priest Once plunged into rivers and lakes2, time urges
Youths and elders from lakes and rivers.

This is the story of a chief spy from the Imperial Secret Service who quits the court, to drift jianghu.

The world under the skies is vast,
Wherever there is man, there are lakes and rivers.   

—— Summary to the story by priest

 

Notes on the Summary:


1. Jianghu (lit. “rivers and lakes”) is a hard to translate concept that designates the marginal fringe of society that doesn’t obey the Imperial Court’s rule. Half-legendary, half-historical, it is a liminal and lawless world populated by martial arts heroes, bandits, vagrants, priests and monks, but also demons, gods and immortals from folk tales. Jianghu is the default setting for Chinese historical fantasy.

Geographically, it’s traditionally set in the southern regions of China, after the seminal text Water Margins.

Metaphorically, the fierce battles taking place in jianghu represents the human struggle within any social environment.
I've seen some explanations on the internet that attempt to translated jianghu as "the pugilists' world" or "martial arts' world". These translation are restrictive and essentially wrong.

The terms jianghu goes back two thousand years, before the formalisation of the wuxia genre. And if pugilists and martial arts heroes both dwell in jianghu, they do not define it. It is jianghu — as the quintessential concept of the human struggle in a lawless environments, like fishes in rivers and lakes — that defines them.

Note that the novel's original title 天涯客 (Tianya Ke, lit. "guest of the skies and horizons") is a direct reference to Du Fu's use of the term 江湖客 (Jianghu Ke, lit. "guest of jianghu") in his poems.


2. See above.

Misc. note:

There are two main subgenres in Chinese fantasy. Wuxia (lit. “martial arts heroes'') and xianxia (lit. “immortal heroes''); their protagonists all dwell in jianghu. Faraway Wanderers (on which the web-series Word of Honor is based) is wuxia as the story revolves around martial arts clans/schools. In contrast, the BL novel on which The Untamed is based is xianxia, as its story revolves around Daoist clans/sects and magical powers. Though the delineation between the two subgenres is sometimes tenuous.

 

 

Notes on Chapter 1 - Skylight:

1. 天窗 (lit. “sky window”) is the name of the Imperial Secret Service headed by Zhou Zishu. It could be translated variably as Sky’s Window, or Heaven’s Window (both “heaven” and “sky” referring to the emperor who rules by heaven’s mandate). I chose the direct translation Skylight to keep the theme of “light” that surrounds Zhou Zishu’s character.


2. “In the time for a zhu of incense to burn” in the text. Span time for the combustion of incense was a common method to measure time; a commonly accepted conversion is 1 zhu or stick of incense= 30 minutes.


3. Refers to acupuncture points of Traditional Chinese Medicine. As far as I can tell, the seven “main” acupoints are artistic licence by the author.


4. Pretty much a standard description of the typical 高冷 or “cold and haughty” character in Chinese BL. Here the emphasis is on detached/almost cruel but (of course) handsome looks. Also, note that a high-bridged nose is considered beautiful by Chinese beauty standards.


5. Torture device, artistic licence from the author.


6. Made up historical date. Daqing (lit. “great celebration”) is a fictional 年号 or era name (name given to an era by an emperor), and Rongjia (lit. “contain excellence”) is a fictional emperor. Note that two historical Daqing eras do appear under the Western Xia (11th-12th century CE), but no Rongjia emperor existed during those periods (or at all). Whether the historical Daqings give a period frame to the story is up to personal appraisal (to me: they don’t for multiple reasons).


7. Also fictional. Chinese emperors had multiple names. Note that Rongjia could be also translated as “Emperor Jia of Rong”, if one considers that Jia is the emperor’s posthumous name, and Rong the name of his dynasty. Helianyi is either the fictional emperor's personal or courtesy name; it’s also a homophone of 和连一 or “unite in one” which hints at a glorious emperor who united all of China together.


8. 四季庄主 translated literally.


9. The name is given a special meaning by the other half of the pairing later on. Here we can note that 周子舒 (lit. “cycle son leisure”) carries connotations of something comfortable and refined.


10.  Refers to the eight extraordinary meridians in TCM; differ from the standard twelve organ meridians in that they are considered to be storage vessels or reservoirs of qi energy. Qi is the basis of many martial arts practices.


11. The five viscera in TCM are: heart, liver, spleen, lung and kidney.


12. Small inconsistency here, as Old Bi wasn’t described as being drenched in blood after receiving the Nails.


13. A plaque or medal issued by the hierarchy that authenticated an order’s authority. Here Zhou Zizhu is issuing his own command token.


14. 段鹏举 lit. “segment roc lift”. Hint at someone who is strong.


15. 上书房 is the Emperor’s private study in the Forbidden City. Unofficial meetings were often held there, both historically and fictionally. It was built in the Qing Dynasty, which is one reason why the Western Xia timeline doesn’t make sense.
16. A.k.a. Kowtowing plus wishing the Emperor well.


17. This paragraph shows great intimacy and favour from the Emperor, as Imperial Physicians are normally reserved for the emperor and his family. Whether they are BL/homoerotic subtones here is debatable. IMO, the relationship is normal by Emperor/Favoured Servant standards as usually depicted in non-BL stories.

Chapter Text

 

Notes on Chapter II - A Chance Encounter

 

1. 吹灯拔蜡 idiom lit. “blowing out the lamp and snuffing out the candle” = kicking the bucket.


2. 内功 lit. “internal skill”. This passage reflects the beliefs upon which many martial arts practices are based. These beliefs are many and sometimes contradictory, though they generally revolve around the key concept of qi energy. Neigong is the internal abilities (power/strength) developed through exercises aimed at improving the flow/canalisation of qi. The better your neigong is, the stronger you are at martial arts. Note that you can have good neigong but little skill (because you haven’t learned the moves). Since qi is said to circulate through the meridians, impairing the latter with the Nails would damage one’s neigong. Thus, after receiving the Nails, ZZS’s skills are intact, but his power isn’t.


3. Jianghu.


4. 江南 Jiangnan, regions south of the Yangtze River, typical geographic location of jianghu.


5. It’s implied that ZZS started his journey from either nowadays Beijing or Xi’an and took the main road to Kaifeng, Henan; before going up to Penglai, Shandong from where he may have taken a boat. An alternative translation is to consider Penglai as meaning “Fairyland” (Penglai Island is a legendary place where immortals dwell). The translation would then be something like : “he passed Kaifeng before taking the Fairy Road”.


6. Considering that the driving distance from either Beijing to Hangzhou (typical southern city) or Xi’an to Hangzhou are both around 800 miles, and that an average horse can travel 20 miles a day, the trip would be a 40 days horse-ride nowadays. So ZZS’ time wasn’t that bad. Especially if you consider that China to Rome (around 6000 miles nowadays) was done in one year via the silk road (16.5 miles/day). Maths in BL!


7. A 酒楼 is an establishment that served alcohol as well as food (and also often provided ladies to have the drinks with as an extra). It’s similar to nowadays posh bar-restaurants & lounges.


8. 甜酒酿 - a spirit made with fermented glutinous rice. Infusing it with osmanthus flowers is traditional. The spirit is bottled/jarred with the rice it’s made from, so you technically eat rice at the same type as you drink its alcohol. It’s sweet and delicious in dessert.


9. “Around a liang of silver” in the text. 银两 or a “silver liang” is a kind of coinage in the form of an ingot made of 40g to 50g of silver. Here, it sounds like a reasonable amount of money and is meant to convey that ZZS paid his fair share.


10. Here, the term “uncle” is used in a general sense that doesn’t imply blood relation. It’s a casual way of addressing anybody who is in the same age range as one's own uncle. Like calling somebody old “grandpa”. I find this scene hilarious, and hope I did it justice.


11. 公子 lit. “honourable son”. Here, it is used in its generic form. As a respectful address toward a young man of high status. “Master” fits the context here.


12. 知己 (jizhi) lit. “a person who knows the self”. Milestone in chinese BL, and variably translated as “soulmate”, “intimate friend”, “confidante”. It’s a gender neutral expression that means exactly what it means: a person who understands the self completely. Here ZZS is using the term because the man in grey (spoiler: it’s the other half of the pairing) guessed that he was sunbathing.


13. 善人 lit. "virtuous person" used to describe people who do good deeds. Close to the concept of “good samaritan”.


14. It is a common saying that women from southern regions of China are exceptionally beautiful. This common concept probably originates from the Qing dynasty emperor being from Manchuria up north, and the abundant prose about their many love affairs in the south.


15. Reciting poems while swaying the head is a common trope.


16. From the Tang dynasty poem《代悲白头翁》by 刘希夷 (Liu Xiyi).


17. It’s implied that enhanced hearing is a skill developed through martial arts.¯\_(ツ)_/¯


18. Sunbathing is not a thing for chinese people as sunlight is considered bad for the skin (which turned out to be scientifically proven). Only labourers were exposed to it frequently, which is also why white skin is a beauty standard. This is the reason ZZS was so surprised someone had guessed he was sunbathing on purpose — which may not translate well to tan worshipping, western cultures.


19. The prefix 阿 (“A”-name) is used as an endearment. Xiang is a homophone of “fragrant”, and also of “home” as in “native land”.


20. 乌篷船 is a kind of thin and long fishing boat, roofed with bamboo and peculiar to the Zhejiang region.


21. 老丈 lit. “elderly husband”, respectful address toward older men. Translated as captain due to context.


22. 饼 pan-cooked bread, flat and round.1. 吹灯拔蜡 idiom lit. “blowing out the lamp and snuffing out the candle” = kicking the bucket.


2. 内功 lit. “internal skill”. This passage reflects the beliefs upon which many martial arts practices are based. These beliefs are many and sometimes contradictory, though they generally revolve around the key concept of qi energy. Neigong is the internal abilities (power/strength) developed through exercises aimed at improving the flow/canalisation of qi. The better your neigong is, the stronger you are at martial arts. Note that you can have good neigong but little skill (because you haven’t learned the moves). Since qi is said to circulate through the meridians, impairing the latter with the Nails would damage one’s neigong. Thus, after receiving the Nails, ZZS’s skills are intact, but his power isn’t.


3. Jianghu.


4. 江南 Jiangnan, regions south of the Yangtze River, typical geographic location of jianghu.


5. It’s implied that ZZS started his journey from either nowadays Beijing or Xi’an and took the main road to Kaifeng, Henan; before going up to Penglai, Shandong from where he may have taken a boat. An alternative translation is to consider Penglai as meaning “Fairyland” (Penglai Island is a legendary place where immortals dwell). The translation would then be something like : “he passed Kaifeng before taking the Fairy Road”.


6. Considering that the driving distance from either Beijing to Hangzhou (typical southern city) or Xi’an to Hangzhou are both around 800 miles, and that an average horse can travel 20 miles a day, the trip would be a 40 days horse-ride nowadays. So ZZS’ time wasn’t that bad. Especially if you consider that China to Rome (around 6000 miles nowadays) was done in one year via the silk road (16.5 miles/day). Maths in BL!


7. A 酒楼 is an establishment that served alcohol as well as food (and also often provided ladies to have the drinks with as an extra). It’s similar to nowadays posh bar-restaurants & lounges.


8. 甜酒酿 - a spirit made with fermented glutinous rice. Infusing it with osmanthus flowers is traditional. The spirit is bottled/jarred with the rice it’s made from, so you technically eat rice at the same type as you drink its alcohol. It’s sweet and delicious in dessert.


9. “Around a liang of silver” in the text. 银两 or a “silver liang” is a kind of coinage in the form of an ingot made of 40g to 50g of silver. Here, it sounds like a reasonable amount of money and is meant to convey that ZZS paid his fair share.


10. Here, the term “uncle” is used in a general sense that doesn’t imply blood relation. It’s a casual way of addressing anybody who is in the same age range as one's own uncle. Like calling somebody old “grandpa”. I find this scene hilarious, and hope I did it justice.


11. 公子 lit. “honourable son”. Here, it is used in its generic form. As a respectful address toward a young man of high status. “Master” fits the context here.


12. 知己 (jizhi) lit. “a person who knows the self”. Milestone in chinese BL, and variably translated as “soulmate”, “intimate friend”, “confidante”. It’s a gender neutral expression that means exactly what it means: a person who understands the self completely. Here ZZS is using the term because the man in grey (spoiler: it’s the other half of the pairing) guessed that he was sunbathing.


13. 善人 lit. "virtuous person" used to describe people who do good deeds. Close to the concept of “good samaritan”.


14. It is a common saying that women from southern regions of China are exceptionally beautiful. This common concept probably originates from the Qing dynasty emperor being from Manchuria up north, and the abundant prose about their many love affairs in the south.


15. Reciting poems while swaying the head is a common trope.


16. From the Tang dynasty poem《代悲白头翁》by 刘希夷 (Liu Xiyi).


17. It’s implied that enhanced hearing is a skill developed through martial arts.¯\_(ツ)_/¯


18. Sunbathing is not a thing for chinese people as sunlight is considered bad for the skin (which turned out to be scientifically proven). Only labourers were exposed to it frequently, which is also why white skin is a beauty standard. This is the reason ZZS was so surprised someone had guessed he was sunbathing on purpose — which may not translate well to tan worshipping, western cultures.


19. The prefix 阿 (“A”-name) is used as an endearment. Xiang is a homophone of “fragrant”, and also of “home” as in “native land”.


20. 乌篷船 is a kind of thin and long fishing boat, roofed with bamboo and peculiar to the Zhejiang region.


21. 老丈 lit. “elderly husband”, respectful address toward older men. Translated as captain due to context.


22. 饼 pan-cooked bread, flat and round.

Chapter Text

Notes on Chapter 3 - The Derelict Temples

1. See notes on Penglai in the previous chapter.


2. 三山五岳 refers the most famous mountains in China. Colloquially used to describe any famous mountain sight.


3. Sign of vitality.


4. 丈 (zhang) Chinese foot or approx. 3.3m.


5. In feudal China, it was frequent that concubines and second spouses were servants/slaves, brought in by the man’s family. The practice still exists to some extent.


6. This paragraph is quite funny as the author takes a jab at two main genres in Chinese historical fiction: wuxia and its fighting swordsmen; and period pieces about palace intrigues.


7. Copper, silver and gold are used as currency in ancient China. Copper was cast into coins. Silver and gold were cast into ingots, but could also be found in the form of spare crumbs of varied weight.


8. “In a hurry to reincarnate?” in the text = jab at man being old/in an unreasonable hurry.


9. Insulting one’s ancestor is considered very rude.


10. There are many Buddhist shrines in China. The simpler ones are found by roadsides and are oftentimes a simple building (with or without a courtyard) with the statue of a divinity inside it. They are maintained by devouts on a voluntary basis if no monastery is attached to them and fall into disuse when people no longer come to venerate the enshrined divinity. It’s not good etiquette to sleep in them.


11. 伯伯 lit. father’s older brother. Used generically to address older men who aren’t old enough to be a “grandpa”.


12. Hand gesture made to show respect. One hand is wrapped around the other fist. The fact that the old dude detected ZZS whilst gravely injured is another sign of great kung-fu.


13. 大爷 “old man/grandpa”. Generic in context.


14. Expression translated literally. A three-legged cat is someone who's bad at something (the cat is one leg short).


15. 暗器 anqi lit. "hidden weapon". More or less a shuriken (though that's a Japanese word).


16. A childish gesture indicating that someone should be ashamed. It means "you've lost face".

Chapter Text

1. A 招 (zhao) as commonly used in describing fights is a move+its countermove/parry. Masters can win in one or two moves, overwhelming their opponents’ defence. Or fights can go on and on because the opponents are evenly matched.


2. 膻中穴 Danzhong acupoint in the text.


3. Manifestation of qi or some other mystical m.a. technique.


4. Yanluo Wang, or Yamla, king of the underworld.


5. 三更断肠 Fictional, lit. “Poison that kills in six hours".


6. 太湖 Lake Tai, one of the largest lake in southern China.


7. 滴水之恩,当涌泉相报 lit. "A drop of kindness should be repaid as if it was a gushing spring". The old man using the phrase (and implying that he is the one doing the kindness) is funny because it is used to describe receiving kindness in dire straits: a drop of water may feel like a spring to a man dying of thirst, so it should be paid back with interest --> Here, however, ZZS clearly isn't the one in dire straits.


8. Reflects Buddhist beliefs: accumulation of merits through good deeds may lead to a better reincarnation in the next life. Zou Zishu is moved because he is looking for ways to repent/make up for some of the horrors he committed. A typically Chinese part of that belief is that virtuous deeds bring good fortune to the descendants.


9."义士李大伯" - 义士 lit. "righteous knight/honorable man" could be variably translated as "defender of justice". 大伯 ("old uncle") is also a familiar way of address and no proper tombstone would have that term written on it.


10. Carving wood with a finger: yet another manifestation of great kung-fu.

Chapter Text

Notes on Chapter 5 - The Devils

 

1. Lit. “successfully grown mountain”. It’s a plain name with an obviously nice meaning. Note that the names in this story are all kinda "posh". They'd be unusual/pretentious by non-fiction standards.


2. 南河 (Nanhe) translated literally.


3. 张玉森 (Zhang “jade forest”). Hints at somebody refined.


4. 薛方 (Xuefang) lit “wormwood square”; homophone of “bloody person”.


5. 吊死鬼 or Hanged Ghost/Devil is a type of supernatural being that has died from hanging. They are usually depicted as a man with a pale face and a long red tongue. Here, it's Xuefang's nickname/moniker. Note that the word 鬼 is variably translated as ghost, demon or evil spirit. All applicable depending on context as the word itself designates anything that is 1) a supernatural being 2) scary. The pictographic of 鬼 is a body with two legs 儿 , a scary face 甶, and a tail 厶. Chinese "ghosts" aren't typically ectoplasms/spectres (the bedsheet-ghost is pretty much a western trope), they take various forms and have many powers.


6. 大娘 lit. “old aunt”. Generic here.


7. Landlords (=rich people in feudal times) often have “guests” who live on their estate for free, generally because they are friends, or appreciated for their talents. For example, in Dream of the Red Mansion (a landmark in Chinese literature), the Jia family hosts a flock of scholars because they are talented poets. Here, the “guests” are obviously retained because they are good at kung-fu. Although the guests are expected to help, it wasn’t an obligation. In this story however, the point is moot as it is implied that they’d all been killed by some dirty trick (着道儿). Old Li obviously had his own opinion about things.


8. The description of the old woman is pretty unkind. She is described as having “only paste/mush for brains” (脑子里一坨浆糊).


9. 老相好 lit. “old intimate friend”. Gender-neutral expression: established paramour or romantic interest. Less frequently used to mean a platonic friend.


10. Yup, that’s exactly what Guxiang said.


11. 恶鬼众 lit. “Evil Demon Crowd”.


12. 青竹岭 (Qingzhu Ridge/Mountain), translated literally.


13. 风崖山 (Fengya Mountain), translated literally.


14. 鬼谷 (Gui Valley), translated literally.


15.i.e. a rapist.


16. Green mist coming out/lingering over of tombs is said to be an auspicious sign in Fengshui, possibly rooted in the real phenomenon of gas forming from decomposing bodies and getting dispersed into the air. It is said that when such a phenomenon occurs, the descendants of the deceased would experience good luck/be promoted etc. The saying has a satirical undertone and is understood as a rare/impossible occurrence. Guxiang's logic not making sense is intentional.


17. At 子时 (11 p.m. to 1 a.m.) in the text.


18. I translate 刀 (dao), or single-edged sword/weapon, as “sabre” to make the distinction with 剑 (jian) which is always double-edged (**eyebrows wiggle at the English to Chinese translators of the Disney live-action movie Mulan: she is using a dao, not a jian!**). Although traditional Chinese dao’s differ from western sabres in some aspects (dao’s often have a flared apex), they are both single-edged. 刀 can also refer to any single-edged weapon, including kitchen knives in domestic settings, which isn’t the case here. Alongside gun (staff), qiang (spear), and jian (sword), dao is one of the four main weapons in martial arts/ancient warfare.

 

Misc. note on schools, sects, families and clans:

I've seen debate over how to translate the term 门派 (lit. "door faction"). IMO, all are acceptable depending on context.

I use "school" or "kung-fu school" in wuxia to put emphasis on the kung-fu teaching part, and "sect" in xianxia and Daoist/Buddhist for the religious element. Both are meant to evoke groups who practice/teach a discipline a certain way.

I use "clan" to put emphasis on the fact that these are hierarchically organized factions that are often (though not always) led/founded by members of a specific family, with hereditary claim to the leader position.

A kung-fu school/clan should be thought of as a nowadays dojo/m.a. gym. Its master is the teacher of the gym (potentially own the building), and teaches m.a. a certain way. When the master dies, their children take their place.

A "prestigious/famous" kung-fu school is kinda like a gym that has gotten very successful economically: it has its own estate (and associated feudal trappings) and train "disciples" who are basically full-time employees. The disciples differ from "servants" because, on top of their training, they are always free people (they own their own bodies and aren't slaves) who are regarded as next to equal to the master's own children.

The only times I use "family" are when the word 家 appears and mentions the family that heads a clan/school.

Chapter Text

Notes on Chapter 6 - A Beauty

 

1. 不惊人死不休 lit. “won’t die until I’ve amazed someone with my talent”, from a Tang dynasty poem by Dufu.


2. In Chinese traditions, there are eight cardinal points (north, south, east, west, north-east, north-west, south-east, and south-west) and six “sides” (up, down, right, left, front, and back). ‘Eight directions and six sides’ = the whole universe.


3. 穿花绕树 lit. “Flowers Passing and Trees Circumventing”. Fictional airborne m.a. technique originally penned by author Liang Yusheng. Milestone of wuxia ‘qing gong’ (a.k.a. Light Body Techniques) that allows people to fly around like Superman (in his earlier non OP days). I like translating all the weird names, please bear with me.


4. It’s implied that he is sitting in the lotus position. All heroes in wuxia sit in the lotus position. They even sleep in the lotus position. That’s how you can tell they have great martial arts skills. :P


5. Ruler of the underworld. See previous note.


6. Refers to ‘lotus feet’ (women's feet were bound until the bones were broken to keep them small; considered very attractive, in a fetishist way). Guxiang doesn’t have lotus feet: she is executing a sequence of steps that likely has her on tiptoes/looks very lithe.


7. 温客行 lit. “warm guest walk”. Peculiar sounding name, explained later on in the story.


8. 兄 lit. “elder brother”. Used in its generic form. ZZS addresses him as “elder brother” (contrarily to “little brother”) either out of respect, or because he thinks he is his senior in age.


9. 美人 lit. “beautiful person”. A gender-neutral expression that’s nonetheless generally used to describe women only. Which explain part of ZZS’ reaction.


10. "水光潋滟、顾盼生姿". "水光潋滟" is from a Song poem by Su Shi, describing the scenery of the Xihu Lake on a sunny day. Translate as "Light plays over the billowing waters". "顾盼生姿" from another poem of the Wei dynasty by Ji Kang, describing a scholar who joins the army. Translates as "As he looks around, his eyes are vivacious and touching".

 

Misc. note on people flying around in Chinese historical fantasy:

it's a common trope that heroes can jump on roofs, walk on water, and bounce up mountain. Basically they can fly.

In "realistic" wuxia, it's all part of a m.a. practitioner's training. Specifically, people who can do it have practised "qing-gong" or "light technique" variably translated as "light body technique". Though entirely fictional, qing-gong does obey the basic law of physics, and the heroes who have learned it simply have mastered a way to make their bodies seem as if weightless (it all has to do with the flow of qi). Like ZZS in this story.

In magical settings and xianxia, abilities such as riding on clouds, lotus flower, swords etc. have other mystical origins. Sun Wukong in Journey to the West could bounce up to the heavenly realms. In the Untamed, people can ride swords through clouds.

Chapter Text

Notes on Chapter 7 - On the Road

 

1. 添香红袖 lit. “add incense with red sleeves”, evokes being served by pretty maids whilst one studies. Has a flirtatious connotation.


2. There is a double entendre here that I hope I’ve conveyed. Though it sounds like Guxiang is talking about WKX sleeping around (and covering for the fact that he doesn’t seem to know about the Zhangs getting exterminated), we learn, in hindsight, that they are talking in code, and Wen Kexing was in reality back at The Devils’ Valley.


3. Two qian 钱, or two tenths of a tael. Tael (两 liang) is the generic currency name (like US dollar, pound sterling, euro etc.) used in ancient settings. See previous note.


4. Meaning: a man must not kneel easily. Notice how macho ZZS is, “man” is specifically a male person here.


5. 师父 lit. “teacher-father”, often translated as “master”. Left untranslated here to differentiate with “master” used in the context of feudal ownership.


6. Lit. Zhao “present respectfully”. Whether intentionally or not, it’s a homophone of “looking into the mirror” possibly hinting at narcissism.


7. Buddhists pray with both open palms joined together. A back and forth movement often accompanies the gesture.


8. See notes chp. 3.


9. 黄泉 = the underworld.


10. Small inconsistency here, the boy is supposed to call him ‘shifu’. Though ‘uncle zhou’ sounds less formal.


11. Sleeves are heavily symbolic in Chinese BL as it evokes "the passion of the cut sleeve" aka homosexuality. The expression comes from an anecdote wherein a favourite of a king fall asleep on the king's sleeve; the king must leave, he cuts his sleeve so as to not wake his lover. A "cut sleeve" has come to mean colloquially a male homosexual person. Here the interaction between ZZS and ZCL indicates that they are not a pairing. Also, observe that in the web series ZZS and WKX cut each other's sleeves at various times.


12. 五脏六腑 “five viscera and six bowels” = main internal organs according to TCM.


13. Musical instruments as weapons is a common trope in Chinese fantasy, more so than in western culture. It's an old trope. For example, one of the Four Heavenly Kings in Buddhism, the King of the South, wields a pipa.

Chapter Text

Notes on Chapter 8 - By Moonlight

 

1. 鬼魅 lit. “supernatural being/monster” This passage is the authors setting up a red-herring for the reader as the character 魅 is used both in WKX’s description and in the assassin’s moniker.


2.抱元守一, a Daoist meditation type practice that basically aims at cleansing the mind. Here it appears to have physical effects too.
3. 魅曲秦松. 魅曲 lit. “magic music”, the assassin's moniker. Qin 秦 is a homophone of “Chinese zither”. 松 (lit. “pine”) is a homophone of “carrying a tune” as well as a wordplay on the English word “song”.


4. 荒腔野调、呕哑嘲哳 an idiom from Chinese opera, and a quote from a poem by Bai Juyi, respectively. Both describe someone chanting off-key in a hoarse and uncouth manner.


5. This passage reflects the common trope that the danger of a counter is proportional to the strength of the attack. It has to do with using the qi expanded by the opponent against themselves. Qi is the energy at the foundation of all things, so instruments as weapons use it too.


6. The text reads as "he helped *Zhang Chengling* circulate". Don’t worry about it too much, as long as you understand it’s about qi, it’s all mumbo jumbo even from a Chinese perspective.


7. 有奶就是娘 translated literally. A metaphor for someone of mercenary loyalties with an obvious pejorative connotation.


8. From a poem by Li Bai. The citation is great because it both refers to a flute (carved from a willow twig) and the fake name ZZS gave himself: “willow catkin” + hints at his rapport with ZZS. Also, WKX, on top of citation, often talks in old/literary Chinese.


9. 非礼 "improper conduct" esp. toward somebody, used to describe "minor" acts of sexual harassment like groping etc.


10. 大侠 lit. “great hero” used sardonically here.