Switching Languages While Reading Coiling Dragon

I found this post that I wrote a few years ago in my drafts. I don’t know why I didn’t publish it before. At the time I was reading the English translation of Coiling Dragon it was still freely available, but now it’s only available via Amazon/Kindle.

Over many months, taking many breaks, I read Coiling Dragon by I Eat Tomatoes. Sometimes I read it in the original Chinese, and sometimes I read the English translation by Ren Woxing (yes, seriously, he calls himself ‘Ren Woxing’, that’s a bit like calling oneself ‘Tom Riddle’ or ‘Anakin Skywalker’, I think that’s why the translator’s name is often abbreviated to ‘RWX’). I read quite a bit of this novel during multiday hikes (only in the original Chinese, because I don’t have the English translation on my ebook reader).

It’s a really trashy and fun novel (or at least it was fun for me, your mileage may vary). It required relatively little intellectual effort on my part. The English translation was particularly low effort for me to because that’s my native language (and that was why I was bothering with the English translation at all – if I took this novel more seriously, I would have insisted on reading / listening to it strictly in Chinese so I would know exactly how the original writer phrased things).

This is the first time I’ve ever read a novel while frequently switching languages. That made the novel more interesting than if I had read it in just a single language.

Sometimes a new concept would come out, and I would wonder how that concept would be described in the other language, and then I would find out. For example, in the novel there are three levels of deities – 下位神, 中位神, and 上位神. If you can read Chinese, then you know those literally mean ‘low position god’, ‘middle position god’, and ‘high position god’. Those terms would sound pretty terrible in English (especially since they are frequently used), so instead the English translation labels them as ‘demigod’, ‘god’, and ‘highgod’.
Continue reading

My Plot Bunnies Run Loose

This is a submission for the September 2019 Carnival of Aros “Aromanticism and Fiction”.

I’ve written about aromanticism and fiction multiple times on this blog before. Here are some examples (with the caveat that these posts are 2-7 years old and may not reflect my current views):

“WHAT THE HELL: An Aromantic (Moi) Thinks There Aren’t Enough (Villainous) Alloromantic Characters in Fiction”
The Valley of Life and Death: An Wuxia Novel with a Female Protagonist who May Be Aro-Ace
An Aromantic Reads Wuxia
Female Characters – Without the Romance
An Aromantic Reader and Fictional Romances
Aces Become Sex Gurus; Aromantics Become Romance Gurus; (& Bonus Mini-Linkspam)

Almost all of the above posts – and any other posts I’ve written about aromanticism in fiction – have been written as a reader/critic. I suppose that since I have written fanfic with aromantic themes, I could write from that perspective instead, but I don’t feel like it right now.

Therefore, for this post, I am going to RELEASE SOME PLOT BUNNIES! Continue reading

Marriage by Time Skip

This post contains major spoilers for Way of Choices (擇天記) by Mao Ni. I’m serious, the spoilers are major.

Content note: brief reference to murder-suicide

In the novel Way of Choices by Mao Ni, the protagonist, Chen Changsheng, and another major character, Xu Yourong, develop a romantic relationship. This is a total non-surprise since the reader learns in the prologue that they have been designated as each other’s fiancé since a young age. In many ways, their romance unfolds in a very typical way, though there are enough surprises to prevent it from feeling too clichéd. Though they break off their engagement for a while (because of misunderstandings and not wanting to get married to someone their elders arranged for them to get married), they reach a point where they have obviously decided to get together romantically after all.

Then there is a ten year time skip. I was actually a bit surprised by this time skip because I expected them to have the ‘obligatory’ wedding scene before a decade-long time skip. As both Chen Changsheng and Xu Yourong appeared on the scene after the time skip, I expected to find references to their wedding, or to hear the story of why they were not married ten years later. I found it odd that, chapter after chapter, there were no such references, or even a clarification of Chen Changsheng and Xu Yourong’s official relationship. Since Chen Changshen and Xu Yourong are depicted interacting with each other, the reader can interpret how they feel about each other after the time skip, but that does not answer the question of whether or not they are married.

Quite a few chapters later, Chen Changsheng has a conversation with another character which strongly implies that Chen Changsheng is already married to Xu Yourong, though this is not explicitly confirmed. Of course, Chen Changsheng and this other character would already know whether or not he is already married to Xu Yourong, so they don’t need to say it out loud. Continue reading

Some thoughts on Shanghai Dream

While I was looking for videos for A Guide to Distinguishing Sinitic Languages by Ear, I discovered Shanghai Dream, a sitcom in Mandarin/English/Shanghainese/Russian about two European and two American young women in Shanghai. I got in the habit of watching an episode when I had a 15-minute block of time on the computer when I wanted to be distracted. By now, I’ve seen all twelve episodes.

I’ve never been to Shanghai, but I’ve been a young American woman learning Mandarin and living in a Mandarin-speaking society, so I feel like I know at least a bit about the reality of this type of situation. And some things in this show feel very untrue.

Such as the fact that these four women get to live rent-free in an upscale part of Shanghai?

Nah, that just seems consistently ridiculous. What does feel false to me is that there are often two characters who are native English speakers and not native Mandarin speakers speak to each other Mandarin. That. Does. Not. Happen. Native English speakers would only do that when they are specifically trying to practice Mandarin, and even then, they would probably slip into speaking English. And these people are in Shanghai, they don’t lack opportunities to practice with Mandarin native speakers. It’s unrealistic that their default language amongst themselves in Mandarin, not English. Continue reading

A Guide to Distinguishing Sinitic Languages by Ear: Answers & Commentary

Two weeks ago I posted a guide to distinguishing Sinitic languages by ear. Here are the answers to the exercises where one guesses which language(s) are being used. But just giving the answers would be boring, so I’m adding my own commentary. Continue reading

A Guide to Distinguishing Sinitic Languages by Ear

There are many forms of Chinese, and many of them are not mutually intelligible. For many years (basically until I started studying Mandarin) I wasn’t good at distinguishing the sounds of the various forms of Chinese. It was only through exposure that I learned how to identify forms of Chinese just by hearing it, and I’m still far from perfect. In particular, because I’ve had very little exposure to Shanghainese, I’m still not good at identifying it by sound alone.

Why do I think it is good to be able to distinguish these languages? Because it is one thing to read something like ‘Hakka culture is primarily found in China, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia’ or ‘Cantonese is the language of the Punti people‘, and another thing to be able to recognize the languages. Though merely being able to recognize the languages doesn’t make one an expert, I think it is enough to imprint on the mind that these cultures/peoples/languages exist in a way that just reading/hearing the statement ‘these cultures/peoples/languages exist’ cannot.

(Personally, I am embarrassed that, in spite of growing up in a neighborhood with plenty of Cantonese and Mandarin speakers, I learned how to distinguish Cantonese and Mandarin at a much later age than when I learned to distinguish French/Spanish/Italian).

This blog post is a guide to learning what these five Sinitic languages sound like. This blog post is not about trying to understand these languages (which is why I ignore tones).

To start, this helpful video teaches common phrases in each of these five languages. In that video, it’s obvious that these languages are related, yet not mutually intelligible. (That video also refers to Mandarin as “guān​huà​“, which is interesting). Continue reading

Bedsharing, without Sex or Romance : Chen Changsheng and Mo Yu in Way of Choices

Mo Yu and Chen Changsheng in Fighter of the Destiny, which is the live action TV adaptation of Way of Choices

There are many things I love in the novel Way of Choices (it’s my favorite novel that I read in 2018). One of them is the relationship between Chen Changsheng and Mo Yu. And one of the things I love about the relationship is that they are a young man and a young woman who are not genetically related yet share a bed – without ever having sex or even being interested in having sex with each other.

What genre is this novel?

Xuanhuan.

Whatever the heck that is.

If you want a clue, you could watch the opening theme song to the live action adaptation (even though it’s not faithful to the novel).

Chen Changsheng is a naive, idealist, honest, wholesome, bookwormish, and gentle teenager with a terminal illness, and Mo Yu is a conniving, cynical, physically strong, and ruthless government official who is primarily concerned with maintaining her (high) level of political power. Nobody would expect these two to become friends – and this is before we get to the fact that Mo Yu wants Chen Changsheng to die (or at least be imprisoned or exiled).

And yet, in spite of the above, they come to share a bed. Continue reading