Monday, February 18, 2013

Hua Xu Yin Part I Chapter 1 (I)

I forgot how long these chapters are. They're the length of about two chapters in other books. I will, therefore, be dividing each one into two. It's just easier that way. The story is told in our heroine's point of view, and she tends to start rambling a bit in her inner monologues. Basically we will walk down her train of thoughts which is as random as it gets. I personally find Ye Zhen very endearing and she is one of my favorite heroines. This part introduces us to several characters including Jun Wei, Xiao Huang (who is adorable), and Mu Yan. Our main couple's first meeting (wonderfully translated by Huier) was wonderful and embarrassing at the same time. I also love Ye Zhen and Jun Wei's friendship. Those two are hilarious together.

My translation is a far cry from the actual text, though I do try to preserve some of the original flavor of the novel. There are many idioms used here and I tried my best to explain each of them. I feel that the best way for footnotes in this case is to have them right after the paragraph so you can read them immediately instead of having to scroll down to the end of the page. But if you feel that is too confusing, tell me and I'll change it. Anyway, I hope you will enjoy the story as much as I do, for it is truly an amazing one.

Part 1: The Confines of a Floating Life
Chapter 1 (I)
In April, spring had blossomed all over the mountain, and Master Jun finally returned after a six months disappearance. That meant that the stitches on body could soon be cut.
During these six months, my entire body was completely wrapped up in bandages. At first, I could amuse myself by going out and scaring people. But, after a while, I discovered that the people who had been scared by me once would not get scared again, and I couldn’t remembered who I already scared and who I hadn’t. So, my amusement ended there.

Two months passed and I already felt uncomfortable.
Most sect members thought I couldn’t stand being bandaged up and soaking in a tub of medicine for four hours every day.  Truthfully, soaking in medicine like that was very good for healing injuries. It was just that, after I was done soaking, I had to stay still in the wet bandages until they dried. That was what made me uncomfortable. It was even worse when the weather turned cold.
Later, I thought of all the great heroes in the world, and how they all had to overcome special challenges given by their masters. Master Jun must have wanted to test my perseverance and determination. Thinking that, I clenched my teeth and endured, even during the freezing twelfth month. I refused to give up, even if I did get a fever. I endured for half a year. Getting a fever several times, my immunity against it truly strengthened dramatically. I told Master Jun about it. He pondered for a while, then replied, “Ah… I forgot to tell you. Next to the bathhouse, there’s a stove that can help the bandages on your body dry faster, ha ha…”
Master Jun was the leader of Junyu Sect, which was founded on Mount Junyu, in the province of Kingdom Chen. I heard that the sect founder’s last name wasn’t Jun, but Wang. He was born in a poor family so his parents named him Wang Xiao’er1. Later, Wang Xiao’er inherited great martial arts from a true master and, after perfecting the skills, went to establish a sect on Mount Junyu. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to recruit any good students. After asking around, he discovered that when people found out the Leader of Junyu Sect was called Wang Xiao’er, they thought that was a sect for establishing waiters. Those who graduated from there would be sent to restaurants all over the country. Founder Wang Xiao’er was then forced to invite a local scholar to give him a new name. The scholar inspected the current situation and stated that the influential family names, Murong, Shang Guan, Nangong, Beitang, Dongfang, and Ximen had already established their own sects. The other two, Dong Guo and Nan Guo, had yet to have a sect, but it would be hard to explain one’s origins with these names. It was be better to take a local name. Since the sect was founded on Mount Junyu, take the name Junyu and create a new family name, Junyu. But, thinking about it, creating a new family name meant having to submit a petition to the court, with lots of complicated paperwork. Not to mention, there was no one sponsor it. It might be best to take the name, “Jun,” which sounded very classy, like that of a nobleman. Wang Xiao’er was elated and immediately changed his family name to “Jun.” He also listened to the scholar’s recommendation and changed his first names to Shao Shuang. He was now Jun Shao Shuang. After Wang Xiao’er changed to Jun Shao Shuang, he really was able to recruit many students. From then on, Junyu Sect’s reputation spread. Master Jun was the 7th generation descendants of Jun Shao Shuang.
[1] Xiao’er means waiter
I knew Master Jun since young. At that time, I was still living in Yanzong Temple, Kingdom Wei’s national temple. My first master was Hui Yi. Though he was old in age, but he had very good teeth and a very good appetite. He was even able to eat fried peanuts. Master Jun brought his son to live near Yanzong Temple, in a hut two li (miles) from Mount Hui, and often came to play chess with my master. When my master took me to watch the sunrise on the mountain, we usually stay at Master Jun’s hut. Inside the hut there was only one bed. Every time Master and I came, I was always given the bed. The other three would spread a mat on the floor and slept there. That made me very happy, as every time we went there, I became someone special.  Later, I told this to Jun Wei, Master Jun’s son. Jun Wei replied, “That proved you have princess blood within you, as only a princess would like to be special.” But I didn’t agree with this conclusion of Jun Wei. It wasn’t that a princess liked to be special, but that she was used to being special, as no one dared to be the same as her. There was a big difference between liked and used to. Only several years later, when I was faced with death, did I truly understood that concept.
Jun Wei was a knowledgeable person. He knew the backgrounds of all the concubines of emperors from every dynasty. He even knew of those who the emperor spent the night with but had yet to bring home. Jun Wei felt that family matters influenced political matters, and political matters were great matters of the world, while all the family matters within the royal family came from the royal harem. Actually, if the emperors didn’t take too many concubines, then there would be no problems. But, not taking concubines would be too cruel to the emperors. The emperors couldn’t be cruel to themselves, so they chose to be cruel to everyone else. Jun Wei believed that if the royal harem was in harmony then the world would be in harmony. Because of that, he spent his life trying to think of how to make the emperor’s harem harmonious. Besides that lifelong quest, Jun Wei also had another hobby, which was to write stories. But Master Jun disapproved of that hobby, as he hoped for his son to become a distinguished swordsman, famous across the land. Whenever Master Jun saw Jun Wei writing stories, he would confiscate the draft and make him copied swords manuals as punishment. Therefore, Jun Wei had to combine literary and martial arts, and sneakily wrote stories while copying manuals. Within the manuals Jun Wei copies, one would occasionally find an out of place line such as, “Every day around noon, she would used both her hands to peel off layers after layers of clothing, to bathe her porcelain like body under the sunlight. This happened in an extremely cold place. She sat on a bed made of ice, the coldness seeping from her body, cold, so cold, extremely cold. She just sat crossed there, facing north, her back to the south. The vital energy moved and gathered. She didn’t know, about ten steps away, behind the wall, there was a pair of pitch black eyes caressing her skin, inch by inch.” Nobody would guess that that paragraph was supposed to be these sentences from the swords manual: “At noon, when the weather is at its coldest, sit on the ice bed, without clothes, facing north, and practiced vital energy for one round.” Later, Jun Wei would definitely become the swordsman who was the best novelist, and the novelist who was the best swordsman.
As for me, I grew up in Yanzong Temple, where it was against the rules for men to have their hair. The two thousand students of the temple, besides me, were all men. Because of that, I was the only one in the sect who had hair. That caused me to have some misconceptions in my understanding of genders. I thought that the biggest difference between men and women was that women kept their hair long, while men shaved their off. Naturally, therefore, I would think that Master Jun and Jun Wei were women. Stemming from the belief that we were of the same gender, I grew very close with them. Of course, later I would finally realize that the father and son were both men. But the idea of them being women was engraved within me, making it impossible for me to later treat Jun Wei like a woman would a man. I always saw him as my sister. Our relationship was supposed to be that of green plums and bamboo horse, but I turned it into one of green plum and green plum2.
[2]The idiom “青梅竹” translates literally into green plum and bamboo horse, which is use to describe the innocence of childhood sweethearts, with the green plum signifying the girl and the bamboo horse the boy. She then states that her relationship with Jun Wei was “青梅青梅,” which is green plum and green plum.
When I was three years old, I accidentally found out that I was the princess of Wei. But I just thought that was normal, mainly because I didn’t know what a “princess” was at the time. Jun Wei was one year older and knew a bit more than me. He said: “A princess is actually a position of privilege.” I asked:  “What is privilege?” Jun Wei answered: “Privilege means that anything you want, you can have, and anything you don’t like, you don’t have to do.” Hearing Jun Wei’s answer, that afternoon, I refused to wash the dishes, and at night, refused to wash clothes. As a result, Master punished me by kneeling until the middle of the night.
From that day on, I truly forgot that I was a princess. That same year, Master saw that I was grown up and proceeded to teach me zither, chess, calligraphy, and painting. Master felt that, in life, everyone needed something to pour their hearts in. If I could master zither, chess, calligraphy, and painting, then that would be best, for that meant that I was an accomplished, talented person. Or even if I could only master one out four, it would still be good as then I would be considered an expert. I asked Master: “What if, in the future, not only am I not good, but I begin to doubt the purpose of my teachings?” Master thought then answered: “Philosopher is still a school of thought.”
I didn’t know why, but, though he didn’t accept my master as his teacher, Jun Wei was still able to study alongside me. Master explained that academic doesn’t have borders, or discriminate between sects. But Jun Wei secretly told me, it was because his father had gifted Master with 10 aged ginsengs. Sure enough, academic really didn’t have borders; it could even be bought by another country. Studying with Jun Wei, if it was calligraphy, then I was alright, but with zither, I really couldn’t stand it. In the beginning, we each had our own zither, sitting across the room, and practice together. The consequence was that, at my age, I had yet to understand how a sonorous sound could last for three days3, but I had already understood how devil music could ingrained itself in the ears, nibbling to the bone, and destroy the soul. We both felt that the other was extremely bad, to the point of being torturous. We then felt that we had to play even worse so the other would suffer, as to seek revenge. The zither, in my recollection, was a weapon, not a musical instrument. That would explained why I later was able to learn how to kill people using zither melodies, but not how to save people with it. It was all because of the psychological damage caused by Jun Wei. But after I mastered killing with the zither, when I wanted to use music to save people, they all were already dead.
[3] “余音绕梁,” literally “the lingering tone coils around the beam,” used to describe such sonorous music that it resides in the peoples’ hearts and ears long after it ended
When I was ten, I picked up a tiger cub just opening its eyes. That tiger followed me for life, expressing the highest loyalty of a beast. Though, thinking back, Jun Wei and I picked that tiger cub intending to kill it for meat. At that time, Jun Wei’s father was persuaded by my master, and was determined to be a protector of all animals, causing Jun Wei to go 3 months without the taste of meat. As for me, living in the temple, I was rarely allowed to eat meat. Therefore, we both were really craving for it. Later, we decided not to eat it right away so we could let grow bigger, and have more meat to cook different dishes. Thinking back now, how I was able to suppress my cravings and not kill Xiao Huang was an amazing feat. Xiao Huang was the name I gave the tiger cub. Later, after investigating carefully, I found that the tiger was one of a rare breed. Jun Wei and I were very happy for, if we sold him, we would be able to make a fortune. Unfortunately, we could not find a buyer, and therefore had to keep him. When we did find a buyer, we both were already grown up and have saved our own money, not needing to rely on the money of selling the tiger anymore. That made us both lament. Life was like that, the road to riches was definitely difficult.
Fate had it that every time I encountered a big situation, I would be alone, and, not to mention, injured. Master said: “Haven’t you heard? Whoever the Heavens decided to give great responsibility to, that person must suffered great setback first.” I imagined that the greatest responsibility Heavens would give me was, after Master’s death, to take over the temple and become its leader. But later, Jun Wei stole the Temple’s rules for me to see. In it was written that females and transsexuals were forbidden to become head of the temple, therefore my dream was shattered. A lot of people, after having their dreams shattered, would venture down the wrong path. At the base of the mountain, there was an assassin who, after failing in his endeavors, wandered around jianghu and changed his profession to that of a pig killer. There were also scholars who didn’t passed the national exams and turned to writing lewd novels and drawing erotic pictures. But, no matter what, I felt that dreams and picking a wife was like the same thing. If the old did not leave, how could the new come? Not to mention, new was usually better than old. Old dreams were shattered in order for new dreams to be built. It was a happy thing, no need to lament. I shared this with Jun Wei and he agreed that I made sense. Therefore, in the afternoon, we went down the mountains to comfort Wang Mujiang, who had recently lost his wife. Jun Wei said: “Your wife died then soon enough there will be another woman who will come to you. The new wife will definitely be better than the old one. It’s a happy thing. You should be happy. Why grieve like this?” As a result, Wang Mujiang used a broom to chase us away. Jun Wei didn’t understand and even felt like he was wronged. I had to comfort him: “People acted angry when their secrets are let out, in order to hide their embarrassment.”
That night, after my dream of being head of the temple was shattered, I decided, that after dark, I would go outside to the forest and catch some pigeons to cheer myself up, find a new dreams, and get back my confidence. This also shown that I was an optimistic person. Also, that optimistic attitude could be seen in my personal life. For example, I had no doubt that, if one day I married and my husband passed away early, I would not hesitate to pack my bags and leave the night he died, to find a new husband. But on a night night which I caught the flu from Master Jun, I was used to thinking of Jun Wei as my future husband. Watching him jumped so carefree in front of me, I thought to myself, “Oh Heavens, how will I be able to go find my second love after this person stopped breathing?”
Luckily that thought only lasted to the Midsummer Night when I was fourteen years old, the night I decided to rebuild my dream. *A midsummer’s night – there were many lovely ways to describe it. However, reality was often cruel. It was said that during midsummer nights, poisonous snakes were particularly aggressive. Three students who went outside Temple grounds had already died from incidents of snake poisonings; all of the students were warned to take extra care.
I was young enough to still believe that I was very special and therefore would not end up like the unlucky trio. So I went out of the Temple grounds without any bringing with me any red orpiment [4]. Thinking back, the three unlucky students who died from snake poisonings must have also thought that they were very special. Everyone thought that they are special, but in the eyes of others, they were not that special. In the eyes of the snake, they were even less special. From the perspective of a poisonous snake, only those who carried red orpiment were special. When we were young, we kept chasing after what made us different from other people. But when we grew up, we always chased after what made us similar with other people. If we could switch the two mindsets around, wouldn’t that be good? At least, that might have saved those three students’ lives. They might have ended up as coma patients, but at least they would meet such sad deaths. As a person who similarly did not carry red orpiment, the poisonous snakes treated me the same way they treated the aforementioned three students. A small pit viper viciously bit my leg, its poison entered my bloodstream and circulated around my body. I swayed and fell down. I finally understood the philosophy I mentioned above and randomly remembered that the painting I completed two days ago have been hung properly. After remembering that, I felt that I had nothing left to regret and thus can pass on in peace. I closed my eyes and waited for death. Just then, I heard the sound of footsteps approaching and stopped next to my body. A pair of hands lifted me up. The clean scent of plum fragrance wafted into my nostrils, bringing to my mind the picture of a silent and starry night in February during the plum blossom season.
[4] Also known as realgar. A poisonous substance used on rats in Medieval Spain and 16th Century England (and in this case, to ward off and kill snakes)
I woke up to the feeling of blood rushing towards my lower abdomen, and my hands clutched at my belly in pain. Something soft was pressed against my leg where I was bitten, which had become numb. My knee was bent at an angle and my leg was held up by something that felt like a leather cord. It all felt very weird. I could not stand it and struggled to open my eyes to see what was happening. What I saw almost took my life away. I was in a cave, lying on a stone bed. Under the white moonlight, my right leg was being held up by a man’s hand. His fingers were slender and pale, his mouth pressed against the wound on my ankle. From that angle, I could only see his profile that was covered by his hair; it made me want to impulsively brush it out of the way to see his face. He did not realize that I had wakened. With his completely dark blue outfit, he continued to sit quietly at my bedside with his lips pressed against my leg. His wide sleeve was draped down and, if I bent my head, I could make out the complicated designs patterns in it. But everything seemed hazy, and I couldn’t see clearly. His hair brushed against my leg. I thought to myself that if we weren’t in this weird position, this encounter between a beautiful young girl and an intelligent young man would be as romantic and elegant as moving clouds and flowing water5. But, in this position, I naturally assumed that I was being molested. So I gave him a good hard kick, which caused a chain reaction. It resulted in blood starting to flow from a certain unmentionable part of my body.
[5] “行云流水,” idiom expressing something which is natural and unforced
He and I met for the first time and I kicked him, causing me to experience my first menstrual period.
He evaded my attack nimbly by taking a step back, which showed that he had good martial arts. I did not even understand how he had shifted his position from sitting to standing in a flash. I stared at him. In the moonlight flooding in from the cave entrance, his body appeared tall and straight. A silver mask covered the top half of his face. After a moment, he reached up and wiped a streak of blood from his lips. The corners of his lips lifted, “What a scary girl. I saved your life and you repay my kindness with evil?”
I could not give any explanation; I started crying as soon as I opened my mouth. The heaving from my crying required the use of my lower abdomen muscles, which caused blood to continue flow out and stain my skirt. And even worse, I was wearing a white skirt that day.
His line of sight focused on my skirt, paused before asking, “Menstrual blood6?”
[6] The phrased used here is “葵水” which literally translates to “sunflower” and “water”. This led to A’Fu assuming that he was offering her water to drink
I replied between sobs, “Thank you, but I am not thirsty. I may have contracted infection of the blood, and will surely die very soon.”
He continued looking at my skirt for a while, before clearing his throat, “You won’t die. It’s just that your woman’s time has come.”
I did not understand, “What is a woman’s time?”
He hesitated, “This is something your mother should tell you.”
I said, “Ge’ge7, I don’t have a mother. Please tell me.”
[7] “哥哥,” Older/big brother, a term of respect for an older male
It was difficult to imagine that I would learn all about a woman’s cycle from a total male stranger. But it would have been even more difficult to imagine learning about this from Master, “It is blood that comes from your womb according to a prescribed cycle…” Yes. Looking back, even the Heavens must have felt that this was too much to ask of a 70 year old elder, and so had to borrow another’s mouth to pass this information to me.
He said that he was called Mu Yan8. Of course that was not his real name; if a man wore a mask on his face, surely he would also mask his name. Otherwise, there would be no point in him hiding his face. As for myself, I told him that I was called Jun Fugui9. What if this man was the enemy of the father I have never met? If he knew that I was my father’s daughter, he might kill me in a fit of anger. There were many examples in history of princesses getting killed because of their fathers’ sins. That was not counting those who were forced to marry husbands they dislike, leading to unhappy marriages that lasted a lifetime.
[8] Mu Yan’s name translates to something like “words of admiration”. His surname Mu is taken from his mother’s surname, “Murong”
[9] This translates something to “Wealthy Lord”
And just like that, we stayed in the cave for four to five days. We drank from the spring outside the cave and ate wild fish from that spring. I could not leave to return to the Temple as the snake poison in my body had not fully dissipated. Mu Yan expressed that when you set out to save someone, you must ensure that that person was saved; it was not his character to leave halfway. Every day, I must drink medicine, and then bleed myself by making a small incision on my wrist. Mu Yan usually played the zither during my bleeding sessions. His zither was a seven string zither, whose strings were made using natural silk that produced lush melodies that had the effect of lessening pain. Whenever Mu Yan played the zither, I would think of Jun Wei and his zither playing abilities that had the effect of making people unwilling to live in this world any longer. I regretted that Jun Wei was unable to come and listen to this heavenly music; it would surely make him want to commit suicide. Then, no one else in this world would be harmed by his “music” again.
During these five days, I really wanted to remove Mu Yan’s mask to see his face for myself. But when I recalled that it might result in him cutting me down with a single blow, I really didn’t dare to do it. A person’s curiosity could really cause trouble. Even when the matter did not concern you at all, your curiosity might drive you to get to the root of the matter. This was really finding trouble when trouble did not find you.
By noon of the sixth day, the wound on my leg was almost completely healed and I could move around by myself again. Mu Yan brought my foot up to inspect it, “It’s not necessary to bleed yourself any more. I’ll send you back first thing tomorrow.”
I never thought that time would fly by so swiftly. I still had yet to successfully remove his mask. Panicking, I refused in a rush, before turning my gaze to the floor. He asked, “You don’t wish to leave?”
I shook my head and said, “No, no… but… Ge’ge, aren’t you leaving with me? This cave doesn’t have many things; surely you don’t intend to settle down here?”
He said in a serious voice, “I cannot leave. I must stay here.”
“But what would you do if you stayed here? You’ll be all alone; there’ll be no one here to chat with you and no one to listen to you play the zither.”
He bent his head and plucked at the zither, “I am waiting for someone. I am afraid if I leave, the person I am waiting for will not be able to find me.”
At once, I found myself in an awkward position. If I questioned him further, I might invade his privacy. But if I didn’t ask, then I was not sure how to change the subject. “About this…” I began.
He rose from his seat and laughed “Speak of the devil. I am really lucky today.”
I turned around to look at the cave’s entrance. I did not know for how long the group of men in black had stood there. Just as I laid my eyes on them, the men took out their weapons in unison, their sickle-like blades aligned together neatly, and their movements as uniformed as their clothing. I later found out that those long sickle-like sabers are called scimitars. Sickle and scimitar, though might look alike, one was used to cut down grass and the other to cut down people.
I seldom left the Temple in the mountains, so I couldn’t said to be very worldly. At the sight of so many sabers pointing straight at me, I unconsciously took a step back and Mu Yan stepped in front of me.
“Can you actually take them on?” I asked him worriedly.
The saber wielders started their attacks before he could even reply. Mu Yan pushed me out of the way and launched himself into their midst. I was dazzled by the image of his dark blue robe twisting and turning between the sabers. His figure blurred, each of his movements purposeful and efficient. I dared not to blink and yet could only catch a few moves. He seized one of his attackers by the wrist, turned the latter around and thrust the latter’s blade into another attacker behind himself, before quickly stepping out of the way to avoid having the man’s blood splattering on his clothes.
Within a short space of time, Mu Yan managed to subdue the majority of the attackers, leaving behind only two or three. When the last surviving attacker realized that he could not defeat Mu Yan, he threw his sword straight at me. Master hated violence and so I have never been taught how to fight. I was rooted to the ground beneath me as the saber flew straight to my throat. That was definitely a bad situation to be in. Thinking back, I imagined that if only I was so frightened that my legs gave way and I collapsed on the ground, the sword would likely have flown over my head and I would escape death. However, my constitution was just too hardy. Even in such dire circumstances, my legs did not weaken and I could only become a standstill target.*
Parts in *asteriks* are translated by Huier with minor editing. Also thank to her for the title translation :) Check out her blog here


  1. Awesome. Hahaha... I must tell Peanuts that you're a even more verbatim translator than I am. I'm so amazed - the parts that I couldn't translate, you have translated as well. Is it ok if i repost this edited version (just the parts I did) on my blog? Will credit accordingly :D

    1. Please go ahead. I didn't edit that much anyway. I think I have to learn to summarize more. This took too long. By the way, how would you translate "浮生尽"? The best that I could come up with was "Fleeting Life," but I'm not really satisfied with that translation :/

  2. What can I say except two professional translators:)? I am only an amatuer so pls don't laugh at my translations:P You've done an excellent and meticulous translation that captured the very essence of the book. All it needs now is promotion so all the potential drama fans will know the real story.

    Chancy, the webmistress of SSB translated 浮生 as floating As for me, I don't even know what it means, heehee...

  3. Thank you so much for the translation. I am already in love with the story.
    I really appreciate it.

  4. Chengang (and Huier) Thank you so much. This is so breathtakingly beautiful, finally have the time to sit down and savor. I linked your blog the other day, I hope you don't mind.

    1. Thanks for the compliment :) You are of course welcome to link it. Anything to spread the HXY's (and YH's) love :P

  5. a chain of facts brought me here and now i am addicted to Chinese roman. I never knew that i will be this addict to all the story. Well I like ancient and wuxia story better than modern one. and now I can say that I better like reading book than watching dramas. most of the time, adaptation is really bad so it never come to my mind to check about the book. but now because of too late to say i love you and Wallace Chung, i am falling in love with this story and I hope if one day they adapt in in drama they won t mess up the beautiful story. thank you for translating this.

  6. I love the heroine. I think she is funny and I can actually connect with her. Thank you for the amazing translation!