After 2.5 months off (well, kind of… we still got to hang out together in Don’t Be So Proud), as we come up on October, I’m back with my own project. Like I always have for my own translations, updates will be regular and on a schedule. So come back on Tuesday evening (N. American time) for the next one.
(Side note: I will continue to translate Proud until Peanuts returns and will absolutely strive my hardest to update on its usual day, but I still am not committing to a fixed schedule for it.)
My longest introduction for a project yet, probably because I am fascinated by this novel, Life: A Black and White Film. Prologue to follow after my words. 🙂
Novel: 一生一世，黑白影画 Life: A Black and White Film
Author: Mo Bao Fei Bao
Translation schedule: Updates posted on Tuesday and Friday evenings, N. American time
Start date: Today!
Anticipated end date: April-ish 2018
I feel like, in the community of English readers, there’s a bit of an incomplete view of who Mo Bao Fei Bao is as an author. We’ve seen from the translations to date that her writing can be poetic, poignant, touching, fluffy, and just plain ‘ol fun. (At least, I hope so. If not, please blame yours truly, the translator, and not the author, and then trust me that her writing can be all those things.) But, I feel I’ve also been guilty of limiting everyone’s perception of her as an author of “sweet writing.” I know I’ve mentioned that her writing is very versatile, but the stories I’ve chosen to translate generally are sweet, including even the slightly melancholic, bittersweet Together Forever. LOL, I guess it’s because sweet stories are generally less taxing mentally and emotionally to translate. I hope, though, that this novel of hers that I’ve chosen to translate next will broaden your perspective of the author.
Mo Bao Fei Bao has one series in her portfolio called the 一生一世 series, to which this novel belongs. Before this book was written in the fall of 2015, I used to translate the series name as One Life, One Incarnation, because the idea of past and present lives played such a significant role in the first two stories. Older readers can probably guess that the series includes One Life, One Incarnation: Beautiful Bones. However, in 2014, there was a crackdown in China banning any novels from writing things that were deemed “unwholesome”, and hence, though this story is still part of the same series, it does not feature the underground mafia/triad-like families or the “superstitious” theme of past/present lives. For this story, 一生一世, which literally does mean “one life, one incarnation,” should be thought of more as “an entire lifetime” or “this life,” and hence, for the title of this novel I decided to translate the name as Life: A Black and White Film. (Note: In the additional comments during My Darling‘s translation, I mentioned this story and still called it “One Life, One Incarnation: A Black and White Film.”)
I think of this entire series as Mo Bao Fei Bao’s “sandbox,” where she freely plays and allows her imagination and all the “different” ideas she has to go free. You got one view of this in Beautiful Bones, with the exquisite, poetic writing and the unique idea (at the time; some have since followed with this idea) of past/present love taking place in modern times. Beautiful Bones still has the sweetness, though, that many of you associate with the name, Mo Bao Fei Bao. In contrast to Beautiful Bones’s exquisiteness, Black and White’s writing, I find, has branched off into something even more different. “Thrilling,” “gripping,” are more the words I’m looking for, but I certainly would not use “sweet” to overall describe the story or romance.<>This UNAUTHORIZED copy was taken from hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com
Wen Han has arrived in Nepal on vacation and, as a Buddhist believer, also a pilgrimage. But very shortly after entering the borders, she runs in again into someone she had had one encounter with six months ago, hundreds of miles away on the far-off Tibetan Plateau. He, at the time, had been a monk. But now, when she saw him, he had returned to the secular life and carried a gun on him. She inadvertently gets to know this man, Cheng Muyun, more, and each time, as another layer of him is revealed, she is both terrified and drawn to him. A rogue? A criminal? Or something else? Dangerous, yes. Yet, he can be so tender. But always magnetic. With each step closer that she gets to him, though, Wen Han, an ordinary, 1/4-Chinese girl from Moscow, is drawn more into a dangerous, frightening world she had never before imagined. And with each step, as she understands this man named Cheng Muyun more, her heart falls more for him, deeper and deeper, until the thought of being apart from him is too hard to bear. But, they are fated to separate—from the very first day, he had told her that.
I like Wen Han a lot. She is not one of those female leads who can stand shoulder to shoulder with an unbelievably amazing male lead and rival his ability. She is an ordinary girl and will react as ordinary girls will after being thrust into terrifying situations. But she carries an inner strength in her and has a good head on her shoulders.
My Darling readers may remember that Black and White was mentioned in that story. I will quote from there the description that was given of Cheng Muyun. “… a man who had been a wicked person in the first half of his life while in the second half had turned from his wicked ways, though still not stepping wholly onto a path of righteousness. With his blood-stained hands, he led the police’s secret underground ops team, fighting evil with evil.”
The characters in this story are what are so fascinating to me. You think you’ve figured out Cheng Muyun, then yet another layer is peeled off and you learn more. You think you hate him, think you’re terrified of him, but then (sometimes much, much later) you realize why he did something and you understand, though you may or may not agree. I am mesmerized by Cheng Muyun. He’s like a breathing paradox—righteous or evil? worthy of respect or deserving of loathing? love him or fear him? be terrified of what he does or pity him that he has to do it? Don’t let your early opinions of him deceive you. You may be shocked by this character in the beginning, even turned off, but there is much more to him.
The same goes for the secondary characters, too. At first, they are all a mystery, and you are trying to figure them out. At last, you think you’ve finally got it all sorted out in your mind who is good and who is evil, but then, all of a sudden, the author gives you a tidbit of information that completely changes your perspective of them.<>This UNAUTHORIZED copy was taken from hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com. You should be reading this at hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com
I’m actually not certain what the reader reception for this novel will be. This story is so atypical of what most romance readers in the translation community seek out. Although it most definitely has a strong romance thread, if you’re not in the right mindset—that is, ready for your mind to be gripped, maybe shocked—you may not be able to get into this story. Many Chinese readers, myself included, actually stopped reading the very first time. I had to take a break because I wasn’t in the right frame of mind. But when I was and went back to it, I could not set it down. There are so many poignant themes in here that get you thinking. Regardless, though, as I said before, each story I translate comes from somewhere within me, and for the mere facts that this story left me pondering on so many characters and their motivations and musing on some views of life, I will absolutely bring its translation to the very end. And everyone remember, Hoju only translates stories with happy endings. So hopefully, you will come along with me on this exotic journey from the Tibetan Plateau, to the jungles of Nepal, to the banks of the Ganges River in India. 🙂
(As usual, if you have read this or read ahead, please no spoilers. Thanks!)
And now, the prologue! Enjoy!<>This UNAUTHORIZED copy was taken from hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com
Prologue — Who First Awakens from the Great Dream? The Life I Have Led Only I Myself Know
“Who first awakens from the Great Dream? The life I have led only I myself know.”
The venerable old monk continued, “Life is like a dream. Only you know the things you have done, be they good or bad. Am I correct in my interpretation?”
“That is correct.” He lowered his lids slightly, concealing behind his eyelashes the glint in his eyes.
“Many of the stories you all have are very interesting.” The venerable old monk looked at him. “Young person, as this line says, whether you did evil or good in your past is something only you know. Why are you here? When shall you leave? These are things you need not tell me.”
The venerable old monk smiled.<>Copyright of Fanatical, hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com. If you are not reading this from hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com, this translation has been taken without consent of the translator.
The surroundings fell into silence.
Cheng Muyun sat for a short while and then rose to his feet, leaving the old monk’s side. Alone, he passed through door after low door, walking along section after section of a stone pathway that was sprinkled with sunshine, until at last he stepped in through the doors of a meditation hall.
The monasteries here were always dimly lit. Inside, sunlight was practically unseen.
There was only the light of butter lamps.
Young lamas were all sitting on knee-high platforms, silently chanting, and behind them were hundreds of thangkas and wall paintings. All around, there were corridors that were two persons wide. This was a remote place, and only in the best times of the afternoon would there occasionally be backpackers coming in. The backpackers and the young monks seemed as if they existed in two different worlds, and in the dim yellow light cast by the butter lamps, they peered at and surveyed each other.
Only he lowered his eyes, brushing past these few travelers.
In the eyes of these travelers, he, with a red dhonka garbing his upper body and a maroon zhen wrapped over it, was merely a lama who was already in adulthood, and his only difference from those young lamas was his age.
He stepped out of the main hall and carried on walking, following the stone path.<>Copyright of Fanatical, hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com. If you are not reading this from hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com, this translation has been taken without consent of the translator.
Why did you come here? Why did you persuade the old lama to let you hide here under the identity of a monk?
The answers to all these only you know.
You once walked back up from the pit of hell, crossing mountains of daggers and seas of flame before you could stand here in this place. If everything in this world is merely an illusion, then all those people who have all along wanted to take your life and all those people who have all along wanted you to save their lives, when will they dissipate away? …<>Copyright of Fanatical, hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com. If you are not reading this from hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com, this translation has been taken without consent of the translator.
All of a sudden, a golden light flashed in front of his eyes.
Reflexively, he turned his head to the side to look. Beside that line of prayer wheels, there was a girl wearing a white sun hat. Her right hand slid over the row of prayer wheels as she murmured something in a quiet voice only she could hear.
Cheng Muyun, with the sun behind him, watched the entire time as she drew nearer in front of him. His entire body maintained a guarded state that was poised and ready to spring at any moment. The sharp blade that he carried for protection slid from his arm down to his palm. The girl finally finished spinning the last prayer wheel. When she lifted her head and noticed him, she gave a very friendly smile and, bringing her palms together reverently, bowed to him in a respectful, ceremonial greeting. “Good after-midday, lama.”
Her accent was very strange, and her word choice was even stranger, like a foreigner who was learning Chinese.
However, her facial features looked Chinese.
Pagodas stood numerously like a forest. Chants of mantras resonated endlessly.
Cheng Muyun, his back to the sun, slowly brought his palms together, the blade concealed between his hands, and gave a slight nod in her direction. His motions carried no sound, not even the noise of clothing rubbing against itself.<>Copyright of Fanatical, hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com. If you are not reading this from hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com, this translation has been taken without consent of the translator.
This was the Cheng Muyun that Wen Han saw in their first meeting.
At the time, she had thought that he truly was a lama. Later, she learned the truth… She still felt that Cheng Muyun had the greatest enlightenment and understanding—the greatest Buddha-nature—in a man that she had ever seen. But he was also like a snake. In Nepal, there is a type of snake that has a slender neck, facial pits beside its mouth, and a red tail, and it often wraps itself deep into the densely growing branches. To her, Cheng Muyun was like such a snake—a coiled snake sleeping soundly and alone.
No evil could come near to him. No fear of gods or demons did he hold.<>Copyright of Fanatical, hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com. If you are not reading this from hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com, this translation has been taken without consent of the translator.
 Lama means “teacher” or “guru.” Strictly speaking, it is used to refer to a respected spiritual teacher, but has come to be used as an honorific for Tibetan monks in general.
 In Romance of the Three Kingdoms, the story is told of how Liu Bei thrice visited the thatched cottage of Zhuge Liang, hoping to persuade Zhuge Liang to be his strategist. After two unsuccessful visits where he does not even get to see Zhuge Liang, on the third visit, the man is home but sleeping, so Liu Bei patiently waits for him to rouse. This story is what is known as the “Three Visits to the Thatched Cottage.” The line, “Who first awakens from the Great Dream? The life I have led only I myself know,” is quoting from the poem that Zhuge Liang says when he awakens. In the poem, the Great Dream is referring to life, that it is merely like a dream, an illusion. But how many people truly understand this and know the life they have led as well as the world as it is?
 酥油灯 “su you deng.” Butter lamps are a ritual item of Tibetan Buddhist temples and monasteries. Traditionally, clarified yak butter was burned but nowadays, vegetable oil or vegetable ghee is commonly used.
 A thangka is an art form of Tibetan Buddhism. It is used to record and depict a Buddhist message or philosophy. It is a multi-layered scroll consisting of a painting (or sometimes embroidery) mounted on textile and then covered with silk to protect it.
 A dhonka is one of the garments making up the basic monastic robe of a Tibetan monk. It is a wrap shirt with cap sleeves, generally a maroon colour or maroon and yellow accented with blue piping.
 A zhen is one of the garments making up the basic monastic robe of a Tibetan monk. It is a maroon wrap for everyday wear that is worn on the upper body.
<>Copyright of Fanatical, hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com. If you are not reading this from hui3r[dot]wordpress[dot]com, this translation has been taken without consent of the translator.
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