Chinese Lesson 2: Name

名字 (míng zì) when translated into English means name, as in a person’s name. What I didn’t know for the longest time is that ming and zi represented two distinct concepts in the ancient time. And 号 (hào) didn’t just mean “also known as.” As a Chinese period drama viewer, I took it for granted that the main characters had a million different names. It’s only after I read the commentaries for The Untamed that I finally understood the unstated significance of the names the characters used for each other (ie. Lan Wangji used “Wei Ying” while everybody else used “Wei Wuxian.” It’s his subtle way of suggesting he wanted to be more than WWX’s friend. *wink *wink)

(名 ming) – Birth name. The name your parents gave you when you turned 3 months old. As your elder family member, I would be calling you by this name because that’s how we roll.

(字 zi) – Courtesy name. The name you were given when you reached adulthood. Not everyone had zi. To have one meant either you went to school or you were from a well to-do family. As your cousin/ friend/ colleague/ subordinate, I would be addressing you by this name to show my respect.

(号/號 hao) – Pseudonym or title. The name you were given when you turned famous. As your junior or a person of a younger generation, I would be referring to you by this name to reflect my admiration of your great accomplishments.

Drama: The Untamed (陈情令)

Birth name (名): Wei Ying (魏婴)
Courtesy name (字): Wuxian (无羡)
Title (号): Yiling Laozu (夷陵老祖)
lit. Yiling Patriarch
Also known as: Ah Xian (阿羡), Xianxian (羡羡), Ah Ying (阿婴)
Drama: The Untamed (陈情令)

Birth name (名): Lan Zhan (蓝湛)
Courtesy name (字): Wangji (忘机)
Title (号): Hanguang-Jun (含光君)
lit. Light-bearing Lord
Also known as: Second Master Lan (蓝二公子)
Drama: The Untamed (陈情令)

Birth name (名): Jiang Cheng (江澄)
Courtesy name (字): Wanyin (晚吟)
Title (号): Sandu Shengshou (三毒圣手)
lit. Three Poisons
Also known as: Ah Cheng (阿澄), Clan leader Jiang (江宗主)
Drama: The Longest Day in Chang’an (长安十二时辰)

Birth name (名): Li Bi (李必)
Courtesy name (字): Changyuan (长源)
Title (号): None
Also known as: Xiao Li Bi (小李必)

Side topic: I don’t have a nickname or an abbreviation of my formal name, but I do have a baby name that only my family use. Kinda similar to Ah Ying or Xiao Li Bi. I get super weirded out if my friends try to use it and I will immediately shut them down for calling me that. But that’s beside the point. What I want to talk about is how “Ah”, “Xiao”, “Lao” make a quick and easy nickname to help promote immediate familiarity between two semi-strangers.

Say, you are Zhao Yunlan (赵云澜) from Guardian. There are at least 27 ways I can call you. But as your colleague, I would likely call you Lao Zhao (老赵) if I think you are older than me but not too old to be my drinking buddy. Conversely, I would call you Xiao Zhao (小赵) if you are my junior. I could also call you Ah Yun (阿云) or Ah Lan (阿澜) to denote more familiarity or closer friendship. I would avoid using repeated sounds, such as Yunyun (云云) or Lanlan (澜澜), or even worse, Xiao Yunyun (小云云) or Xiao Lanlan (小澜澜), unless you are a child under age 10 or we plan to hook up tonight. But if I have to choose, I would call you Lan’er (澜儿) because I want to baby you.

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The Untamed 陈情令

The Untamed (陈情令) is a live action adaptation of supernatural novel Mo Dao Zu Shi (魔道祖师), which is also available as manga and anime. The drama is about the death and resurrection of abominable Yiling Patriarch and how he cleared his infamous name with the help from an unlikely ally. The drama flashed back to decades earlier and recounted how a series of tragedies turned Wei Wuxian from a cheery young lad to a widely feared grandmaster of demonic cultivation. Then the drama flashed forward to the present day and followed him as he uncovered the conspiracy that had led to his death 16 years ago. All the while, he never gave up his unorthodox practice of channeling demonic energy to counter malevolent supernatural forces – fight evil with evil.

The Untamed Wei Wu Xian Lan Wang Ji

I can’t say I love all the main characters in this drama. But Jiang Yanli and her lovely dimples will always have a place in my heart. She is the best thing that ever happened to Wei Wuxian. She is the only person in the entire drama who never doubted WWX, who never said a single harsh word to him, who defended him even though it went against her nature to be antagonistic, who loved him unconditionally. A bowl of her lotus root soup with pork ribs can soothe any hurt he felt inside. To WWX, home is where ever she is.
The Untamed Jiang Yan Li

I can watch the nose touching on loop. Only Shijie (senior sister) can make WWX grin like a happy 3 year-old.

Source: Weibo

And only she can make him feel accepted without having to prove his worth.
The Untamed Wei Wu Xian Jiang Yan Li

Although her brother Jiang Cheng cares as much for Wei Wuxian as her, his fierce temper and sharp tongue can slice a tender heart raw. And no one can wound WWX as deeply as he can. But Shijie has an amazing way of neutralizing her brother’s venomous words and bringing him and WWX back together without the boys ever having to say “sorry” or “thank you.”
The Untamed Jiang siblings

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The Longest Day in Chang’an 长安十二时辰 Part 2

The Longest Day in Chang’an smacks down anyone and anything that tries to slow it down. It you are not serving the story line, then you need to get out of its way. I love a drama that doesn’t waste my time.
The Longest Day in Chang'an

The only fault I can find with this drama is its testosterone level being kinda high. Between the unwavering solidarity of brotherhood and endless plotting for power, the macho match does get a little tiring at times. Thank goodness the women are there to give the show a much needed softer touch.

The Longest Day in Chang'an

No. I lied. The women are just as vicious and cunning as their male counterparts. This post is dedicated to those women who may not be powerful but who can make you think twice before you try to cross them. Possible spoilers ahead. Read at your own risk.

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The Longest Day in Chang’an 长安十二时辰 Part 1

The Longest Day in Chang’an (长安十二时辰) is not long at all. The episodes flew by so fast leaving me with the impression of, “What? I have to wait another week for my next episode?! Nooooo!!!!”

The drama starts in the morning of January 14th in the year 744. It is the day of Lantern Festival. For the next 24 hours, residents and visitors can traverse Chang’an, the capital of Tang Dynasty, without restriction to mingle, to shop, to be entertained to their hearts’ content. On this festive day, Jing-An-Si, a brand spanking new inter-departmental counter-terrorism agency, got a credible intel that a group of foreign spies is planning an attack on the city. Their preemptive strike to thwart off the enemy’s plot failed miserably with their undercover agent lying in the morgue sans tongue. Now they are racing against time to stop the enemies from turning the biggest celebration of the year into an inferno hell of fire.

Visually, this drama is stunning. From the clothing and the makeup, the street layout and the buildings, to the furniture and the utensils, everything screams, “This is the Tang Dynasty! Chang’an is a world-class metropolitan.” The color schemes and camera angles tied all the elements together beautifully.
The Longest Day in Chang'an The Longest Day in Chang'an
The Longest Day in Chang'an The Longest Day in Chang'an

After watching the Empress in Goodbye My Princess , I developed higher tolerance for non-modern makeup fashion. By their appearances, can you spot who isn’t Chinese in this picture?
The Longest Day in Chang'an

The characters are multilayered. Throw in power, revenge, favors, money, you just never sure who is on which side. I disapprove the behavior, but I don’t object to the person.
The Longest Day in Chang'an

Story wise, this drama peels off like an onion. Just when they think they solve one problem, another even more complicated one takes its place.

Possible spoilers ahead. Read at your own risk.

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Chinese Lesson 1: Supernatural creatures

妖魔鬼怪 (yāo mó guǐ guài) when translated into English roughly means monsters, demons, and ghosts. The translation is a gross generalization of creatures in Chinese supernatural stories. I feel they deserve a better description. If only we can drop the inaccurate translation and just stick with hanzi pinyin when we do subtitles, maybe more people would finally appreciate the differences between them.

“妖者非人之活物所化;魔者生人所化;鬼者死者所化;怪者非人之死物所化” ~ 魔道祖師
(“Yao are transformed from non-human living beings. Mo are from living human beings. Gui are from dead human beings. Guai are from non-human, non-living objects.” ~ Chinese novel Mo Dao Zu Shi)

(妖 yao) – Monsters, fairies, and shapeshifters. Yao are not demons, but they are often referred to as fox demon, spider demon, tree demon etc… I guess we haven’t found a more suitable noun to describe non-human living creatures that behave like humans but are neither good nor evil. They may or may not take on human form. Yao are the backbone of Chinese supernatural stories. We can’t live without them.

Basically, all the nonhuman characters (wesen) in Grimm are Yao.

The most famous Yao of all time is Madame White Snake. There are hundreds if not thousands of works referencing her throughout the centuries. The oldest piece I have read was dated back in the 1600s.

There are as many types of Yao as there are living creatures on earth.

(魔 mo) – Demons. Here comes the difference between Chinese vs western interpretation.

In other countries, demon = devil = Satan = fallen angel. In Good Omens, Crawely represents the demon.

Mo means differently in Chinese. People are referred to as Mo when they are overtaken by their obsessions and they can no longer control their actions. In dictionary form: A person who holds extreme or fanatical views, especially one who resorts to or advocates extreme action. In The Legends , Li Chenlan and Jiang Wu represent the Mo.

(鬼 gui) – Ghost. No ambiguity here. Dead people become ghosts.

(怪 guai) – Monsters. They are inanimate objects that have developed consciousness. They may or may not take on human form.

Japan’s chōchin-obake and kasa-obake are the very definition of Guai.

The Monster book in Harry Potter can be considered as a Guai, too.

After all that explanation, we are ruined by Chinese compound words.
魔鬼 (Mo Gui) – People/monsters that are pure evil.
妖魔 (Yao Mo) – Crazy, demented people/monsters.
鬼怪 (Gui Guai) – Scary monsters that cause goosebumps.
妖怪 (Yao Guai) – Strange, grotesque people/monsters.
妖精 (Yao Jing) – Seductive people/fairies.

He’s Coming To Me เขามาเชงเม้งข้างๆหลุมผมครับ

He’s Coming To Me (เขามาเชงเม้งข้างๆหลุมผมครับ) is an additive supernatural BL mystery about a guy befriending a ghost and solving the true cause of his death.

Thai drama He's Coming To Me Ohm Singto

If you don’t feel warm and fuzzy inside watching their daily interactions, I don’t think we can play together.
Thai drama He's Coming To Me Ohm Singto

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The Legends 招摇

The Legends (招摇) is a xianxia dramedy about a badass villain, a dead badass villain, possessing the body of a girl from Team Good Guy to seek revenge against her villain-usurper. In the process, she ended up falling in love with him and they lived happily ever after. It’s a crazy setup and it’s fantastic!

The Legends Zhao Yao

The Legends is definitely one of the better adapted dramas based on supernatural novels. It navigates around the Chinese censorship on ghost genre by offering a different spin on how our favorite baddie is able to stick around to haunt the people she should be leaving behind. For those deep-rooted ghost mythology the show can’t get around, it doesn’t try to twist them into something they are not, it simply skips over them. It’s a sad but necessary evil to pass Almighty-CC’s ban on all-things-supernatural. And I accept the changes with a nod of approval.

‘Cuz no matter what our badass villain is, ghost or otherwise, Lu Zhaoyao is awesome to the core!
The Legends Zhao Yao

I admit that the drama’s action department requires a major overhaul, but their inability to seamlessly integrate actors with their stunt doubles does not take away from the sparkling chemistry between the major characters. Since their juicy goodness happens after Zhaoyao is dead, feel free to skip to episode 6 when she officially begins her afterlife journey to get her villainy groove back.

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