#1Scholar – Chapter 2 – A Distinguished Future Must Be In Store For Ah Chui

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Copyright © 2011 – Jeff Loh. All rights reserved
Chapter 2 – A Distinguished Future Must Be In Store For Ah Chui1.
Old Lun Eight2 on seeing the current situation knew that his old lady was going to explode any moment and he was getting very antsy.
“Old Eight, let me look after Eighth sister-in-law3. You better go and find a midwife quick!” Night Watcher Six advised.Old Lun Eight thought to himself,“Surely you jest! If she explodes right now, won’t you have an eyeful of everything? Sheesh!”

Therefore to Night Watcher Six, he pleaded,

“Sixth younger brother4, if you really want to help, you must send Buddha to the West5. Mind if I trouble you going next door and bang on the door to wake up Bagasse Fifth Aunt6 and then to the opposite corner and call the wife of Ah Chan, the pickled vegetable seller, to come. They had promised help when the moment arrived.”

With those words, Night Watcher Six immediately went a-calling. Not long afterwards Bagasse Fifth Aunt and Mrs. Chan came groggily and asked Eighth Uncle,

“Any movement yet?”

“I don’t have any movement but my wife has!” retorted an antsy Eighth Uncle.

Quickly everyone went about their assigned tasks; to heat some water, to carry and assist Mrs. Eighth. Night Watcher Six went back to his rounds. For a while everyone hustled and bustled. Finally the baby came crying “wah wah” into this world alerting the entire three streets of the neighbourhood. Bagasse Firth Aunt announced as she carried the baby,

“Congratulations to you Eighth Uncle, you got yourself an arrowhead stalk7!”

On hearing the congratulatory words, Eighth Uncle quickly went forth to take a look and was overjoyed upon verification. But then on a second look, he saw the baby had very odd features, a head big as a bucket with little sparkly eyes. The strangest of all was that his entire body covered with marks that looked like fish scales. However the body is strong and healthy. After Bagasse Fifth Aunt finished washing the baby, she wrapped him in a blanket before presenting to Eighth Aunt. When mother gazed upon her son, she gave a big fright and from of her mouth she out came an “Ai yah!”
Eighth Uncle asked what the matter was. Eighth Aunt stuttered,
“Strange, very strange indeed! This baby looks like that thing I was dreaming earlier. I wondered if this omen is good or bad.”

Eighth Uncle consoled her and gave this baby the name of Lun Mun Chui8. When one has something to say, the day is long, and days are short when there is nothing to say. Time passed quickly and Ah Chui was now five years old. Because he was often sickly as a baby, his body size was unusually skinny and diminutive. However his head was especially large in proportion to his body. Eighth Uncle had often heard the adage, ‘A large head is for the great and big-footed is but a beggar’. Looking at his son’s unusual features of a large head and a small body he would recall the strange circumstances in which his son was born. In the end the father was very sure that his son would amount to something great in the future. Because of this reasoning, he was not disheartened. Not only was he not disheartened, he was extremely sure that his son would become an official someday. Of course in order to become one, he would need schooling. Lun Old Eight is a vegetable seller, how could he make enough money to send his son to school? Before Ah Chui was born, the two old biddies barely eked out enough just to have skin on them. Now with an extra Chui, there is one more burden. No matter how one calculated, there was no way they could send their son to school.

Because of this Old Lun Eight worried day and night. Enduring here, struggling there, very soon he reported to his maker9! Poor Ah Chui, losing his father at such a tender age. Luckily for him, his mother had the will of an arrow’s flight and the determination to park the boat10 [she never remarried]. She hoped that her struggles would eventually be able to rear her son up.

How about Ah Chui? Of course he didn’t go to school at all. Everyday he would play with neighbour kids. The only good thing about him was that he was smart and intelligent. Anyone who saw him loved him except for the monks of the West Zen sect. They hated him to the core. Why, you ask? This is because Ah Chui lived at the west gate of “First Candidates Selection” which is not far away from the Temple of Bright Filial Piety. Each day Ah Chui with his gang of screaming imps would enter the West Zen sect temple to play…


25 Apr 2011

Edited by the Jimbo.

1.The prefix Ah (亞 or 阿) is used inconsistently throughout the book. May be there were not enough blocks to go around for the print. This is diminutive naming to produce affection.2.Another way of adding affection to Ah Chui’s father who was obviously the 8th son in the family.3. A respectful term for addressing someone’s wife. The exact Chinese term used is wife of one’s younger brother so as not to offend her by implying that she is old (by using the term for one’s older brother’s wife).

4. Another respectful term while adding endearment. Lun’s father is asking for a favour from Night Watcher Six. At the same time, we can infer that Lun’s father is older. When strangers meet, one of the first things they do is to establish their age so that proper terms can be applied. Sometimes even when one is older, a younger term is used for oneself to ingratiate oneself to the other person.

5. Buddha came from the west (India). So therefore to send Buddha back to where he came from means that you really want to help out to the end.

6. Bagasse is the fibrous matter that remains after sugarcane stalks are crushed for juice extraction. The exact term used here is the wife of one’s father’s younger brother.

7. Arrowhead bulb, Sagittaria sagittifolia. It looks like the private parts of a baby or little boy. Hence Cantonese expression for baby boys. In the original text the character used for stem is 蒂 but in Cantonese 椗 is used instead. During Chinese New Year, especially in a young family, mothers-in-law usually present a pan of growing Arrowroot bulbs as a hint to the young wife to get a grandson for them soon!

8. I really doubt that this illiterate vegetable seller was able to choose such a grand name for the sun. See the Preface on the meaning of our hero’s name.

9. The Cantonese use the word “gourd” or “squash (the vegetable)” to mean death or to die. This is because both words share the same sound. However there is no ‘proper’ word for the word death and the gourd word is used. Therefore one does not serve such food on festive days or happy occasions in Cantonese families. Bitter gourd is the most dreaded dish to serve it sounded like ‘a bitter death’ – fu gua (苦瓜). Some people tried to rename it as 涼瓜 leong gua – “cooling gourd” to have a connotation like the English slang “cool cucumber”. However the death-sounding homophone cannot be avoided. Here is an interesting or rather funny story from my Hong Kong friend Simon Hui,

His sister’s mother-in-law was a very superstitious woman. Ordering highly inauspiciously named dishes on special occasions such as her birthday was especially frowned upon and to be avoided at all costs. However her son-in-law loved to eat bitter gourd cooked with beef. He knew of her taboos and instead of ordering bitter gourd, he ordered “cool gourd” instead. The moment he uttered the words, one could see darkest clouds covering the old lady’s face and fire spewing out of her eyes. The stupid – or rather – the careless cavalier attitude of the son-in-law had committed an extreme faux pas. The word “cool” has the exact pronunciation as his mother-in-law’s surname, Leong (梁)! Therefore it meant “May she die on her birthday dinner” He should have abstained from ordering any gourd dishes in the first place.

10. This line came from a poem in one of the 24 stories of filial piety (二十四孝).

矢志柏舟守節貞 With the aim of an arrow in flight, the will to park the boat, I shall be chaste to my widowhood.
家貧紡織以維生 My family is poor and I shall weave (silk) to support them.
奉姑行孝傳遐邇 The fame of my respect and filial piety to my mother-in-law shall spread far and wide
彤管休揚千載名 Need no red brush to record my name.

During the Han Dynasty, a young wife of 16 promised her husband that in case he does not return from the war, she would take care of her mother-in-law and treat her as her own. After 3 years of mourning for her dead husband was over, her mother-in-law tried to force her into remarriage so that they could have a better life. She refused and would rather die than to break the vow to her husband. Her mother-in-law relented and the daughter-in-law continued her filial piety until the old lady died at the age of 80. When Emperor Han Wen Ti heard her tale, she was awarded with 40 pounds of gold and entitled her the name of “Lady of Filial Piety.” http://www.namoamitabha.net/ch/publication/filial_piety/24stories10.htm

The literall meaning of 彤管 is red brush. A ritual monthly gift (a pair) from Han Dynasty prime ministers. These brushes were used by female secretariats to record the comings and goings of the queens and imperial concubines of the Inner Palace where no uncastrated male is allowed.

Original Text

二 認定亞敘將來必貴
倫老八見此情形, 知道老婆將近爆槳,當堂手忙脚亂, 打更六說:
“老八等我同你看住八嫂先, 你去揾執媽嚟1可矣!”

倫老八個心諗; 揾笨2乎? 萬一真正爆起槳來, 豈不俾你睇3見晒4? 乃叫打更六曰

“六叔, 為人為到底, 送佛送到西, 多煩你同我去隔籬5拍門叫醒蔗渣五嬸, 再去斜對面嗌嗌賣鹹酸阿陳個老婆陳嫂來幫手, 事関佢地早已應承也.”

打更六一聽得, 連忙前去, 未幾, 蔗渣五嬸, 鹹酸陳嫂均已懵懵忪忪趕至, 問八叔,


八叔話我就未作動, 我老婆就作動矣.”

於是大家夾手夾脚俾6個煲水,俾個扶住八嫂, 俾個執定架部, 打更六則仍然去打更, 大家忙了一陣, 蘇蝦仔7已告脫穎而出, 唔呀唔呀, 三條街都聽聞, 蔗渣五嬸抱起蘇蝦仔一睇, 當堂話:

“恭喜咯八叔, 生個茨菇蒂8!”

八叔聞言, 連忙上前, 睇下果然真係, 不禁大喜, 再睇下個仔, 生得形容十分古怪, 頭大如斗, 眼仔晶晶, 最奇怪者, 則全身一片片, 好似魚鱗噉9, 但身体却結實異常, 蔗渣五嬸同佢洗完身之後, 揾張被仔裏住, 就交俾八嫂, 八嫂一睇, 當堂大吃一驚, 哎喲一聲, 脫口已出, 八叔問乜事? 八嫂口震震噉話:

“奇嘞10做乜亞蘇仔, 十足同剛才我發夢所見個野一樣噉嘅11, 唔知是吉是兇也”

八叔仍安慰之, 就同此蘇蝦仔, 改個名叫做倫文敘, 正是有話日長, 無話日短, 不經不覺亞敍已經五歲, 因為亞敘自小病痛多, 所以奀12細異常, 不過亞敘身軀雖然奀細, 個頭則特別宏偉, 八叔聞得俗語有話,頭大君子, 脚大乞兒, 今見亞敘形狀, 頭部特大, 而且出世之時, 又是單咁古怪嘅野, 所以認定個仔將來, 必然有貴, 因此亦不恢心, 不特不恢心, 而且對亞敘希望甚大, 但希望還希望, 家無讀書子, 功名何處來, 想個仔將來做官, 當然非供書教學不可. 無奈倫老八向來家窮只靠賣菜度日, 在亞敘未出世之前, 両老, 亦僅僅有皮, 多了一個敘, 便多一個負担, 自然唔够算, 慢講供個仔讀書乎? 為此之故, 倫老八乃日夜担心, 捱埋捱埋有幾耐, 便宣告瓜! 可憐倫文敍, 自少喪父, 好在母親八嫂矢志柏舟, 希望捱大個仔, 於是便靠織布度日, 亞敘呢? 自然無書讀, 日日同坤群嬉戲, 好在佢聰明伶俐, 所以人見人愛, 但有一件事, 被西禪寺的和尚僧到入骨, 點解呢? 原來亞敘住在西门擢甲里, 此地距光孝寺甚近, 亞敘便日日同地一班嘩鬼, 入去西禪寺頑耍.

1. 來.

2. 揾笨 to be or treated a fool, to be tricked etc. 揾 is Cantonese for 找 or 尋.

3. 看.

4. All in 做晒–all done, 揾晒–find everywhere, 見晒 – seen all.

5. Next door i.e. separated by a fence.

6. 給.

7. Baby. Other forms are 臊孲仔 and 甦孲仔. For a detailed video explanation (in Cantonese) see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RjZfomv7SHU&feature=related 粵講粵有癮-臊孲仔.

8. See English 7.

9. Same as 咁. In this context, it means “like so”. There are many meanings when combined with other words. See http://www.cantonese.sheik.co.uk/dictionary/characters/369/?full=true

10. 啦.

11. 的. As a final particle, it stresses or emphasizes a situation or strengthen a statement, as in咁嘅–is there all there is, 食得嘅–Can be eaten!

12. As can be seen from the composition of two characters “not big”. So it means puny, weak, skinny. 奀皮 means skinny to the bones, a slang for mischievous children, or being impish.


#1 Scholar – Chapter 1 – There’s A Big-Headed Ghost in Blessed Earth Lane.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Copyright © 2011 – Jeff Loh. All rights reserved

Chapter 1 – There’s A Big-Headed Ghost1In Blessed Earth Lane.My dear friends! Canton’s Lun Mun Chui’s prestige and fame is as thick as people and horses crowding into a city. There is no one who does not know him. You may not have seen a white crane but I am sure you must have seen a pile of shit before [This is how well known Lun Mun Chui is in Canton]. In the old days, somewhere between, ‘First Candidates Selection’ and ‘Blessed Earth’ Lane2 was the official residence of the Lun family. The imperial memorial arch of ‘First Candidates Selection’ is the most famous in all of Canton. Everyone knows the apocryphal stories of Lun Mun Chui, how he sold vegetables in his youth and how he bested Lau Sin Hoi3 at his own games, so Uncle Chen4 shall refrain and spare his tongue from wagging too much. One can hear these stories sung in Dragon Boat Songs5 or you can read them in books. However, they are not detailed and many of these apocryphal stories are lost. When Uncle Chen6 was a kid…

I heard many stories from neighbouring second uncle7 and from foot-bound eighth auntie8. Mostly from unofficial sources. I read many writings of the old describing the life of Lun Mun Chui that not many people know. I shall now recount these events in detail as stories. No more idle talk and let me delve right into the topic.

During his lifetime and after, Lun Mun Chui was known for his uncanny wit. Why was he so demon-witted? You ask. Well, this is because he was the reincarnation of a big-headed ghost9. Before he was born, neighours of Blessed Earth Lane had been seeing a ghost every night – one with a big head with a small body. While walking in the night when people came across it, it would simply open its large mouth and grin at them idiotically. It was not afraid of people10. My friends please don’t say it’s not a frightening scene at all! When one person sees it, two more will come forth and claim that they too had seen it. As all descriptions were very similar even skeptics began to wonder if the stories were true. Very soon everyone was afraid to walk outside at night; all except for Night Watcher Six11 who had not witnessed such apparitions.

Some people reasoned that if there was indeed a big-headed ghost in the vicinity, why wouldn’t Night Watcher Six be afraid?

“I beat my gongs each night, going through Blessed Earth Lane back and forth at least twelve times12 never have I witnessed such a thing before,” claimed Night Watcher Six.

“This proves that those claiming that they saw the apparitition they were merely firing off their big cannons13!. I’ll believe when I see it.”

So Night Watcher Six continued with his job, sounding the times for the night. When he reached Blessed Earth Lane, he would open his golden pupils and fiery eyes14 to look around purposefully and even pause for a while before leaving the area. Still he did not find anything strange.

One night, after having two cups of wine, his eyes became blurry; beating on his bamboo plaque and copper gong15 as he went about his business on the third watch. Just when he came to house number fifteen he saw a black shadow.

“Oi! Who’s out there! This late in the night; must be some thief at work.”

Quickly Night Watcher Six went for a closer look. Wah! What a big-headed ghost it was! Head as big as a keg, a skinny vine-like body and a hideous face to match. It stared at Night Watcher Six and gave its signature idiotic grin when it suddenly dodged into house number thirteen where Old Lun Eight lived. Now Night Watcher Six was really courageous and was not a bit least frightened. Quickly he ran up to house thirteen and banged on the door shouting,

“Old Eight Lun! Wake up! I need to talk to you! I’m Night Watcher Six.”

Mrs. Lun Eight was already walking out of the hall. So ugly she looked in her undergarments with her three delicates bouncing up and down! Hey! Wait a minute! Women have two protrusions. How come there are three on her? Well, that is because Auntie Eight was in her full eighth month of pregnancy. Mrs. Eight said to her husband,

“I was almost frightened to death. I had a dream. In it was this big-headed ghost. I could see its head but not its body. It approached me and with a twist, it pierced into my belly through the trousers leg. At once I struggled and woke myself up. Now the little piggy16 is causing me some pain.”

Oh my! This is getting strange. Night Watcher Six began to wonder about everything he had seen and heard. But before her story ended, Mrs. Lun started experiencing great pains in her stomach.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Edited by the Jimbo

1. In Cantonese a big-headed ghost is slang for a rich man or boss by the virtue of his wealth.

2. At Sea Pearl in Canton, there is still a street named ’First Scholar Selection’. The character ‘擢’ means to select or to promote. ’甲’ means first. In imperial times, it also meant to be first in the imperial exams. According to one story, there were indeed a few Number One Scholars that came from this innocuous looking lane, including Ming Dynasty’s demon-witted Lun Mun Chui. During the Southern Sung Dynasty, there lived a Mr. Wong, a carpenter who came to Canton for work. He had two sons, the elder named Pun and the younger Hei. However the father worked so hard he died of exhaustion before he could see his sons grow up. As the family was poor, the older brother worked and self-studied. In the meantime, he supported and enrolled the younger brother in a private school studio. A few years later the older brother succeeded in the preliminary examinations and became a scholar and the number one scholar at the finals. The younger brother also passed the exams and became the next number one scholar. With two number one scholars coming from the same family, it had a great impact on Canton. Local officials erected a new residence for them and named the street “First Scholar Selection”.

Another story describes this place where Lun Mun Chui was born. Most importantly not only did this place produce the Number One Scholar (狀元); of his two sons, the elder one became the Number Three Scholar (探花) during the reign of Emperor Cheng Te and nine years later, his younger son became the Number Two Scholar (榜眼). Hence the place was named the “Blessed Earth”.


3. Arch-nemesis of our hero. We shall encounter him later.

4. See preface.

5. A kind of song popular in Canton. It has nothing to do with the Dragon Boat race or the festival. The street singer carries a small “dragon boat” with a gong and drum going through the neighbourhood to sell his vocal talents. For more details see the video explanation at


6. Chinese love to speak in the 3rd person. This is to show one’s humility.

7. In Cantonese slang, the second younger brother of one’s father is a pawnbroker. Because of his profession, he is said to be very experienced and knowledgeable, knowing minutiae that others may not know.

8. Auntie Eight is a derogatory euphemism for a gossipy or fearsome crone. In adding the phrase bound foot (the ancient fetish of Chinese males binding their womenfolk’s feet) implies that she is really old since foot binding was no longer practised during the time of the author (but one could still see such remnants of the old dynasty). The practice was finally stopped by the communist regime. Various reigns of the Ch’ing Dynasty had tried to stamp out this barbaric practice but to no avail since later emperors themselves succumbed to this fetish.

9. In Cantonese slang, a big-headed ghost is a rich person. Because of his wealth he is often the boss or chief.

10. In popular belief, ghosts are supposed to be afraid of the living. This comes from the adage, 人怕鬼三分, 鬼怕人七分. Man is afraid of ghosts by 30% while ghosts are afraid of human being by 70%. Thus an upright person has no fear of them; only guilty ones have.

A nightwatchman.  The character means to patrol
11. A number that is commonly affixed to night watchers. Most probably he is son number six. In illiterate classes, names usually consist of a number or an animal. Cantonese love to affix numbers to nicknames. For example, some came from the design of Chinese dominoes to describe people with certain physical characteristics, ‘tambourine six’ (拎冧六), ‘big-headed six’ (大頭六) or ‘long legged 7’ (高脚七) for the 6th and 7th son.
12. The night is divided into 6 divisions of time. Each division is about 2 hours.

13.  Cantonese slang for exaggerated lies. Reincarnated from the phrase “扯大奅”. “gossiping about great flimsiness”. For detailed explanation see


14. Description for the eyes of the “Monkey King” who had eaten the peaches of immortality gulped the entire stock of divine wine and swallowed the entire batch of Lao Tzu’s pills making his body indestructible. When he was finally caught he was imprisoned in Lao Tzu’s pill-making furnace in hopes of distilling the essence out of his body so that his mortal remains could be burnt to ashes. However Monkey being afraid of fire moved himself into the wind sector of the furnace where there is no fire. However there was smoke that made his pupils glow in gold and caused his eyes to become fiery, enabling him to see things happening at thousands of miles away. Thus the term now means “sharp eyed”.

15. The watchman would clap on the hollow bamboo stick twice before striking the copper gong twice, with sounds of “duk duk chang chang”. The hour is indicated by the number of beats.

16. Cantonese call their sons little piggy 猪仔 as a term of affection because pigs are precious commodities in the old days. Also amongst the illiterate classes it was common to give their sons names or nick names like 亞狗 (dog), 亞羊 (goat). Girls on the other hand may not even possess a name!

Original Text

一 福地巷有隻大頭鬼
各位老友記, 廣東倫文叙個首架勢1堂人馬, 相信無人不識. 唔2見白鶴都見過篤3屎, 你看擢甲里福地巷, 這兩條街, 舊時就係4倫家的狀元第, 擢甲里哪5個子鼎甲牌坊, 是通廣州最架勢的牌坊, 而倫文敘的軼事, 倫文敘賣菜, 倫文敘扭6絕柳先開, 等等事跡, 龍舟雖有, 書仔7有, 街頭都有得擺, 街尾有得買, 相信個個皆知, ,不須襯叔饒舌, 但是龍舟歌同書仔, 都是畧而不詳, 而倫文敘軼事, 散佚不傳, 襯叔細蚊仔聽過隔籬二叔公8, 和巷尾紮脚八婆9, 講過好多件並無坊本的, 大來了, 又看過好多前人筆記, 述倫文敍的事, 也是人多未知, 所以特地將倫文敘一生事蹟, 當作古講, 一事一事, 細說將來, 閒話休提, 且說倫文敘是時, 人稱為鬼才, 點解說是鬼才呢10? 原來倫文敍是大頭鬼投胎, 倫文敘未曾出世之前, 福地巷坊人, 每晚黑夜見鬼, 隻鬼是個頭大大, 個身細細, 行人夜行, 時常碰着, 是不怕人, 見到人張開個丫扒大口, 向人儍笑, 老友, 都咪11話唔得人驚, 一個說見過, 兩個也說見過, 而且個個所見都是如此形狀, 不由人不信, 于是相信怕有, 人皆不敢夜行, 獨獨打更六是不曾見過, 有人話打更六, 此處有隻大頭鬼, 你重晚上打更, 不怕鬼乎? 我打更六晚晚行福地巷至小來回十二次, 絕無所見, 可知個的見鬼的是車大砲12, 我見過就信了, 果然打更六依然晚晚打更, 行到福地巷, 金精火眼, 四處張望, 而且故意俄廷, 在巷中流連不去, 但終不獲見, 一晚, 打更六飲醉两杯, 醉眼矇矓, 揸住碌更更鎚, 正在打三更, 打到十五號戶門前, 見一團黑影, 喂, 邊13個三更半夜躲在此處, 想偷野14乎? 走15上前一看, 嘩, 乜16真有隻大頭鬼乎? 祇見一個頭大如斗身瘦如藤, 面貌猙獰的大頭鬼, 向打更六笑, 一閃身便向十三號倫老八的住宅閃了入去, 打更六確是够大胆, 他絕不驚心, 走到十三號門口, 砰砰打門, 喂, 倫老八, 起身, 我打更六呀, 有句話同你講, 個首倫八嫂早已走出廳來, 肉酸17呀, 細衫短褲, 三凸玲龍, 喂, 女人皆有兩凸, 點解18有三凸呢? 原有八嫂已經懷孕足八月, 八嫂向老八曰: “一嚇死我了, 我發夢, 夢見一隻大頭鬼, 只見其頭, 不見其身, 一走走到我身傍, 一攢19到, 由褲脚攢到了肚子裡, 當堂紥醒, 如今個猪20小還隱隱作痛也.” 打更六一聽, 咦, 古怪, 因說所見, 誰不知話說未完, 八嫂繼續肚痛.

Cantonese Terms

1. Prestigious, famous, big shot or ‘cool’.

2. Equivalent to 不.

3. Counting word for a pile.

4. Equivalent to 是.

5. Same as 那, just the tones are different.

6. Extending the meaning of ‘to twist’. 扭計 is ‘to twist the plan’ meaning to kick up a fuss or to play a prank. 扭擰 is ‘to twist and turn’ i.e. to be wishy washy or indecisive.

7. same as 子.

8. See English #6.

9. See English #7.

10. A final particle,

      a. questioning emphasis: 點知呢? how do you know?!

      b. Reflecting the question back to the questioner: 事情有誰不知呢? for this matter isn’t there anyone who doesn’t know?

      c. To emphasize the accuracy of the statement: 佢地都要求我呢 they must seek my help!

      d. Indicating continuous tense: 現在學習呢 at this moment they are still learning.

      e. Pause indicator functioning like a comma, 現在呢事不同往日 Now, things is not the same as before.

      f. This or that as in, 呢個, this time, that time, 呢陣.

11. Same as 不 don’t.

12. See English #13.

13. Where 邊處, who 邊個.

14. A thing or an object.

15. The ancient (classical) meaning of走which Cantonese retain means ‘to run’. The meaning in modern standard Chinese is ‘to walk’. Cantonese walk is 行.

16. What. 乜嘢 or乜野 means ‘what things’. 做乜野’ means ‘what are you doing?’

17. So ugly or hideous that one’s flesh turns sour (i.e. to become pickled by frightening to death).

18. Why 點解, how 點樣, how do you know, 點知 (short for 點樣知道), how do you say 點講 (short for 點樣講).

19. Same as 鑽 to piece or drill into.

20. See English #16.

#1 Scholar – Opening Poem – Marrying A Faggot

Copyright © 2011 – Jeff Loh. All rights reserved

Poem of Lun Mun Chui
I submit to bad luck that my life is incomplete,
Everyone is laughing at the idiot me.
No destiny, no beauty would want me,
A sky ladder to the Three Legged Toad Palace1 there is.
The ocean is wide enough for dragons to transform,
Mountains are high enough to listen for songs of Phoenixes,
O when one day when the osmanthus2 reaches Heaven,
Even Chang-O3 will be destined for Ruan and Ji4.Notes:The meaning of the poem is quite clear, I am ugly and no one wants a nobody but one day when I became powerful, even the most beautiful girl will marry a faggot! See Note 4.1.It is believed that the three legged toad of great fortune resides on the moon.2.  Osmanthus is euphemism for achieving success in the imperial exams.

3. Chang-O (嫦娥) was the beautiful wife of Hou I (后羿) the divine archer who shot down 9 of the 10 suns (in the form of crows) that appeared simultaneously in the sky to prevent the earth from burning up. In gratitude the people made him king. Later at Mt. Kung Lun he met the Queen Mother of the Western Paradise (西王母) who gave him pills of immortality. There are two versions of what happened next. One version is that he became a tyrant and Chang-O stole the pills to prevent him from becoming an immortal and the other is that Chang-O was curious and stole the pills for herself. Whatever the case is she was discovered and downed the pills. She became lighter and fled away to the moon while Hou I shot arrows at her in one version; or in another version, she was filled with much remorse for her action and lived in the Great Cold Palace (廣寒宫) in the moon with a rabbit pounding elixir under an osmanthus (桂) tree.

4. Ruan and Ji are 2 of the seven members known collectively as the Seven Sages or Seven Intellects of the Bamboo forest. They forsook their lives as officials to get away from the officialdom of corruption. Xi Kang (嵇康) was especially close to Ruan Ji (阮籍); their relationship was described as “stronger than metal and fragrant as orchids”. The wife of Shan Tao(山濤 , another member of the group) was said to be impressed by the prowess of Ruan Ji and Xi Kang that she spied on them during sex – Homosexuality and Civilization by Louis Crompton

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Original text

落街冇錢買麵包 – Warning To Lazy Youngsters.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Copyright © 2011 – Jeff Loh. All rights reserved

This classic Cantonese song was sung by an actor comedian of the 60s, Mr. Chen Guan Mein鄭君綿. Also he makes a very believable Charlie Chaplin lookalike. This melody was used in the famous Cantonese opera, “An Emperor’s Flower” aka “Princess Flower”. However this time, the lyrics are not of lovers’ lament but a warning to parents and lazy children the consequences of not studying hard, not listening to their elders and fritting their lives away as a gambler to seek shortcuts in life.

I had heard this song during my childhood days. All I remembered was the first line of the lyrics. Now thanks to the internet I have the entire lyrics which I now translate for the enjoyment of my non-Cantonese and to Cantonese friends a walk down the memory lane.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Walking down to the street nary a cent to buy a loaf bread,

I want to rely on credit but I’m afraid I’ll get scolded.

A raging famine in my stomach, like a hungry cat2,

In hunger and cold I started to cry,

All because of the famine in my stomach,

My insides are rumbling like war drums.

This worst is that I associate daily with a bunch of louts and mischief makers.

Daddy tried his best to warn me but I never listened.

Because I’m lazy,

I was thrown out of school.

My hair was permed until it was like a trellis4,

Making my looks no longer those of a man.

Once there is money, my body itches,

In short I just have to spend like mad.

When I no longer have any money left,

The moment I reached home, I’d search,

Looking for clothes to pawn,

Sell my blankets.

Entangling with gangs I’d look for a fight.

Even better is my specialty to brag and lie.

Usually I learnt bad things until my character is in a mess,

Gone is my trustworthiness.

I’m afraid I’m no longer tolerated in this world,

Discipline must and should be taught when one is young.

I sincerely advise everyone seriously to take measures,

So that your children will be no nonsense unlike me.


Foot notes on the Chinese character are Cantonese terms whereas those on the English are my commentaries.

1. 去街 means to go out. 落街 although means to go out but hints that the person going out lives in a high rise, government built or otherwise. Cities like Hong Kong and Singapore where land space is scarce, most people live in high rises. Therefore when one says 去街, most probably means that person lives in a low storied place. 冇 is the Cantonese version of無 meaning don’t have. Notice how logical the Cantonese character is formed. To have is written as 有!

2. In the eyes of the Cantonese, nothing is hungrier than a stray cat.

3. 唔 Cantonese equivalent to 不.

4.  Again the lyrics hints of the period when it was fashionable for men to perm their hair to achieve the Elvis Presley look.

5. 洗 means to wash also but in slang it means to spend as in洗錢–washing money.

6. 嗰 means that, then depending on the next character. 嗰陣 that moment, ie then. 嗰個 means that one whereas 個個 means every.

7. 抄 means to copy and the tone is wrong. The character 找 means to search is pronounced like ‘炒 to fry. Maybe there is no character that sounds like chaau(?). (I don’t know the jyuping system).

8. 氈 is blanket but 地氈 floor blanket is carpet.

9. slang for fighting not for intercourse.

10. 車大砲 – carry or drive a cannon – to bluff, to lie, to deceive with a connotation of exaggeration.

11. 撈咁攪 – to scoop and stir at the same time – a mess.

An Emperor’s Flower

Monday, April 18, 2011


Copyright © 2011 – Jeff Loh. All rights reserved

An Emperor’s Flower (aka Princess Flower) 帝女花

In the shade of the forest by the palace yielded two wondrous trees.

Flowers looked pale against a myriad of shining pearls1.

Such tragedy this wedding night is going to be,

Need no maid in attendance.

These are the poetic lines leading to a tragic scene in one of the most famous Cantonese operas. This story takes place at the fall of the Ming Dynasty. Princess Eternal Peace had been betrothed to a young scholar official for a few days just before the peasant revolt of Li Ji Cheng (李自成) broke out and the palace was overrun. Before the last Ming Emperor committed suicide by hanging himself at Coal Hill, he killed off his family with sword in hand. However, the Princess survived her wounds and was rescued. She became a nun but was later discovered by her betrothed in a chance meeting at a nunnery. In the meantime, the revolt had been crushed by the Manchus who had established the Ch’ing Dynasty. In order to pacify the people and lay legitimate claims to the mandate of Heaven, the Ch’ing Emperor was eager to adopt the former princess as his own. The Princess insisted that the Ch’ing Emperor acquiesce to three conditions before she agreed to become his adopted daughter – that he must order the imperial funeral rites to be performed that were due her late father, free her imprisoned twelve-year-old brother, and be able to retain her formal attire of the previous dynasty.

The Princess further stipulated that on her wedding night, the ceremony was to be held in the imperial gardens. There the lovers took poison to escape servitude to the new regime. Like all Chinese tragic love stories, the lovers are depicted as immortals banished from Heaven for violating the heavenly law of falling in love, i.e. having carnal desires2.The following is the translation of the Cantonese lyrics set to a popular folk song that was sung at the ill-fated wedding night scene. This is just a story loosely based on historical events. In actuality, Mukden was still the capital of the Manchus. The founding Emperor did not enter Peking. His son, the Emperor Shun Chih was 7 or 8 years when he sat on the dragon throne of China and not a middle-aged ruler as depicted in the opera. The lyrics in blue are to be sung by the Princess Consort, those in black by Princess Eternal Peace and in red to be sung together. My next translation project is a set of alternate lyrics for this popular Cantonese. It is a warning to those who do not study hard that their future is nothing short of poverty and squalor.

Falling flowers obscuring the moonlight,

Let a cup be the respects paid on the Phoenix Terrace.

In tears, the Princess Flower burns some incense,

Take my life as thanks to my parents.

Stealing a glance here, a furtive look there,

I see his tears burdened in hidden sorrow.

Half in fright

I’m afraid that the Princess Consort would linger over the Phoenix match,

不甘殉愛伴我 臨泉壤。
Yearning for the physical love and abandon our journey to the Yellow Springs3.

Every inch of my heart longs for us to be buried together,

Mandarin duck lovers embracing in each other’s arms.

Let us rebuild our wedding room in Hade’s Terrace,

There we can look for that bright lane of no upheaval once more.

Alas the flower lover is willing to be buried with me.

Difficult it is for the Princess Consort to drink arsenic on this night of flowers and candles4.

Catastrophe had befallen on the empire,

In boundless gratitude I give thanks to my late liege.

Kneeling together with my wife, I inquire how His imperial Highness is faring in the underworld5.

Alas, looking forward to the wedding night,

Spending a lifetime together till our hair turns white.

But who would want to see wedding candles turning into tears of blood.

Alas, I caused my lord to be tangled in the same web of sin,

Let us fulfill our obligations and respectfully kneel before the flower candles4.

We shall exchange our cups; The tomb is our bridal chamber,

Future generation shall sing of praises to Princess Consort’s spiritual tablet.

The willow shade shall be our hibiscus drapes6

The Princess Consort of the Ming Dynasty will now take a look at his bride7.

Deep into the night, give me the excuse of pricking the wick8 for a peek at her.

Till the Earth turns old and Heaven becomes desolate,

But the phoenixes will always be in love.

In willingness, a toast to my husband I shall give, we kowtowed to each other with our cups raised high9

Let us drink slowly with these golden cups,

In tears as we drink these grapes dripped in arsenic.

In our midst of joy and drunkenness, let us dream of home.

Clinking our cups together, we shall now set foot on the night terrace.

Alas this hundred flower crown shall be my funeral adornment,

Let this Princess Consort be the ornament10 to this tomb.

Let us embrace,

Let us snuggle.

In the tree a pair of branches will reveal the fragrance of Princess Flower.

Princess Flower

Will always be with her sincere lover.

As husband and wife die, the trees will take on their forms11.

Edited by the Jimbo.


1. The shining pearls refer to the crown the Princess is wearing. The brilliance of the jewels made the flowers look pale and yellow.

2. In the movie version of the opera performed by the same actresses, the lyrics of the melody were changed so as to explain the lovers’ tragic fate. He was the golden boy and she was the fairy in charge of scattering flowers. I was able to get hold of the lyrics for the movie’s end.

Mists obscuring the lands beyond this mortal world,

Immortal abodes mistaken for the Lunar Terrace.

The flower scattering Fairy once more meet her fellow immortals,

Once more in the golden Audience Hall, she returns to her original position serving the Jade Emperor.

3. Yellow springs is a euphemism for Hades. When digging a well, the color of water is yellow at its deepest level. Also known as Nine Springs (九泉) because there are nine levels in Heaven and so on earth there must be nine levels as well. Chinese Hades is below that 9th earth level. In the original text, 泉壤–’spring soil’ was used instead to refer the land of the dead.

4. Night of flowers and candles – the wedding night. A table is prepared for the newly wed couple to feast in their room. A pair of elaborately carved red candles are burning together side-by-side on the table. This is used to symbolize the new life the couple faces and that they both may have the same life span like the candles.

5. 請安 – inquiring about the health of one’s parents or superiors. It is a daily filial ritual in old China. In this case, of course, the father, the Ming Emperor, is dead. However, since they are about to meet in Hades, it is still a compulsory ritual for them.

6. Hibiscus drapes is nothing more than a flowery description of drapes surrounding a Chinese bed which resembles a tiny room in itself.

7. The bride is covered by a red veil and the groom will flick it up to see his bride. A formal ritual that he has accepted her as wife.

8. There are no electric bulbs in the old days! One has to prick the candle wick up to make the room brighter. What is meant here is for him to have a better look at her.

9. During the private moments in the bed chamber, the husband and wife go through a ritual of kowtowing to each other as a sign of mutual respect and finally a toast by exchanging their cups of wine raised high to their eyebrow level to pledge their love and fidelity.

10. 珈 is an ornament in women’s hairpin. So I guess Princess Consort is comparing himself to this kind of ornament to signify that he will never be parted from the hairpin representing Princess Flower.

11. As indicated in the introductory poem that there are two strange trees in the imperial forest.

Original script.


(長平詩白) 倚殿陰森奇樹雙。



(世顯詩白)不須侍女伴身旁。 (白)下去。

(宮女白)知道。 (分邊退下)

(長平燒香一炷起小曲粧台秋思唱)落花滿天蔽月光,借一杯附薦鳳臺上,帝女花帶淚上香,願喪 生回謝爹娘,偷偷看,偷偷望,佢帶淚帶淚暗悲傷,我半帶驚惶,怕駙馬惜鸞鳳配,不甘殉愛伴我 臨泉壤。




(長平接唱)唉盼得花燭共諧白髮,誰個願看花燭翻血浪,唉我誤君累你同埋孽網,好應盡禮揖花 燭深深拜,再合卺交杯墓穴作新房,待千秋歌讚註駙馬在靈牌上。


(世顯接唱)將柳蔭當做芙蓉帳,明朝駙馬看新娘。 (挑巾介)夜半挑燈有心作窺妝。



(長平接唱)合歡與君醉夢鄉。 (碰杯介)


(長平接唱)唉百花冠替代殮妝。 (一飲而盡介)


Posted by at 10:22 PM

Trully of http://www.italki.com/T008289060.htm
wrote the following. I had to repost it here since she has no access to this blog from Mainland China.Teacher Cat,
I read your excellent translation of “帝女花”. It’s really so neat! I have been falling in love with this Cantonese opera. Thanks to you,otherwise I couldn’t know such a beautiful opera! I had a thought afterr reading it. If you don’t mind I want to share it with you. ^ ^I think the flower here is not the true flower. “花黄” is a noun. It’s a kind of facial decoration of females in ancient times. “花黄” is also called as花子, 额黄, 鸭黄, 约黄and so on. It is made from glossy colorful paper, silk, mica, wings of cicada and dragonfly etc, which is dyed into golden, shiny red or green. It is cut in the shapes of flower, bird and fish, and affixed on the forehead, dimples, corners of mouth and temples of females. Females in ancient times also dyed their foreheads with goldon dye because of the inspiration they got from goldon buddha. “花黄” started to be popular in the Northern and Southern Dynasty. There are many versions about its original, but can’t be proved. It appeared in a famous poem (also is a folk song) “木兰辞”. Here is the sentence from that referring to it: 当窗理云鬓,对镜帖花黄. (Facing windows to comb my hair, affixing “花黄” before mirror.) This girl was making up then.

“花黄” was quite popular in Tang Dynasty. We can see many pictures of female affixing “花黄” in their faces of that time.

Here are the poems referring to it:

Website address:http://baike.baidu.com/view/761427.htm (There are two pictures about it.)   I think this line expresses the meaning that the shine of pearls on her wedding crown shine upon her “花黄”(or her charming but pale face). I quite agree with your translation of “looked pale”,I think she was sad and looked pale in her face at that situation.
It is my understanding about “花黄” appearing in this opera, maybe not right.^^Hope to communicate more about it with you. At last, I want to appreciate for your excellent translation again. Good day!
In my orignal interpretation, 花黃 means the paleness demeanor of the princess. The word yellow (黃) is used as a humility to refers to one’s wife as in “the yellow (withered) faced grandma”, 黃臉婆. So figuratively, the princess looks yellow (pale)compared to the brilliance of the jewels in her crown. This is understandable since she the day before she pleaded her taxing case in front of the new Manchu ruler.
Yes,it’s so pity that I can’t see your articles in time. I have a crosswall software, but it doesn’t work some times before. It makes me depressed. Look forward to seeing your new articles!
It’s very tricky to use metonymy here. Excellent!
I thought over may the 花 here be true, just like what you translated originally. I don’t know if 花黄 was still used at that time, but it is difficult to me to verify it in a short time. It needs so much historical knowledge! Finally, I decided to keep what I thought at first. I think it’s more poetic to treat it as facial decoration rather than true flower. ^ ^
TrullyJeff,I have another thought. 😛
Difficult it is for the Princess Consort to drink arsenic on this night of flowers and candles.I think“难为”here means that “I am so sorry to(that)…”. I think this line expresses the meaning that “I am so sorry that make you drink arsenic with me on this night of flowers and candles.” In the whole context,her emotion was complex.. On one hand, she was afraid her lover may wouldn’t like to go to Yellow spring with her at the beginning, on the other hand, when he expressed his thought she was so touched with the sacrifice he did for her, and felt sorry to make him kill himself.( He have the choice to choose not to.) This line expresses the pity that the princess felt. I don’t know if I express myself clearly. ^ ^

Anyway, they were destined to die. If they didn’t kill themselve, they would be killed one day when the new emperor think they are not useful to him. Even if the emperor wouldn’t like to do, his officers would force him to do that. It is 斩草除根. This is new emperor always did when new dynasty replace the old one. So cruel ,so bloody. 😦
倚殿陰森奇樹雙 In the shade of the forest by the palace yielded two wondrous trees.
You translated “奇樹雙” as two wondrous trees. When I saw 奇樹雙 at first sight, I remembered a kind of tree called 合欢树,but the trees here are not合欢树.They are camphor trees.  Why they are wondrous? The following are the lines in the first scene describing the these two trees.

“合抱”!It is a discription of personification. Their trunks stand quite close, their branches cross in the air. Look like they embrace firmly like lovers. That is the reason why they look wondrous, but I can’t read this layer of meaning in your translation. I think someone read this poem at first time and don’t read the whole script may be curious about why they are wondrous, so you maybe need a revision. ^ ^ Iwant to call they 双生树,which sounds poetic. I got the inspiration from the name of 双生花,do you know it? The trees’ branches cross in the air, like the lovers’ fate tired together firmly. What would you translate 双生树 as?

As husband and wife die, the trees will take on their forms11.

I think it uses a special usage of ancient Chinese language, which we call it 宾语前置. ( The objects generally follow verbs, but in ancient Chinese they precede verbs.) 树 is the object of 同 here. The sentence should be夫妻死去也同樹模样 in current Mandarin.
In this case, the line express that they will be right at sides of each other in the Yellow Spring( Wherever the princess is, her consort will be there, he will accompany with her all the time.) , their love will continue in the underground and their fate will go on being tired together as well. ( Like the trees accompany with each other, and their “fate” are tired.) It made me remind a saying “你若不离不弃,我必生死相依.”. It fit this situation so much!



What did you mean “the trees will take on their forms”? Did you mean the trees will be the same as before however whether the lovers die or not?
If you describe the form of trees at the fist sentence, you will find the first one and the last one are 呼应的(ehco?前后呼应 is usually used in accient poetry.)
I haven’t written down others thoughts yet. Hope to continue to discuss them with you. ^ ^ It’s time for me to sleep. Good night and Good moring to you.
nagging mouse


Your points are extremely well pointed out. What we had in mind are totally in agreement, just a different way of expressing it. You are translating more figuratively than my more literal interpretation. The trees because of their shapes are wondrous forms to the lovers. Wondrous also mean “extraordinary”. This is the meaning here. In my translation, I have two restrictions or constraints that I have to follow, to give an exact translation as possible without sacrificing the intent (for students learning the languages) and that it must sound plausible to English ears. Hence the need for many footnotes. At the same time, I am only translating the poetry without regard to the incidental background for more information. It is to make the reader more curious and to find out more detailed information.

My interpretation is that the princess and consort wish to be like in the forms of the lover trees when they die.

You are again correct on 难为 as sorry. However in English, the word does not sound poetic enough. Sounds too colloquial and slangy. Hence I use the word “difficult” instead.

I am cutting and pasting our discussion on my blog. It is really a shame that you can’t access it.

Yes, facial decorations are no longer in vogue by the Sung Era as one can see on the ancient paintings. The Sung times are more conservative than the Tang. The Ming is repressive and the Chings have their own non-Chinese fashion.

In translating poetry, it is like a striptease show, one cannot revealed everything but to let the reader imagine what is going on. Sometimes the images invoked are totally different from those of the poet. This is because of the terseness of the piece. Hence the need to have tons of footnotes.

洗耳聽後 🙂

Preface to Canton’s Number One Scholar

Monday, April 18, 2011

Copyright © 2011 – Jeff Loh. All rights reserved


Lun Mun Chui (Lun Wenxu, 倫文敍)

Born during the 3rd year of Ming Emperor Cheng Hua 成化 (1467) and died in the 8th year of Emperor Cheng Te 正德(1513), Lun Mun Chui was Canton’s first imperial Number One Scholar. In those days, the South where Canton is situated was considered a barbaric region even though they were brought into the fold of China proper during the Tang period several hundred years earlier. It was also a place to which disgraced officials were exiled. During the 12th year of Ming Emperor Hung Chi 弘治(1499), not only did Lun Mun Chui became first in the imperial exams, he was also selected as the Number One Scholar by the Emperor himself. The story goes that the results of the exams were so hotly contested that the chief examiner had to report the matter to the Emperor for a tie-breaker. Emperor Hung Chi personally witnessed a couplet-forming contest to decide who was to be the top dog.

When chief examiner Liang Chu (梁儲) heard a crow cawing in the nearby imperial gardens, he posed the following head couplet:

“A crow pounces on a twig, the twig snaps, the crow flew away and the twig dropped down.”1

There is no significance in English but just a picturesque setting. However, in the original language this becomes a different creature. In Chinese the crow is pronounced as “ah”, which has the same pronunciation as the word for twig. So the couplet heading becomes,

“An Ah pounces on an ah, the ah snaps, the ah flew away and the ah fell down”.

The other candidate, Lau Sin Hoi whose name means ‘the willow blooms first’ pounced quickly and completed the couplet first,

“The panther passes by a cannon’s mouth, the cannon roars, the panther fled and the cannon roared into the sky”2

The homophones are the words for panther and cannon. The pattern then is,

“The pao passes by a pao’s mouth, the pao roared, the pao fled and the pao roared into the sky”.

Our Number One Scholar-to-be then calmly replied,

“A goose stomps on chrysanthemum’s leaves, the chrysanthemum blossoms sway, the goose flew away and the chrysanthemum blossoms faced the Heaven”3.

Similarly the play is on the words for crane and chrysanthemum. On the surface it looked like it was a tie again. The replies from both candidates met the stringent rules of couplet forming. Liu Sin Hoi was bragging to everyone present that no matter how good Lun Mun Chui was, “I, Liu Sin Hoi am the better candidate. My roar will cower him and he will slink away in shame. My fame as the Number One Scholar shall rocket without obstruction into the sky.” A very ambitious and haughty boast indeed. However on closer analysis, his answer was a bit artificial and contrived because the presence of a passing panther suggests wildness. This makes one wonder why a cannon would be guarding in a remote area? Also ludicrous is the notion that panthers would pass close by the cannons when there are human beings so near.

The scenario painted by Lun Mun Chui is more plausible and its hidden meaning nobler without resorting to personal attacks. Corrupt officials are represented by the goose stomping on the people in this picture. Once they are removed (only the emperor can remove them), people then can rise and pay their love and respect truly to their sovereign. In another words, kissing the Emperor’s ass! The founder of the Ming Dynasty had great distrust and disdain for scholar officials since he had the humble beginnings of a peasant. The post of the prime minister was abolished and the emperor held that position personally. This was because of historical precedents of regicide happened in earlier dynasties.

Lun Mun Chui was an irascible rascal in his youth. Many a story was told time and again about his sassiness and trouble making. He was also a child prodigy and quick-witted as a demon. Though born from a poor family, as another story goes, he was able to secure money for his journey to the capital for the imperial examinations from his admirers. Never had the province of Canton ever produced a Number One Scholar and village elders were eager to help him in his enterprise. You see hometown compatriots of the Number One Scholar have bragging rights to build an imperial memorial arch to commemorate the prestigious event. In those days, these arches could only be built with imperial permission for such a special occasion and for commemorating great acts of virtuous widowhood, etc.

The full title of the book is “A Cantonese Story Demon Witted Lun Mun Chui”, a 1949 publication containing a set of five thin books. Unfortunately Book Four is missing from my collection. With luck perhaps I can obtain the contents of the missing book before this translation is finished. The book was written in a three style manner with semi-classical, standard vernacular and Cantonese colloquial style known as 三及. Other variations of the title include, “The Complete Tales of Lun Mun Chui” 倫文敍全傳/集.

Lastly a note on the pseudonym of the author, Uncle Chen (襯叔). Uncle is an euphemism for an elderly gentleman hence ‘Old Chen’. For astute Cantonese readers, ‘old Chen’ (老襯) is Cantonese slang for ‘sucker’. For those interested in reading the original text, I have included in the Notes section a set of explanations of the Cantonese terms used in the chapter. I hope this story, then, will also serve as a Cantonese lesson. Since I could not find anelectronic version on the internet, and character recognition software is as good as automatic translation, I decided to transcribe the original text manually. That way I was able to detect errors and make corrections easily. These corrections will appear in parenthesis in a different color or font, alongside the original text that I concluded was erroneous. Enclosed in square parenthesis i.e. [] is my translation not included in the original text to make things clearer without disrupting the flow of reading. This is a translation project for the entertainment of my non-Cantonese friends. It is greatly appreciated if any error found is brought to my attention.

Jeff Loh

Edited by the Jimbo
Thursday, April 07, 2011, Los Angeles, California, USA


The surname Lun (倫) means “normal human relationships” between the sovereign and subject, father and son etc. Mun (文) means language, culture, civilization etc, and Chui (敘) means “to narrate” or “discourse”. Lun is also a homophone for 論 meaning “to discuss”, “to debate”. So his name can mean “discussion on literary and human relationships”. The Five Bonds are, “Sovereign and Subject”, “Father and Son”, “Older and Younger Brothers ”, “Husband and Wife” and “Among Friends”.

1. 鴉撲丫枝, 丫折鴉飛丫落地

2. 豹經砲口, 炮響豹走炮沖天

3. 鵠立菊葉, 菊垂鵠去菊朝天. Other variations include 鵠掠穀穗,谷垂秸去谷朝天 – A goose plunders millet sprays, the valley swayed under the weight of grass, when the grasses are gone the valley faces heaven. The homophones are for the words ‘goose’, ‘millet’ (grains), ‘valley’ and ‘grass’. However I don’t think this version is correct because it violates couplet-forming rules because the head couplet plays only on the sounds of two different characters. A 鵠 can also mean a crane or a swan. I chose to translate it in this context as ‘goose’ because chrysanthemums and wild birds did not usually appear together in a natural setting of farming communes in ancient China.

Peach Blossom Girl Dueling Magic – Chapter 16 Final

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Copyright © 2010 – Jeff Loh. All rights reserved
In The Battle Of Wits, Blurry Is The Demarcation As Ying And Yang Fights1,
Finally In Enlightenment, Two Saints Return To Their Proper Places.
As Pang Jian detected a waft of fragrance, he followed Peach Blossom’s instructions of using three wooden stakes to knock at the great doors thrice, all the while yelling out her name,
“Peach Blossom!”
Then with his right foot he quickly kicked opened the doors with a great sound of “Wah!” coming from him. Meanwhile inside the house, the corpse of Peach Blossom Girl was being carried out of the bed chamber. Lord Chou’s heart was filled with glee. Smirking, he hurried from the rear and ordered,

“Quickly put the corpse into the coffin!”Peach Blossom’s soul was blocked by the Black Malignancy and was prevented from entering into her body through her orifices. When the Black Malignancy was startled by the sudden crashing of the main doors, Peach Blossom Girl’s soul at that moment of distraction quickly slipped into her corpse. As her vitality regained to full strength, she quickly jumped up and stood erect. The Six Gods of Ding and the Six Gods of Jia15-2 departed in a flash of light and returned to their proper places when they saw the Peach Fairy returned to life.

All the people were stiffened by fright on seeing Peach Blossom Girl’s corpse suddenly jump up into an upright position. Chaos and pandemonium ensued, with everyone running away quickly screaming,

“Oh my God!”13-4

Peach Blossom Girl glared menacing with her almond- shaped eyes at Lord Chou who was standing in a corridor. Great anger filled the depths of her heart and in a loud voice she berated,

“Chou Chien! We don’t have any reason to avenge for the deaths of our fathers. So why use such a venomous way to kill me? What can you do to me now?”

Lord Chou was goaded from embarrassment to anger when suddenly he lunged at Peach Blossom Girl with his Big Dipper Sword. Peach Blossom Girl quickly stepped back and muttered a counter control spell at the Black Malignancy. As she waved her two long sleeves at Lord Chou, she gave a great laugh. The Black Malignancy turned and leapt at Lord Chou instead. Even with his great powers, Lord Chou did not expect such a sudden turn of events. He was too late in evading the Black Malignancy…


And the sound of the Big Dipper Sword was heard clanging on the ground. As Lord Chou fell, he tried to mutter the incantation of returning the Black Malignancy but of no avail. He did not foresee the tricks hidden in Peach Blossom Girl’s sleeves and in this round he smacked right into the Black Malignancy and died instantaneously. This is really,

Play with fire you’ll get burnt,
In harming others you’ll harm yourself first.
Alas, all people in this world,
How many can understand this simple truth.

As Lord Chou dropped to the ground his face turned purple and his lips became green. Nary was a breath left in his mouth. All present were stunned into a stupor until women big and small cried out in pain,

“Our master must have been harmed by the evil magic of Miss Ren Peach Blossom. Don’t let her go! Quickly we must bring her before Grand Tutor Wen2 for justice!”

All this while Miss Heavenly Fragrance was moping in her room as her father had forbade her to speak of any leniency for Peach Blossom.

Peach Blossom Girl laughed lackadaisically at the women’s mutterings and icily she taunted them,

“Chou Chien tried to harm others but in the end, he was killed instead. All his fault! I’ll stand here and see what you all can do to me?”

In the meantime, Pang Jian had completed his mission and went inside in great haste. There were sobs and cries all over the place and he grew frightened. Hastening himself and in about three to five steps he was in the inner apartments. All he saw was chaos and everyone rambled in discussion. So confused he was until he espied Peach Blossom Girl standing tall in cold laughter that he went up to her in a congratulatory mood,

“My benefactress little sister, today all should be joyful in seeing you well and alive…”

But before he could finish his sentence, a crowd surrounded him and admonished,

“Old Master has been killed by this Peach Blossom Girl. Why all this small talk with her?”

Pang Jian was dumbfounded and quickly asked,


The crowd pointed over his shoulder and said,

“Can’t you see what’s over there?”

Pang Jian lifted his head and saw that Lord Chou had fallen to the ground. Quickly he put out his hand to feel Lord Chou’s nostrils. Indeed there was no breath. Pang Jian started to cry.

The crowd pushed,

“Already dead, no use crying. Must have a solution!”

Pang Jian stopped his cries and shouted at them,

“What solution? Yesterday he tried to harm others. First he had his own daughter killed and who saved her? It was the one he intended to harm. Still our master did not realize his error of his ways. Now it is his turn. Who’s to save him now?”

Pang Jian turned and knelt on the ground begging,

“My benefactress little sister, please have great pity and compassion to save a life. We all will be bounded in endless gratitude to you!”

Peach Blossom Girl propped Pang Jian up and counseled,

“Elder brother, don’t be like this. All these people here wanted to take me to Grand Tutor Wen’s place for justice. Beckon him here and I’m still not afraid!”

Pang Jian replied,

“We’re foolish people, my benefactress little sister, please give Pang Jian some thin face3. It’s best to save a life.”

The crowd too knelt down and pleaded aloud,

“Miss Ren, if you can save our Lord, all of us shall be in your gratitude for ten thousand generations!”

As Peach Blossom Girl saw them on their knees pleading in earnest and also to demonstrate her powers, she gave a partial smile and taunted,

“Oh ho, so now you are all not going to take me to see Grand Tutor Wen? I shall accede to Brother Pang’s golden face. No choice but I shall try to make an effort!”

The crowd began knocking their heads to the ground as she spoke and asked,

“How? Please instruct us!”

Peach Blossom Girl laughed coldly,

“Go and do as I had instructed you before about bringing me back to life. This time just shout out ‘Buddhist monk knife!’ instead and he will stir.”

Pang Jian asked,

“Why not call the master’s name but ‘Buddhist monk knife’?”

Peach Blossom Girl replied,

“This is the secret of Heaven, how would ye know? Go quickly and do as I had instructed! You’ll see your master return to life and witness my power!”

Pang Jian dared not question any further but went back to the main doors and did exactly as before, kicking at it while shouting out loud,

“Buddhist monk knife!”

Right then the soul of Lord Chou became enlightened, turned to face the corpse and jumped into it. Immediately Lord Chou regained consciousness and leapt up. Right before his eyes, was his arch nemesis, Peach Blossom Girl. Both became bloodshot with enmity. Quickly he reached for his Big Dipper Sword and lunged at Peach Blossom Girl shouting,

“Bitch! Don’t leave! You dare use the Arts of Malignancy to harm me? If I don’t destroy you today, a man I shall be no more!”

Peach Blossom girl unhurriedly took out her as-you-wish peach branch from her pouch and transformed it into a precious sword to parry, berating him at the same time,

“Chou Chien, you ingrate! Instead of thanking me for saving your life, you dare to harm me?”

With that another fearsome stroke of his sword come bearing down upon her. Peach Blossom Girl dodged away and with lightning speed her Peach Blossom Sword came thrusting at Lord Chou. One Ying, one Yang began their battle in the great hall.

On seeing how events were unfurling, Pang Jian cried,

“Mercy me!”

How can Pang Jian stop the fight with no weapon in hand? Quickly he ran to inform Miss Heavenly Fragrance who fainted dead right away. Then he ran to inform the Ren household…

Through the great doors and into the courtyard, Lord Chou and Peach Blossom Girl fought in a life-and-death manner. Unable to unleash their full power in such a small area they had no choice but to mount onto clouds and continue their duel in mid air. He came with a thrust and she went with a parry. Both parties assailed each other without mercy.

By now Ren Tai Kung had arrived at the Chou residence. Heavenly Fragrance came out to meet him and gave him an account of what had transpired. She could not help herself but break down in sorrowful sobs. Espying the sky they saw two persons mounted on colorful clouds locked in a deadly battle. Soon they drifted out of sight. The sound of deafening cries of a daughter for his father went unheeded – later, Ren Tai Kung and wife knew their daughter had returned to her proper divine station in heaven and heard how she resembled Peach Blossom Girl that the two old biddies took pity on Heavenly Fragrance. Using Pang Jian as intermediary they adopted her as their own. On her part she saw her father had been apotheosized and because she had lost her mother at an early age now without anyone to depend on and because of her friendship with Peach Blossom Girl, she agreed to the two old biddies’ grand gesture. She went over to the Ren household the next day to pay the proper respects to Ren Tai Kung and wife and became their companion. All affairs in Lord Chou’s household were left in charge to Pang Jian. These are later events.

Turning to the battling duo, the more they fought with each other, the more they were energized; demonstrating their powers and causing winds to turn into gales howling away. As thunder cracked, it caused great alarm to the Divine Sentries of Heaven. With each round, they battled with greater intensity and were approaching the vicinity of the Northern Gate of Heaven. The concerned Divine Sentries quickly reported the fighting to the Dark Warrior Emperor of the North. Upon opening his all-seeing and all-knowing eyes, all were seen and became known. The Tortoise and Snake Warriors were dispatched to bring the fighting duo before him.

Upon receiving their orders, the Snake and Tortoise Warriors blocked the way of the fighters and shouted in a booming voice,

“Cease all at once! By ye imperial orders of his most high Emperor! Ye are ordered to appear before his Holiness! Disobey and be whipped down from your clouds by these Celestial Lashers!”

The dueling duo heard the imperial Edict; they had no choice but to put away their weapons and followed the Snake and Tortoise Warriors into the August Halls of His Holiness. They fell on their knees and after making their obeisance, another Jade Edict came,

“Both ye belong to the world of immortals, for what reason must ye destroy each other? Chou Chien you are the reincarnation of the as-you-wish Buddhist Monk Knife and as a divine attendant boy, instead of following orders of watching the Eight Trigrams in the Tushita Palace, you secretly stole down to earth to divulge heavenly secrets causing Peach Blossom Girl to descend to the mortal world as well. Peach Blossom Girl is originally the scabbard for ye. Both of your natures are one and the same. Deviate not from this path! It is time now that your bodies of flesh and blood shall return to heaven. Here, a golden pill for each of you.”

They were ordered to swallow the pill and the Edict continued,

“Now that ye had partaken of the pills, ye will feel strange at first. If the pill does not dissolve in thy bellies within three quarters of an hour even indestructible bodies will putrefy into pools of pus!”

When the pronouncement was done a Seven Star4 Pennant was unfurled and the two were wrapped inside it. At Mt. Wudang5 they became the Chou and Peach Marshals. With a divine light they were forced apart to stand erect at the right and left sides. His Holiness then waved the Seven Star Pennant continuously for seven times and with a divine breath blew at the two Marshals who then took their divine light away and had their flesh and blood bodies returned to their proper places.

That very night, Taoist priest Yeh of the Mt. Wudang had a dream. In his dream he saw two Marshals askng him to relay letters to their familes. When he woke up and came into the main hall, he saw two extra divine Marshals standing in the temple hall; each emanating in a blinding light of divinity. The priest was taken aback. At their feet were two letters and with addressees clearly written on the envelopes. He quickly took them but dared not open them. The very next day he made his obeisance to the Dark Warrior Emperor of the North and the two golden bodies of the Marshals before traveling to the city of Morning Song. He located Lord Chou’s residence without difficulty and explained his presence to the gatekeeper who in turn reported to Pang Jian immediately, handing the letter to him when he came out. The priest was thanked with a reception for his troubles. Afterwards, Pang Jian went with the priest to see Ren Tai Kung, his wife and Miss Heavenly Fragrance. Each of them tore off the envelope of their respective letters to see the messages. Nothing much was said except for the need of the two families to be in harmony, words of consolation, that they had been apotheosized and that their divinity will never vanish.

After some time, together with Priest Yeh, they travelled to Mt. Wudang to offer incense. They made obeisance first to the Dark Warrior Emperor of the North before coming before the Marshals. Their golden countenance and facial appearance looked exactly the same as when they were mortals. After prayers were offered, they gave the priest a hundred taels of gold as expenses for offerings made to the two Marshals. With that they left for their homes. Very soon the news of these two new Marshals began to spread and reached the ears of the imperial court at Morning Song. Every official was in awe and many prayed to the Marshals in earnest as their prayers were answered. Two poems attest to this story:

Poem 1:

What you do, Heaven knows,
Speak not of reasons for your grievances.
The good and wicked will get their just rewards,
Able to lift your head three feet high you’ll get the respect from the Gods.

Poem 2:

Ten thousand things all planned by Heaven,
When the time comes, all planning by mortals go to waste.
Human greed never sated, like the snake trying to swallow the elephant6
Learn from the Sages with all one’s heart.
Except for wishful thinking none a cure for dissatisfaction,
The only thing money cannot buy is to become a God.
One can only sigh at the harshness of this world,
No matter how wicked it is, resolve is in my heart never to do evil.

18 Nov 2010


1. The lines of the Ying and Yang are clearly defined and marked. It describes how furious the battle must be in order for these two primal forces to collude into blurriness.

2. Grand Tutor Wen 聞太師 was the imperial tutor to the evil King Chou (紂王) of the Shang Dynasty. Finally we have confirmation of when the story took place. In the beginning, all we know was that the King of the Shang Dynasty was not too virtuous a ruler but the text did not identify him. Since the Grand Tutor is living in the city, we can safely assume that he had not been ordered to quell the rebellion in the North Sea when the Nine Tail Vixen came to befuddle the King and cause the demise of the dynasty. For more information see the “Tale of the Investiture of Gods” – 封神演義. I was stumped for over 20 years in trying to translate a term in a poem in the first chapter until the event of the Internet. Then again I was stuck in trying to find information on another obscure reference with no success. Hopefully I will be able to do so after this experience in translating this story. There is already an English translation but it omits out all the poems and explanations. I didn’t think it was a scholarly piece of work.

3. This face giving or saving is an Asian cultural aspect that is beyond the scope of discussion in these mere footnotes. For more info please see


4. The seven stars representing the Big Dipper.

5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wudang_Mountains

In the movie, Crouching Tiger and Hidden Dragon, this is the place where the heroine committed suicide by leaping to her death off the cliffs. This is also the place where the famous Golden Hall is located; one part of the Supreme Harmony Temple (太和宫). Built entirely of gilded copper with an incredible 20 tons of fine copper and 300 kilograms of gold, the hall is one of the biggest gilded copper temples in China.

Original Text

桃花女陰陽鬥傳 第十六回







此時天香小姐因見父親不准他講情,哭得哀哀切切,回歸自己房去了。桃花女聽了眾人之言,徐徐冷笑曰:“周乾害人不死,反自損命,是他自取之禍也!我在此處,看你們怎樣拿法?”又說彭剪作完了事,飛奔進內,忽聽得哭泣之聲,心下大驚,三五步跑至內堂,只見眾人亂紛紛的,不知嘈雜什麼。只見桃花女站在那裡冷笑,即忙上前呼喚:“恩妹今日人人喜得你不死……”,說話還未完,眾人即便上前圍住,說道:“公爺已被桃花女制治死了,還與他說什麼閒話?”彭剪聽了駭然,忙問道:“果是否?”眾人指上首曰:“那面你看是否?”彭剪抬頭一看,見周公身倒地中,去用手一抹,口中無氣。便放聲哭泣起來。眾人解勸曰:“既死,不必哭了,還須出個主意!”彭剪止了哭,言道:“出什麼主意?他前日要害人,今日又要害人,先把自己女兒害死,又得被害之人救活了,他又不知醒悟。今日輪到自己,還求那個?”只得翻身向桃花女,跪在他跟前呼:“恩妹,你今再發慈悲之心救活,眾人感恩不淺!”桃花女忙把彭剪扶起,道:“兄長不必如此,眾人竟要拿我去聞太師處。你們即請聞太師到來,我也不怕!”彭剪曰: “他們俱是愚人。恩妹看彭剪的薄面,搭救才好。”說罷,又要跪下去。眾人也便一齊跪下,高叫:“任小姐,若肯救活公爺,我等感恩萬代!”




任太公此時已到周家。天香小姐出來相見,把話說了一遍,不覺放聲痛哭。俱仰面朝天觀看。見他二人擁著彩雲,在半空中苦爭惡戰,越鬥越遠,漸漸不見了。哭兒叫父之聲振耳,他二人全然不顧。 ——到後來,任太公夫妻見女兒歸了神位,見天香與女兒相貌一般,聽得彭剪說他女兒甚是相得,任太公兩老有憐惜之意,就教彭剪去說,認天香為女。這天香小姐見父親成神,早年失母,無人依靠,聽得任太公夫妻如此美意,又想桃花女之情,即日親到任家拜見太公夫妻。他便留住天香小姐作伴。周公的家事,就是托交彭剪料理。此是後事。