Da Mo Yao Chapter 1: The Past

I don’t think loving Da Mo Yao ย (Ballad of the Desert)ย more than Bu Bu Jing Xin is making a statement about which novel I think is better. I’m merely stating which novel I connected with more, and it’s easily DMY all the way. DMY is the Yang to BBJX’s Yin. I love how Tong Hua’s writing style really matches her story scope and narrative. DMY feels passionate and powerful, akin to the desert plains and the sweeping vistas. Whereas BBJX was written with such attention to detail and hidden emotional nuance, like the vast labyrinth of the Forbidden Palace where the story is set. I prefer the former, even if I think the characters in DMY are written less flesh and blood and more epic and wondrous.

I suppose DMY is my personal catnip because it feels like a Louis Cha novel but written by a woman, so the emotional cadences are perfected and the romance is physical rather than just cerebral. Summarizing the novel is going to be a daunting undertaking so I’ll have to see where it goes. My chapter posts are primarily direct translations of the text and dialogue, with some summarizing in instances where the dialogue isn’t very unique and is more exposition. Otherwise, I aim to preserve the original flavor of the novel, a story about a man who dares to love and a girl who gives everything to love him back.

Chapter 1: The Past

The days pass as fast as the nightly desert winds, a moment becomes a thousand miles. It was supposed to be a brief respite after being injured, but the grass on the plains have wilted three times already and the leaves in the Hu Yang Forest have fallen three times already. Three years, over a thousand some days and nights, accompanying the wolf pack wandering from the North of the desert to the South, and then back up to the North again. Within the happy playing, I’ve almost never left the wolf pack. The six years spent with Papa appears to be buried underneath the yellow sand. Except…..it is but an appearance.

In the dark night, when all is quiet, next to the fire I sit with Brother Wolf. He’s already deep asleep but I have not one whit of sleep in me. During the day, I glimpsed the Xiong Nu army, the first time in three years. Unexpectedly, under the thundering hooves of the horses, it awakened the buried past of years ago.

Nine years ago, Xi Yu desert.

A person lies in the desert. I stare at his eyes, he stares back at me. A lizard crawls over his face. He doesn’t stir. I curiously use my paws to swat his face, but he still doesn’t stir. But the corner of his mouth turns down, like he’s smiling.

I investigated from sun up til sun down, finally realizing why he doesn’t move. He’s dying of thirst.

Even today I do not understand why I saved him? Why give him the sheep I worked hard to capture? Why did I find myself a Papa? Is it because his eyes has something that seems familiar, yet also unfamiliar? After feeding him fresh blood, he regained his strength, and then did the proverbial thing people are said to do – metaphorically stabbed me in the back he did. He used a rope to secure me and took me away from the Gobi desert where I lived with the wolf pack, bringing me into a tent where humans live.

He drank the fresh blood of the sheep, but forbade me from drinking blood or eating raw meat. He forced me to walk upright, forced me to learn to talk like him, forced me to call him “Papa”. For this I fought with him often, but he was never afraid. After every fight I would try to run away, and he would capture me back.

The torture was hard to endure. I didn’t know why he treated me this way. Why force me to be a human being? Is there anything wrong with being a wolf? He told me – I am a human, not a wolf, so I can only be a human. Once I started to write, I understood a bit about my past. I was a lost or abandoned orphan that was raised by the wolf pack, who treated me like a baby wolf, yet he is trying to turn me back into a human.

“I won’t comb anymore!” I screamed as I threw the brush down. I was so angry I wanted to take it out on something. My arms are tired and still my hair is a mess and I can’t make a simple braid. Initially I was excited to look at how pretty I looked by the edge of the river, but the ever messier hair left me with only a belly full of frustration.

A bright clear day, there was only one average sized cow by the river banks drinking water. I eyed the black cow and then walked behind it, delivering a huge kick to its flank hoping to shove it into the water. The cow moo’d but didn’t move. I wasn’t done with it so I kicked it again. With a flick of a tail and a head turned to look at me, I realized something was wrong. I found the wrong outlet for my frustration. The cow was a rock, and I was the egg.

I decided to go first and unleashed a wolf howl, hoping to scare it away. Usually when I did this, the horses and sheep would run away scared. But the cow just turned and pointed its horns at me, spitting mad. The second it started to move, I turned and ran with a scared scream. I finally understood why people used the phrase “bull temper” when chiding stubborn people.

I felt my butt hurt but I had no time to worry, turning left and right……

“Brother Cow, I was wrong, please stop chasing me. I would never dare kick you again, I’ll only pick on the sheep from now on.” I was exhausted but the cow kept chasing. “Stupid cow, I warn you, don’t think I’m just a lone wolf right now, I have a lot of companions. When I find my companions, we’ll eat you.” My threats didn’t work, leaving me crying as I kept running.

Running out of breath, I said “If you….harm……me…..my…..my Papa will cook you, so please…..stop chasing….chasing me.”

My words seems to have worked, as two people walked by, one of them Papa. I ran towards him, the first time he’s seen me wanting him as I reached my hands out and ran into his embrace. He grabbed me before realizing the cow was almost upon us. It was too late to dodge, when the other man suddenly stepped in front of Papa and faced the cow.

I stared wide eyed as the cow charged him, but with lightning quick reflexes he grabbed the cow’s horns and immobilized it. The cow tried to push forward but the man held his ground. I stare and thought to myself – if he was a wolf, he would be the leader of the wolf pack.

Papa held me and moved me aside. He smilingly complimented the man “Often hearing of my Lord’s title as the number 1 warrior of the Xiong Nu tribe, now I know the honor is well-deserved.” The young man smiled “Just a little brawn is all, used only to defeat a small cow. How can it compete with Teacher’s vast knowledge?”

The young man watched as I struggled out of Papa’s grasp. Papa said “All I know are the dead knowledge in books. My Lord has already learned more from the world.”

I walked over to the young man and kicked the cow “Chasing me? Still want to chase? Huh, huh? Kick you twice, for chasing me until I almost died.”

The tamed cow started to stir and Papa grabbed me again, apologizing to the young man. “This is my little girl. She’s got a willful temper. Apologies for creating problems for my Lord.”

When Papa wanted me to bow, I stood there and stared, I was too young then to assess a person’s looks, but facing someone that handsome was something even I could easily comprehend. I stared for a long while before blurting out “You are so good looking. Are you the most handsome man in the entire Xiong Nu tribe? But Yu Dan is also good looking. I wonder if he’s as grown up as you, he will be as handsome as you?”

He lightly coughed twice and with a small smile sneaked a quick peek at Papa. He turned to manage the cow, while Papa quickly apologized for not teaching me proper manners. He let the cow go and turned to see Papa covering my mouth with one hand while restraining me with the other, while I tried to kick at him.

He shot Papa an understanding look “This is surely more difficult than taming a furious cow.” How dare he compare me to a cow! I glared at him which only made him laugh. He told Papa “Since Teacher has pressing things to take care off, I shall be off.”

Once he left, Papa dragged me back to the tent. I thought he would horse whip me like I’ve seen parents do to kids here on the plains. But instead he took out a comb and made me sit down. “Hair flying everywhere. The Lord might not be the best looking man in the Xiong Nu tribe, but right now you are surely the ugliest girl on the plains.”

I immediately stilled and looked in a mirror. “Uglier than that old grandma who lost all her teeth we saw a few days ago?” “Yes.” “Uglier than the fat woman who could barely walk?” “Yes.” I stared at myself in the mirror, caked with dirt, hair everywhere, as scraggly as can be. The only thing nice was a pair of shining eyes.

Papa washed my face and braided my hair. “Let’s braid two braids. I’ll do one, and you can learn from me and do the other. Once we are done, you’ll be the prettiest girl I have ever seen.”

………………….

The embers started popping, startling me awake. Brother Wolf stretched and then flopped back down. I patted his back and let my mind slip back into the past. That year I was perhaps 7 or 8 years old and had just started living with Papa for one year. That was the day I learned to braid my hair, and it was also the day I first met Yi Zhi Xie. A good friend of my Papa’s, the uncle to the Crown Prince Yu Dan, the younger brother to the Shan Yu (the Leader of the Xiong Nu tribe). Because he often came to see Papa, we became very familiar with each other. He would take me along every time he went hunting.

………………….

Papa won’t let me attend the banquet unless I memorized the “State Manual”. I chewed my nails and asked Papa why he doesn’t just go teach Yu Dan, since Yu Dan is his student. Or have Yi Zhi Xie memorize it, which he would love because he loves reading Han books. I only like to hunt. Papa glared at me, so I shot back “Yu Dan doesn’t ask me to address him as Crown Prince. And Yi Zhi Xie says I can address him by his name. Why can’t I?”

Papa sighed and explained to me that these are the strictures of this world. They can address me directly, but I need to speak to them respectfully. In the wolf pack, little wolves also need to respect the older wolves. Yu Dan is 4-5 years older than me, and Yi Zhi Xie is 7-8 years older. I need to respect them.

I realized he made sense this time so agreed to address them as Crown Prince and my Lord. But I still didn’t want to memorize the book today, I wanted to attend the banquet and eat roasted lamb meat. Dad took my hand out of my mouth and wiped it. “You’re almost 10 yet you refuse to grow up. His Lord was already on the battlefield when he was your age.”

I boasted that he couldn’t beat me when we chased rabbits together. But I remembered my promise to him and clapped my mouth shut. “I promised I wouldn’t tell otherwise he won’t take me out playing anymore. Please don’t let him know.” Dad smiled and brought up the “State Manual”. I called him a villain and tromped off to memorize it.

Dad was called away by the Dan Yu, and immediately I ran outside to have fun. I found Yi Zhi Xie sitting by the slope and tip-toed over to scare him. When I got close, he suddenly lunged over and grabbed me, scaring me. I laughed and held him by the neck. “Yi…..my Lord, why are you here? I heard you are getting married and tonight’s banquet is for you.”

Yi Zhi Xie held me on his lap, asking if my Papa lectured me on proper manners, always forgetting that the Xiong Nu don’t care about such formalities. He confirmed he was getting a lady wife. I looked at his face and asked why he wasn’t happy? “Isn’t she the only daughter of a great general and everyone wants her? If Yu Dan wasn’t so young, the Shan Yu will surely have married her to him.”

He smiled “Silly girl, pretty isn’t everything. I’m not happy or unhappy.”

“Papa says a married couple spends a lifetime together. I want someone good looking when I get married.” I looked at his chiseled face carefully. “At least it can’t be someone worse than you.” Yi Zhi Xie laughed and tapped my cheeks “How old are you, already itching to leave your Papa?”

My smile froze, he and Yu Dan know how old they are, but I don’t. I’m probably 9 or 10 years old right now, but there is no way to be certain. Yi Zhi Xie thinks it’s a good thing, what others have no control over, I can choose for myself. I got excited “Yes, Yes, I can decided how old I am! I want to be 10, so I can make Mu Da Duo call me older sister.”

He smiled and patted my head, turning to look towards the distance. I wanted to go hunting rabbits but he didn’t agree readily as before. I asked what he was looking at, but he instead asked me what was due South East of here.

I named the sheep, the mountains, the Gobi Desert, then finally the Han kingdom, homeland to Papa, who says it’s very beautiful there. Yi Zhi Xie remarked that the Xiong Nu lands are also quite beautiful. While the Han dynasty is nothing special, the current Han Emperor is someone special. I wondered if he was better looking than Yi Zhi Xie?

Yi Zhi Xie lamented being born a few years too late. He can only watch the Han dynasty continue to expand, little by little encroaching ever close to the Xiong Nu lands. General Wei Qing already is a headache. If a few more powerful generals emerge, with the power hungry drive of the current Emperor, the Xiong Nu tribe may one day be eliminated.

I looked East, and then back at him. I didn’t say anything, just put my hand in my mouth to chew on my nails. I just looked at him as he lightly touched my eyes and his hands stopped at my lips. He smiled “I hope in a few years, you will understand what I am saying, and will still be willing to sit by my side and listen to me talk.”

He took my hand out and wiped it with his sleeve. He pulled me up and said “I have to go back to prepare for tonight’s banquet.” I decided to go find Yu Dan to watch this afternoon’s archery competition, hoping I don’t run into Papa.

I hold a platter with a lamb’s head and kneel before Yi Zhi Xie. Somehow my actions have transformed the formerly merry banquet into total silence. The Shan Yu pretends to smile, Papa looks torn, Yu Dan looks upset, and finally I peek at Yi Zhi Xie. His brows tighten for a second before his face is suddenly expressionless, but his eyes are warm. My shaking hands stop trembling under the eyes of everyone staring at me.

Yi Zhi Xie explains that I have never seen the power of the Shan Yu in action, so of course I will assume a small falcon is a great eagle. He announces that the biggest hero in the Xiong Nu today is surely Yu Dan, who didn’t miss a single target in today’s archery competition. He takes the lamb platter from me, giving me a wink, and goes to kneel before Yu Dan. He lowers his head and presents the platter to him.

Everyone claps and laughs, complimenting Yu Dan as having the prowess as a young Dan Yu did. Everyone goes up to toast him. Yu Dan, with Yi Zhi Xie still kneeling before him, takes a knife and slices off a piece of the lamb and pops it in his mouth. From beginning to end, Yi Zhi Xie humbly kneels before him with his head bowed. The Shan Yu finally smiles and goes to help Yi Zhi Xie up. The two share a toast.

I was the only one who didn’t smile during the entire proceeding. I was huddling next to Papa, watching something I didn’t fully understand. If it wasn’t for my thoughtlessness, Yi Zhi Xie would not have to kneel before everyone, bow his head to someone younger and smaller than him.

Papa cheered me up, telling me to go memorize the “State Manual” and understand what I did wrong today, and learn to avoid such actions in the future. He thinks he also failed in teaching me.

I don’t know how to ride so I can’t go far to play. The only two people who dared to disobey Papa’s rule and take me out to play – one I am avoiding because I did something wrong to him, the other is mad at me and won’t come find me.

I saw Yu Dan by the river banks and ignored him to go play on the other side. He warned me to stay away from the banks in case I fall in since I can’t swim. I walked into the river a few steps, leading Yu Dan to angrily pull he out. I yelled “Just because you are afraid and can’t swim, I’m not afraid.”

Yu Dan laughed “I’m the one who should be upset, but here you are yelling at me.” I remembered what happened that day and felt some guilt. Yu Dan selected me to present the lamb head. But instead of presenting it to the Shan Yu, I presented it to Yi Zhi Xie. It upset the Shan Yu and caused trouble for my hero. I lowered my head and didn’t speak.

Yu Dan grabbed my hand “If you’re not angry anymore, let’s go play.” I tempered my smile but nodded my head. We held hands and started to run.

……………………….

When I was 10 years old, because of Yi Zhi Xie, it was the first time I understood the books Papa made me memorize every day. It was my first time observing the Shan Yu, Yi Zhi Xie, and Yu Dan. I started to realize that they were the closest of kin, but also could one day become what the Han books call kin killing kin.

……………………….

Yi Zhi Xie’s wife combs her hair and asked her husband if he likes the new Han style. Yi Zhi Xie places a flower in the new hairdo and compliments her, which makes her blush. I furrowed my brows and let out a sigh, turning to leave. Suddenly a female voice called out “Who is there?” Yi Zhi Xie immediately calls out “Yu Jin, come inside.”

I stood outside until I could force a happy face on before walking into the tent. I bowed to his lady wife, which caused a sliver of shock to pass over Yi Zhi Xie’s face. She asked how he knew I was outside. “She’s the only one going from tent to tent, the soldiers see her and don’t mind. Other than her, who else can eavesdrop outside?”

She invites me to visit with the Shan Yu’s wife to learn new Han hair designs and other such fun stuff. I decline, claiming I have no such talent to learn such skills, preferring just to chase rabbits. She smiles and pecks me on the cheek for being so sweet despite having heard rumors of my bad temper. She flounces off by herself after stating that Yi Zhi Xie is too busy to take me out hunting today. After she leaves is when I raise my hand to wipe where she kissed me.

Yi Zhi Xie looks at me and shakes his head with a smile. I let out a sigh and turn to leave when he gets up and asks me to wait. He grabs my hand “I still have some time to go out for a walk.” He drags me along as we walk higher up the cliffs. “I haven’t seen you in a long time. When I visit your Papa you are nowhere to be found. Did you make up with Yu Dan?” I nod my head, then shake it.

“Did you two get in a fight? You should use that fake act you just put on with Yu Dan. I’m sure you’ll get him all happy again” Yi Zhi Xie teases me.

I think to myself. Everyone knows how loving you are to your wife after the wedding. I don’t want you to be in a bind, so I purposely am nice to her. But why are you like this? Is it true you are only nice to her because her father holds the control over the army? Or to make her happy, you don’t care about what you used to like. “You are also fake, knowing you don’t like the Han hairstyle but lying that you do.”

He sits down and pulls me to sit next to him. He stares at me for a while and lets out a sigh. “Yu Jin, you’re starting to grow up.”

I grabbed my knees and also let out a sigh. “Were you really hurt that night? It was all my fault. I’ve listened to Papa and started reflecting.” Yi Zhi Xie stares off into the distance with a small smile, neither answering that he was hurt or not hurt. I stared at his profile, trying to figure it out.

“Why did you fight with Yu Dan this time?” I refused to answer. “Why are you so missish all of a sudden?” I bit my lips, “Yu Dan said that you only take me out to play because of Papa, is that true?”

He lowered his head and laughed, while I stared anxiously waiting for his response. He just kept laughing. I grew enraged so he coughed to control his laughter. He stared at me for a good long while before he suddenly lowered his head and whispered in my ear “because of your eyes.” When he stared at me, he stared so intently it was like everything he hid inside himself bubbled forth. It was intense, but I didn’t understand.

My eyes? I suspiciously rubbed my eyes and thought about it. But I still didn’t understand. But at least the worry in my heart was eased. I laughed. As long as it’s not because of Papa. All I want is someone who is nice to me because of me.

…………………….

My heart clenched, sighing as I rested my face on my knees. Stupid Yu Jin. Yi Zhi Xie could woo his lady wife, why can’t he do the same thing to make the very silly me happy? Perhaps Yu Dan was right and I just refused to listen to him. Papa also foolishly trusted Yi Zhi Xie. It turns out that the hot-tempered rash Yu Dan was the most clear-headed amongst us all. Yu Dan, Yu Dan……the moon is going down as the embers in the fire. Looking at the red flames that aren’t very hot, it was like the sun the day Yu Dan took me to dig for birds nests.

……………………

I list out all the books Papa wants me to memorize. How can I possibly memorize all that even in my entire lifetime? Why do I need to spend my days memorizing this stuff about court politics and warfare? Yu Dan comes to find me and I quickly drop my book and bound out of the tent, asking where he’s taking me to play. I remember too late and have to add a courtesy afterwards. Yu Dan hits me on the head and reminds me they don’t adhere to such formal gestures like the Han people do. He doesn’t want me to learn from Papa and become a silly woman. I hit him back on the head, reminding him that his mom is a Han woman, so does that make her silly?

Yu Dan holds my hand and we take off running. He considers her a Xiong Nu once she married a Xiong Nu man. He pulls me up on the horse and we ride together, with him wondering why Papa doesn’t allow me to learn to ride a horse. I explain how I used to always try to run away, how could he dare let me learn to ride a horse. Now Papa probably thinks my time is best spent reading.

Yu Dan smiles and says “My royal father says I can marry next year, asking if I liked the daughter of a Lord. I want to ask him to let you be my Queen.” I shook my head “Nope. When I grow taller and learn more martial arts skills, I want to travel the world. Plus the Shan Yu and my Papa will surely not agree to let me marry you. You are the Crown Prince, and will be the Shan Yu one day. That Lord’s daughter is suitable to be your wife.”

Yu Dan stops the horse and carries me off “I can beg my royal father. Once you marry me, you will be the Xiong Nu Queen and can go anywhere you want. No one will stop you and no one will force you to study.” I counter with the fact that his mother never travels and doesn’t appear to smile much or seem particularly happy. The Han book says that despite being the ruler, one cannot do as one wishes. Yu Dan huffs that people are silly and he’ll do as he wishes.

I ask if he thinks Yi Zhi Xie is silly, because he spoke about a man learning to endure the vagaries of life. Yu Dan glared at me and then tromped off, muttering “Yi Zhi Xie, Yi Zhi Xie, humph!” “Why are all of you complimenting him – he’s smart, strong, brave…..” I laugh and tease him about being jealous. Yu Dan’s smile is cold as he says “What do I have to be jealous about? One day he will bow each time he sees me.”

I startle and grab his hand “Please don’t be mad. I didn’t say he was better than you. He has his strengths and you have yours. Right now you are not any less great than he is, and in the future you will surely surpass him.”

Yu Dan’s anger turns into a smile “Let’s stop talking about him, I brought you here to play, not to discuss him.”

We walk through the bushes making no noise when we hear a noise nearby. We see something that stops us in our tracks. It’s Papa and Yu Dan’s mom, sitting next to each other, faces pale, with Yu Dan’s mother crying. She leans her head on Papa’s shoulder and continues to cry. I wanted to ask why she isn’t crying to the Shan Yu when Yu Dan grabs my hand and tries to drag me away. Papa hears the noise and we show ourselves. Papa gives me a sad look while Yu Dan’s mother just stares at us for a few moments before walking away.

I ask about why everyone is staring and to explain what is going on. Papa opens his mouth to explain when Yu Dan lets go of my hand and runs off. Papa takes my hand and leads me away while I continue to pester him with questions about what just happened. Papa sighs, explaining that what is between a man and a woman is not something I can understand right now. I argue that if he doesn’t explain, I’ll never learn.

Papa leads me to the banks of the lake and we sit down. He explains that he and Yu Dan’s mom knew each other since they were young. She was just the daughter of an official, while he was an man who was eager to establish himself. When I ask why she didn’t marry Papa and instead became the Shan Yu’s wife, Papa ruefully wonders whether to tell the long or the short of it.

Back then, the Han dynasty could not defeat or conquer the Xiong Nu, so they elected to inter-marry to preserve the tentative peace. But the royal family did not want to sacrifice their own princesses, so they selected the most beautiful and talented daughters of the court officials and crowned them princesses before marrying them off to the Xiong Nu. Papa explained that he was too weak to take her to run away, and she couldn’t abandon her parents to great dishonor and betrayal. So she married the Shan Yu, who did not know how to appreciate her. So she was just crying for her fate in life.

Papa sighed, wishing they were born a few years later, at this juncture when the current Han Emperor is on the throne. Perhaps everything would be different. His words triggered my memory of two years ago, sitting with Yi Zhi Xie before his engagement banquet. He wished then to be born a few years earlier, to be able to fight the current Han Emperor and determine a victor and a loser rather than watching the Hans continue to expand their empire into the Xiong Nu lands. One wanted to be born later, one wanted to be born earlier.

Papa asks if I understood and I truthfully reply that I understand about half of it. I got the politics part, but don’t understand why Yu Dan was so mad back there. I promise Papa I will try to calm Yu Dan down. I then asked “Papa, in making me read all those books, is it because you don’t want me to become only a flower?” Papa nods, he doesn’t know if he’s doing the right thing, he only knows that Yu Dan’s mother learned all the female arts but continues to suffer. I promise Papa that I will never be a pampered flower. I want to be a great big tree, so that no one can make me suffer.

Papa rubbed my head “Your personality really isn’t like that (a flower). Because you’re so direct, I want you to learn to think carefully and observe people. To learn to strategize or else your stubbornness will lead you to be unable to endure and can’t protect yourself. I would rather throw you back to the wolf pack in that case.”

I mutter that I don’t want to be a person, but Papa laughs that I’m already a person and can’t even go back to being a wolf. Papa stares out onto the water “One day when Yu Dan becomes the Shan Yu, I’ll take you back to the Central Plains (Han territory). As my daughter you can’t stay here in the Xiong Nu too long. I only taught you to read and write Han characters, refusing to allow you to learn Xiong Nu for this reason. She….she will become the Dowager Queen and live well. Yu Dan will take good care of her.”

I wonder why he won’t marry her then? She can just get remarried. Papa sighs “A moment’s missed chance is a lifetime’s missed chance. A person’s life will have numerous instances where you won’t be able to turn back and get another chance.” I keep asking why not get another chance but Papa wants me to ask him again when we return to the Central Plains and I’ve grown up. He pulls me home to do more homework otherwise no dinner for me.

It wasn’t even a year later when the current Shan Yu died in an accident………

I suddenly stand up and take a few deep breaths. I stare at the sun rising from the East. So it is that I still can’t think about the past without feeling a stabbing pain of hurt. The past is like the dying embers on the ground, all that remains is black dust. But if you want to sweep it away immediately, it will still burn your hands. But one day it will cool down.

Papa’s last words to me still resonate in my ears. “Yu Jin, Papa apologizes to you. I thought I would keep watch over you until you married and had kids. But now…..now Papa cannot return to the Central Plains with you. You must get back by yourself. This time you are the rabbit and they are the wolves. You have to escape and run with all your might. Once you escape back to the Central Plains you will be safe. You must live well, promise Papa. No matter what you encounter, you have to try hard to survive and live as happily as possible. Papa’s only wish is for you to live well.”

The sun happily bounds up and shines over the plains. I turn my face to the bright light and exclaim “Papa, I am doing well and am very happy. You and Yu Dan’s mom need to also be happy. And Yu Dan, you as well.”

Papa never let me be a wolf, always wanting me to return to the Central Plains. But I needn’t escape to the Central Plains to be safe. In this vast Xi Yu territory, no one can catch the me of today. Not even Yi Zhi Xie, the Xiong Nu tribe’s current Shan Yu.

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Comments

Da Mo Yao Chapter 1: The Past — 81 Comments

      • there is. It is you can see this drama at Kissasian. But then again, your comment is like 2 years ago LOL! Oh well, it is for other people who doesn’t know where they could watch drama at. Kissasian is just one of many, but for me, it is the best site to watch at.

  1. Koala,

    I like the first chapter a lot. It introduces our heroine in a very whimsical way, but we already get a glimpse of her adult character. Knowing Tong Hua and how she presents her characters, I can imagine that all the male characters are deeper and more calculating than they seem. Keep up the good work.

    • facinating kid….talking to cow is rather something I would do to keep me in harms way…so I guess I’m whimsical in character too…man this is long Koala has lot of patience

  2. I started ready the novel online yesterday and I could not stop.. Thanks so much for translating it… i am not very fluent in simplified chinese since i learnt the traditional version.. so it’s actually hard for me to read it and i read it rather slow…

    i read the first chapter yesterday so it’s still very clear in my mind.. and thanks koala.. i think your translation is excellent and capture everything in the chinese version.. your translation actually gave me a more clear understanding on what’s going on.. shame on me for being a chinese that prefer to read in english… anyway.. what i like about the chapter 1 is a nice summary on how our heroine from growing up with wolves and “trained” to be a human by his adopted papa… and how she has to escape and eventually back to her “root” so to speak in the next chapter… I still kind of confused about Yi Zhi Xie feeling towards Yu Jin… is it love? what do u think? I am still not sure at this point because Yi Zhi Xie is such ambitious and calculated man.

    I am looking forwards to your translation! Thanks!

  3. thank you so much! this is building up my anticipation for the drama! I agree that certain books give you more of a connection than others ๐Ÿ™‚ THANK YOU once again!!!

  4. all i could mutter after reading “huh? he became the dan yu?”

    thanks so much for sharing this beautiful novel with us koala. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Nooooo! I want the rest!! What a sweet torture you’re giving us Koala, with a great story we want to follow but have to wait for. Or is it a poisoned gift? hehe, anyway thank you for hard work!! Love your website ๐Ÿ˜€

  6. Thank you for the translation ๐Ÿ™‚

    Loved the way the chapter ended, but at the same time I didn’t want it to end! I really like Yu Jin’s personality.

  7. Hmmm…reading the first chapter, I’m already anticipating the next meeting between Yi Zhi Xie and our heroine. Maybe it’s the hopeless romantic in me but I like to believe that he was genuine to her. A part of him reminds me of the princes (particularly 8th) in BBJX. Handsome, cunning, etc.

    • Yi Zhi Xie reminds me of a warrior version of 8th Prince. I believe he loved Yu Jin, but he wanted power more than his love for her. Or perhaps he never expected to lose her, thinking she would stay by his side because she adored him. Not knowing that his actions would have ramifications he cannot predict or control.

      The meeting between YZX-YJ is EPIC. Or shall I say, the meeting between YZX and Huo Qu Bing is EPIC. Heh, won’t give anymore away.

      • “The meeting between YZX-YJ is EPIC. Or shall I say, the meeting between YZX and Huo Qu Bing is EPIC. Heh, wonโ€™t give anymore away”

        Okay! officially fainting now!!!

        But before I faint, Thank you so much for the translations! You spoil us & we adore you for it! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • I was also a Yi Zhi Xie shipper before I became a Meng Jiu shipper >_< (Yes yes I ship the wrong guys all the time). And although YZX never really was a love rival, theirs is a sad "what-could've-been" story :'(
      Ugh, and don't even get me started about dear 9th Ye. I'm completely heartbroken.

  8. Thank you for translating the 1st chapter. I am already enthralled and want to follow our wolf-girl’s story. It’s refreshing to see the two men who enjoy her company and allow her to be just as she is, and even Papa is not painted as a typical bad parent/overlord but merely a father who loves his child and wants her to learn book-knowledge and customs of polite society.
    It’s interesting that Yu Dan and Yi Zhi Xie don’t stand on ceremony with Yu Jin and even once Yu Dan was married he continued to play (go walking/hunting) with her. And was that a psuedo-confession regardng her eyes? I’m getting an inkling that their relationship is not (perhaps was not ever) strictly platonic.

    Looking forward to chapter 2!

    • After re-reading a few sections, I see that it is YZH who compliments her eyes. And my statement still applies that it possible their relationship was never strictly platonic.

  9. Wow….it’s just the first chapter and I am totally HOOKED. It’s at times like this (and when I was watching BBJX) that makes me wish I could read mandarin. This first chapter is really awesome. I really like Tong Hua’s writing. She should definitely think about translating her novels into English.

  10. Hey. Thank you so much for all your hard work! ๐Ÿ™‚
    You are amazing!

    But I’d like to point out that although the character looks exactly like “dan”, it is actually pronounced “chan” or sometimes “shan”. Correct translation would be “Chan yu” or “Shan yu”, not “Dan yu”.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chanyu

    • It’s the minority pronunciation of that character, eh? I should’ve checked, but thanks for the correction. I’ve fixed the translation in this post.

  11. Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful translations with us. I’m already enthralled with the first chapter and can’t wait to read more. I love that the author takes the reader on the journey with YJ, from her capture to the bonding moments between YD and YZH, and most especially with her father. I think I’m going to cry buckets of tears once we get to the part of her father’s passing. Can’t wait to read more ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. i de-lurk! i learnt simplified chinese until i was 18 (no chinese class needed in uni!). the last chinese novel i read was i think 13 years ago! my chinese friend kindly found the link for me to read the novel in mandarin. i am not super fluent but know enough to get the gist and guess at the meaning of the words i don’t understand quite easily.

    so i tried to read the novel in chinese and read your translation. thank you for translating so much of it! for characters i can’t read, i could pronounce it from your translation! at first i thought you would give a summarised version but this is so helpful!

    thanks to your work i am really enjoying the novel. thank you koala ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. I marathon-ed the book in two days, but the last chapters were never available online, does anyone have a complete copy, online? I would love to read the ending…

    I’m happy I shipped the right people, but I’ll share my two cents when you get to it. so hurry! I can’t wait to read your translations!

  14. Thanks for translating chapter one.
    I already feel that there is true love between Yu Jin and Yi Zhi Xie. The crown prince strikes me a cold and potentially ruthless towards those he does not care about.
    This is a great build up for the drama series when it airs.

    Looking forward to reading more about how her papa prepares her and finding out how YJ escapes and re-enters civilization.

  15. Yay….Ms. Koala, I’m soooo happy that you decided to translate each chapter. I’ll patiently wait for your updates. Thank you so much ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. Thank you very much for the story. It has been a long time since I read a Chinese novel. I tried reading the 1st page of 1st chapter on the iPad and it took me a long time. Now that I read yr translation I’m so inspired to go buy the book and try reading again. Good thing is now I have your translation to fall back upon.
    Thank you again.

  17. OMG thanks Koalaโ™ฅ I haven’t read it yet, but shall in a bit. I just wanted to thank you in case I forgot later. ^__^

  18. Yu Jin is such a well-constructed character – I get a sense of her character almost from the very first paragraph. I’m a sucker for these I-was-raised-in-the-wilderness-so-I-don’t-understand-normal-social-cues trope, and this one is so well-constructed and fleshed out. I admit the unfamiliar names make following the politics a little bit more complicated, but I love the way she’s set up these characters. They’re still painted with fairly broad brushstrokes, but there are hints and flashes of the depths hiding underneath them. I love when an author gives us consistent character development over the course of the story rather than simply telling us who the character is. Since this is the way we really get to know people in real life characterization in this fashion feels much more natural and exciting.

    I can’t wait for the next chapter! (No pressure, of course. ^_^) Thanks, unni, you’re the awesomest.

  19. Fantastic Translation! You are truly amazing. It almost feels like I am reading the chinese version of the book!

    Haha I am almost finishing the book and is throughly captured by the beautiful writing and characters. I especially love Huo Qu Bing. A man (personality) who is extinct in today society.

    Thank you again and I look forward to reading more…

    By the way this is just my own thoughts and is no way a representation of what the book is… Please just ignore it if you do not agree.

    • Hi Hui Ping, I hope you don’t mind, but I removed your spoiler. It gave away too much and was so easy to read that I think folks will be spoiled accidentally. I agree somewhat with your thoughts though. ^___^

      • Hi

        No prob!!! Understand… Hee I am looking forward to your English Translations… It helps greatly with my understanding cos some parts written in chinese I don’t quite get… Haha the last time i read a chinese novel was like 7 years ago!!! I am still amazed that I managed to read so much of the book!

  20. when r you posting the next chapter?? this was really interesting. i really like YZH, even though i get creepy vibes from him.

  21. Thanks so much for translating!!

    This chapter really captures my interest in the book, and what a great cliffhanger at the ending!
    I really like all the characters so far. I love the part where YuJin says she wants to be a tree, instead of a flower.
    Also, I wanted to squee when Yu Zhi Xie said “because of your eyes”… YuJin is so innocent in her childish, wolfish ways.

  22. U’ll write all chapter bout this? Really wanna know.Its 1st time for me to read bout chinese drama/book recaps n it totally thru u Koala Di(its sis in my language,can i address u like tht?) 1st BBJX n now DMY i’m more than happy to read ur post. I haven’t watch any chinese drama coz here we don’t get n i’m totally unfimiliar with chinese language n all,can’t even pronounce their name properly. But i’m lovin it.

  23. ahhh, Yu Zhi Xie x Yu Jin… Other than our OTP, I shipped this like mad lol The YZX, YJ and HQB parts in the novel = EPIC. Can’t wait till you get to it, so freaking awesome. One of my most favourite parts in the novel.

  24. Koala-sensei, thank you very much!!!!!!!

    P.S.
    Can I call you Sensei? I want to call you that because you are an expert in dramas, and many things in the entertainment world in Asia. Thank you very, very much for giving us a wonderful translation of DMY!!!

  25. Your intro to Da Mo Yao made me begin the novel; it is really so amazing <3 I'm only on chapter 6 though; im going to marathon through it this weekend!!

  26. Yay!!!! Thks sooooo much …. Just finished reading chapter 1!!
    Very interesting!!!! hope u Will continue to recap! Khamsahamnida!! Duo xie!!!!!

  27. Ooh, I loved it! I’m off to read the second chapter translation that you put up now ๐Ÿ™‚ Yay! And some others mentioned that it’s a bit difficult to follow the names, and I totally agree! Anyways, I hope I get used to it soon, and thanks for doing this! I really, really appreciate it!

  28. What a treat! Koala, thank you for translating the chapter. It was mesmerising indeed. The story sounds really good. You’ve reeled me in with the first chapter and I hope to read more of it. Your translations are lovely to read. Please keep them coming!

  29. I started reading this after reading your news on the drama adaptation. It’s been years since I read anything in Chinese but the book is surprisingly easy to read. I adore all the characters and now that I’m past the halfway point, really really hope nobody dies. At least not JinYu and HuoQuBing, that’ll just break my heart.

  30. Thank you so much for the summary of the first chapter! I’m already hooked XD I adore this girl’s spunk and her honesty is so refreshing. That adoptive father of her is really cool too, wanting to educate her with court politics and warfare that women don’t get to study. Can’t wait to read what happens!

  31. Aw, thank you so much! Now I’m hooked. I love Yu Jin now, and I’m there with her all the way. I’ll have a hard time liking anyone who hurts her! And her papa is pretty awesome, though the abduction thing was a bit brutal. Well, I guess he thought that it was the best for her, which it was, I guess.

  32. I’m delurking to say a huge thank you for this fantastic effort! I’m totally sucked in and actually felt all giddy and excited reading this. I love sweeping epic stories! Thank you!

  33. Thank you so much for the translation! Her adopted papa is so wise, kind and lovely… brought tears to my eyes. I believe papa-daughter relationship will not be as touching as the novel if adapted in the drama as I will be too busy drooling over the male and female leads… I usually fast-forward non-romantic scenes… but I’m glad I read your translation to discover this gem… Thank you Ms Koala… Looking forward to many chapters.. what a refreshing story!

  34. What a treat to read this. Thank you for your hard work in translating these chapters into english. Now it’s on to ch. 2. Have a great weekend.

  35. Interesting start to the story. The flashbacks make the story seem kind of choppy, but somehow, a lot is still able to be conveyed. What’s not said is craftly implied. I can only imagine how much more you can read into when the text is in Chinese. But can you really fall in love with a 10-year-old?

    On another note, wouldn’t it be awesome if they got a child actress to portray her in the drama for this portion instead of LSS? It worked okay in BBJX but it seems like it wouldn’t work as well for this one.

  36. Oh dear Koala, how did you get the book? I’m in australia and have no idea where I may purchase the book. I want to join the book club online (the sina.com) but they only accept payment from local (china) banks. How can I get the book! I want to know the ending!!!!

  37. Thank You KOALA~..
    love you much baby for posting this storyy.. It’s really hard to find it since all of them are available in Chinesee.. *sigh*
    anyways.. THANK YOU~ XDD

  38. You are so wonderful! Thanks for the translations – so well written – to be able not only to capture the meaning but also the style and eloquence of the writing is truly a skill!! Your blog is the BEST!!
    I know it looks like most people really like Yi Zhi Xie, but I’m not really a fan. He’s too depressed and resigned to his fate, not very manly. I think he’s attracted to Yu Jin because of her wild abandon and carefree dismissal of the social strictures that tie him down. I think being with her makes him feel freer. But it doesn’t seem like he has anything to offer her. It seems to me that he is constrained by his environment and position and will spend his life struggling to play this game in order to survive, definitely not the kind of life Yu Jin wants to live.

  39. Just starting to read your translation of Da Mo Yao now. The first chapter is AMAZING…I couldn’t stop reading it. Thank you so much for translating the novel.

  40. OMG! It’s great! Thank you so muchhhhhhhhhhh!!! :*:*:*
    May I copy it then translate it into Vietnamese and post it in my blog? ๐Ÿ™‚
    I will be very happy if you agree. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Regards,

  41. Thanks for this translation! I wonder if you know of any other sites that may have more of these chinese novels translated into english? or of a site that has these chinese novels up for reads?

  42. Really thank you so much for translating this novel. Im a non-chinese person and I suddenly wanted to try reading chinese novels.Ive been trying to find the books that has already been translated to english but to no avail.

  43. thank you for the translation! i find the story interesting so i started to read it. this is my first time reading a chinese novel, and i believe this story is a great way to start, thanks! ๐Ÿ™‚

  44. Pingback: Book Review: Da Mo Yao (Ballad of The Desert) by Tong Hua | The Asian Cult

  45. Well, uh, I’ve been a silent reader all my life, but I just want to come on and say that late thank you for giving us a translation of this. I fell in love with Huo Qu Bing after reading this, and this has become one of my favorite books (right after LOTCH).

  46. Pingback: Ballad of the Desert by Tong Hua (Review) | Crazy for HE Novels

  47. wow
    that was a mindblowing chapter
    that end woah
    5stars
    so much happened
    and that ending
    i thought the story would be ok
    but that chapter put every other 1st chapter that i read in the last months to shame

  48. Pingback: Ballad of The Desert and Infernal Devices: Similarities!!! – The Asian Cult

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