Introduction to the Soul Searing Yun Zhong Ge by Tong Hua

Yun Zhong Ge (Song in the Clouds) is Tong Hua’s best period novel to date. Bu Bu Jing Xin was exquisite, but then she wrote the simple and sweeping Da Mo Yao likely to cheer herself up afterwards. Everything in DMY worked itself out too easily, but what if there was a love story so thrilling and gutwrenching that it tops anything Tong Hua has ever written, but then it happens in a way where nothing can work itself out. It’s just too complicated, too late, too destined to be that way. When I finished YZG I had two reactions: (1) I hate this novel, and (2) how is it possible to cry this much from the pain? But you know what? I think about this novel all the time since I finished. That is a hallmark of a masterpiece, it sticks in your gut and refuses to let go.

I think about the two male leads (OMG, how does Tong Hua write them like this), and I constantly marvel about how she constructed this story within the confines of historical records. YZG is the story about Yun Ge (Cloud Song) and her fated from childhood love story with Liu Fu Ling (her Ling gege, who is otherwise known in history as Emperor Zhao of Han and was Emperor Wu of Han Liu Che’s youngest son) and Meng Jue, the adopted son of a certain Meng Jiu. And Yun Ge is no ordinary girl – she’s the daughter and youngest child of Huo Qu Bing and Jin Yu. So after all that craziness in Da Mo Yao, Yun Ge ends up involved in the most unforgettable love story with the sons of two men who were inextricably tied to her parents. Talk about fated to be…..and yet fated not to be.

This is Tong Hua’s foreword in Volume 1:

In a destined time, meeting the person you miss dearly, is an eye-twinkling type of happiness.

In a hopeless space, meeting someone never once on your mind, is dishearteningly of no use.

In a lost time, meeting the person you dreamed about, is a gut-wrenching type of sorrow.

In a forgetful space, meeting someone never once longed for, is an uncontrollable kind of torture.

Therefore, after a thousand sails have been used and the seas are visible again, the waves will never cease to rock.

I have to first preface by saying I really don’t like Yun Ge. She’s the first Tong Hua heroine I even actively dislike at times. How much I like her mom Jin Yu is how I much dislike her, while Ruo Xi falls somewhere in the middle. She doesn’t really ever do anything abhorrent, but as a character I just don’t connect with her. She is actually written almost identical to my favorite Louis Cha female character Guo Xiang, the daughter of Guo Jing and Huang Rong in Return of the Condor Heroes. But while I loved Guo Xiang’s vivaciousness, somehow Yun Ge feels more one-dimensional. Conversely, the more I don’t like her, the more I love both male leads. How much they both love Yun Ge puts to shame the love shown by Huo Qu Bing and Jiu Ye to Yu Er in DMY. I think Ling gege (Yun Ge calls him Ling gege, where gege means older brother, or “oppa” in Korea) is my most beloved character in YZG, but it’s his rival Meng Jue that I find most unforgettable and fascinating when the novel ends.

YZG is Tong Hua’s first attempt at writing in the third person narrative, and breaking out of the first person perspective takes her writing to new heights of wonder. With each sentence, each chapter, each volume, Tong Hua lifts YZG higher and higher until the reader almost can’t breath. Afterwards, I sat there just drained of all my energy but filled with emotion. I can’t believe a love story could be like this, and could be this heartbreaking all around. Unlike DMY where only three characters are fully fleshed out, YZG has eight main leads (nine if I add Shang Guan Xiao Mei, which she deserves to be added), and all of them are written with such depth and nuance that I’m in awe Tong Hua did so much in only three volumes of text.

YZG starts off 25 years after the end of DMY. One of my favorite parts of YZG was hearing Qu Bing and Yu Er’s kids talk about them, even though they never once show up in the novel. But through Yun Ge, and her MOST AWESOME BROTHER IN THE WORLD Huo Yao, the little tidbits about the life of Qu Bing and Yu Er is like a balm to my soul. But it also sheds light on the fact that they are really absentee parents, with lots of love for their kids, but ultimately their world is each other. This really shapes who Yun Ge is, and how everything comes to pass. Her parents were always traveling, her second brother was much older and off in his own life, and her third brother (MINE, ALL MINE, *____*) was diametrically opposite in personality to his chatty curious sister. That left Yun Ge always wondering where she ultimately belonged and looking since a young age for her special someone. Too bad fate played a cruel joke on all the characters in this novel.

Fate let Yun Ge meet her two men successively, but there is only one Yun Ge so someone must end up the odd man out. Yun Ge first meets a twelve year old Liu Fu Ling when he’s lost in the desert and her parents send an eight year old her to get his group out of the desert. Their meeting is as perfect as childhood love stories can get. He’s about to die and she shows up riding a snow white camel, with Snow Lady behind her, and two eagles named Xiao Qian and Xiao Tao keeping watch over her. Innocent and vibrant Yun Ge pierces through the walls Liu Fu Ling, already numbed by bloody politics, has constructed around himself, touching his heart when he thought it was long dead. When they part, she gives him one of her green embroidered shoes as a token for their promise to meet again in Chang An when she grows up. She doesn’t know it, but the giving of a shoe is a girl promising to marry a man. But Liu Fu Ling knows this and he accepts it. He goes back to Chang An to wait for her, already in the role of Emperor Zhao of Han, having ascended the throne at the age of eight.

After she parts with her Ling gege, she runs into a young beggar boy being beaten up by bullies and she saves him. Her third brother is threatening to leave her behind if she doesn’t get going, so in her haste she shoves her other green shoe at him and tells him to sell it for money so he can see a doctor. This boy is beaten down but not defeated, and her one act of kindness will have long standing repercussions. The boy we learn much later on was Meng Jue, a boy who has suffered through the loss of his family members and is surviving purely on the need to get revenge on those who have destroyed his life. This sequence felt a lot like Yu Er’s successive meetings with Jiu Ye and then Huo Qu Bing in the desert. Yun Ge meets her two men when she is a child, though she is really only aware of one. She’s made her promise to her Ling gege, and she’s going to find him in Chang An once she grows up.

Grown up Yun Ge decides to book it from home one day when she hears that the nth guy has come to ask for her hand in marriage, but this time her daddy agreed. She doesn’t even stick around to meet him. In shock that her parents would decide her marriage (they didn’t but she doesn’t know that), she decides to go look for her Ling gege in Chang An. Since her mom confiscated the token Ling gege gave her (a rope made out of his mother’s cut locks), she remembers he wore a jade piece around his waist and the way his eyes looked. Fate starts to screw her over when she arrives in Chang An and runs right into Liu Bing Yi, the grandson of the former Crown Prince Liu Ju (the son of Empress Wei), who is the only one in his entire family to survive when the Wei clan was exterminated in a blood bath by Liu Che.

Since the two cousins look similar and he also has the same jade piece, Yun Ge mistakes him for her Ling gege. She’s heartbroken when he doesn’t remember her plus he’s already got a girlfriend, a simple commoner girl he grew up with named Xu Ping Jun. Yun Ge also meets Meng Jue, in what she thought was a chance encounter, but is in truth much more than that. Oh Meng Jue, I could never do you justice in writing about you or even attempting to describe you. I think even Tong Hua underestimated what she created in such a complex character as you. Believing her Ling gege doesn’t remember her and has moved on, Yun Ge falls in love with Meng Jue over the course of a year living in Chang An and there is a tacit understanding that he’s going to marry her. But then Meng Jue gets tempted by the possibility that he could marry Huo Cheng Jun, the spoiled daughter of the most powerful official in Chang An, Huo Guang (Huo Qu Bing’s younger brother).

Meng Jue’s seeming unfaithfulness breaks Yun Ge’s heart and she chooses to leave Chang An and go home. On her way out of the city, she runs across an assassination attempt on the Emperor, and is mistaken for an assassin and injured. It is there that Liu Fu Ling finally meets up with his beloved Yun Ge. But when she is finally saved and awakens to discover that the real Ling gege was not Liu Bing Yi, and in fact has been waiting for her this entire time, she cannot reconcile the fact that she fell in love with another man so quickly. Add to the fact that she will soon find out that he’s in fact the Emperor of the Han dynasty, and has an Empress already, an adolescent named Shang Guan Xiao Mei who was married to him when she was six and he was just twelve. Yun Ge struggles between her past and present, knowing Ling gege faithfully waited for her while she mistakenly moved on.

This is Tong Hua’s foreword in Volume 2:

They are (male use of this pronoun and in parenthesis is my identification of which character this description refers to):

One is a tenacious Emperor, who as a child watched his father order his mother executed. (Liu Fu Ling)

One is a down-on-his-luck royal grandchild, the only one to survive the destruction of his entire family. (Liu Bing Yi)

One is the orphan of a loyal clan, who watched his own brother be the substitute victim on behalf of a royal grand child. (Meng Jue)

One is a brilliant and wild royal duke, always kept just outside the gates of royal power. (Liu He)

They are (female use of this pronoun and in parenthesis is my identification of which character this description refers to):

One is a desert wolf girl, an innocent and carefree master chef. (Huo Yun Ge)

One is an ordinary commoner girl, patient and willing to learn. (Xu Ping Jun)

One is the daughter of a wealthy family, passionate and ambitious. (Huo Cheng Jun)

One is a red-robed mute girl, devoted without ever saying a word. (Hong Yi)

And this one is my add:

One is a child bride, destined to grow up and grow old alone in the Palace. (Shang Guan Xiao Mei)

As a novel YZG is gutwrenching, sometimes reading just a line makes me quiver with emotion. I feel happy, I feel sad, ultimately I feel so touched by these characters. In DMY I fell for the love story between Huo Qu Bing and Yu Er, but in YZG I feel for the lives of every single one of these characters. Even the so-called villains of this tale are so complex and their motivations understandable. Huo Guang is a man who clawed his way to the top of the power chain because he’s been suffering since he lost his beloved brother Huo Qu Bing. He worshipped and idolized this brother, who left for war and returned a dead body, and his sister-in-law also dead. With Huo Qu Bing’s death, Huo Guang suffered all the jealousy and hatred aimed at his brother which was in turn directed at him. He managed to align with the Shang Guan family and together they consolidated power, and then shoved their baby granddaughter Shang Guan Xiao Mei into the role of Empress.

Despite his need for power and control, Huo Guang is a good official who implemented reforms and looked out for the people. He wanted power not to misuse it, but to make sure his family was always in control and could never be mistreated. His daughter Huo Cheng Jun goes from spoiled princess to ruthless and vicious court lady because of Meng Jue’s choosing Yun Ge over her, but she gambles her entire life on enacting vengeance only to find that none of it matters. Liu Bing Yi is the sad orphan of a royal line (the Wei family) wiped out by Liu Che, but when he has the chance to assumed the throne, he decides that power is worth any price to be paid.

When reading YZG, I never got the sense that Yun Ge was the lead, or the story was about her. Meng Jue is in fact the lead of this novel, and Yun Ge and Liu Fu Ling’s love story is the romance on which Tong Hua juxtaposes Meng Jue’s internal torment. The man has survived by walking over a pile of nails represented by his stubborn desire to cling to life and make those who have wrong him pay. The only thing good in his life is Yun Ge, and he spends his entire life waiting to meet her again. But when he does, he cannot let go of his need for power to enact vengeance, and so he loses her. When he figures it all out, it’s too late. The same thing is true of Liu Fu Ling, so we have two men that lead the shittiest life possible all wanting the same girl. But unlike Meng Jiu, Liu Fu Ling’s consistency is his strength and his bedrock when everything else falls apart.

I don’t like Yun Ge because she’s starts off so bubbly and idealistic. She’s described vividly, but her pampered and carefree upbringing makes her feel like Mary Sue in a land of three dimensional characters. But then watching her idealism, her hope, her spirit, slowly turn into anguish and despair, it becomes impossible to watch her trajectory without marveling at how well Tong Hua was mapping out her journey. When I read YZG for the first time, I felt like Yun Ge was such a passive character, despite her outgoing personality, because shit was always happening to her. But if I take Yun Ge as not the lead of the novel but merely a side character, then she is the catalyst for Liu Fu Ling and Meng Jue’s lives, and for that she serves a monumental purpose.

YZG really affected Tong Hua, and when she was done with the novel, she wrote an open letter to her two males leads. It literally made me bawl my eyes out (again), because her love for them both jumps out from the words and grabs you. I don’t recollect any other C-writer being able to write such magnificently memorable male characters. From 4th Prince to 8th Prince, from Jiu Ye to Huo Qu Bing, and now from Liu Fu Ling to Meng Jue. Before I read YZG, I saw a poll somewhere for favorite Tong Hua male lead, and it was a three way neck-and-neck race between Ling Gege, Huo Qu Bing, and Meng Jue. I wondered how it was possible both male leads in YZG had so much love from the readers. Now I understand.

This is Tong Hua’s foreword in Volume 3:

At the right time, meeting the right person, is a lifetime of happiness.

At the right time, meeting the wrong person, is an experience in heatrtbreak.

At the wrong time, meeting the right person, is a life full of hopelessness.

At the wrong time, meeting the wrong person, is a path full of torment.

When reading DMY I had my image of the three leads, but when reading YZG I have no such image of any of the characters. In fact, even if I close my eyes, I can barely picture them. Yun Ge is pale but lively, Ling gege is quiet and reserved, Meng Jue is striking and has piercing eyes. That’s about it. I don’t care who plays them in Yu Zheng‘s drama adaptation, because I don’t think any actor can do the two male leads justice, though I’ve always felt that a young Yang Mi was literally Yun Ge come to life. So much about YZG is in the details, the writing, the nuance, that I don’t know how a drama could possibly capture it all. DMY is inherently an action piece, whereas YZG’s mastery is in it’s emotional breadth.

Don’t get me wrong, YZG is action-packed, but the scenes that linger for me are scenes with little dialogue. Yun Ge and Liu Fu Ling’s relationship is so beautiful in it’s clarity, these two people who just get each other that no words are necessary. When they do talk, everything they say to each other just imprints on my heart. But really the happy scenes in YZG are in the side details, such as when Yun Ge mentions how her daddy built her an ice slide one year for her birthday, or hearing about how her third brother was laid up with a broken leg once and invented a new martial arts skill involved word battles. I can’t help but say again – I LOVE THIRD BROTHER. Seriously, a book needs to be devoted to him. Tong Hua, you make it happen! You can’t write this guy and then just have him whoosh in and then zoom out without making him the center of my world. Third brother, or Third young master, real name Huo Yao, is Yun Ge’s perfect third older brother.

I actually love the names Qu Bing and Yu Er gave their kids. Yao is a Chinese character comprised of the characters for sun, moon, and stars. Pretty awesome, huh? And Yun Ge as cloud song speaks for itself. Their parents sure love their freedom. When third brother shows up, this is how Yun Ge described him “Right as she arrived at the edge of the oasis, she saw third brother. Her beautiful as a peacock, proud as a peacock, arrogant as a peacock third brother was sitting on a tree branch just looking at the sky.” I actually would have read this darn novel just to savor every little mention of Huo Yao, who manages to make me squeal harder than his daddy made me squeal. He’s got daddy’s arrogance, mommy’s je ne sais quoi, and so much charisma he manages to almost a steal a novel where he only has a few pages. Sadly we never meet Second Brother, who I have a feeling is very similar in personality to Jiu Ye. Of Huo Qu Bing’s two sons, one resembles him, and the other Jiu Ye, which evens out the fates a bit.

But Tong Hua is not nearly so kind in YZG, where her story is so seamlessly plotted there is not an easy way out anywhere. In BBJX, I always thought Ruo Xi simply refused to accept a reality that may be hard but could at least yield happiness for her. In DMY, Yu Er made a choice and she was able to live with it. But in YZG, none of the characters can find a way to untangle the conundrums that bind them all together. Whether it’s love or power, longing or despair. The only way out is to let go, walk away from it all. But how many people can actually do that? And after walking away, can you have the strength to keep living despite having lost it all. When I finished YZG I felt spent, but then re-reading chapters really made me appreciate how amazing Tong Hua’s writing can be. It makes me feel nourished, like I’m expanding in my appreciation for emotional narratives that might be difficult to read, but enrich my life after reading it.

What I take away the most from YZG is Liu Fu Ling’s selflessness, his love for the people as an Emperor ought to have, and his daring to reach for his own personal happiness in keeping Yun Ge inside his heart from childhood until they meet again. When they finally reunite, he is willing to fight for their love, but always in the most Ling gege of ways. In many respects, he’s the very opposite of Huo Qu Bing, and it’s funny to have Yun Ge end up with someone so unlike her daddy. I love Ling gege to the depths of my soul, he’s a character that is impossible to write because he’s a real life Emperor, but Tong Hua gave him a love story for the ages. She wrote Yun Ge for him, just like she wrote Yu Er for Huo Qu Bing. But caught in the middle of these love stories are the two Meng guys, who manage to create their own hard to forget characters.

I don’t think I can ever love YZG the way I love DMY, because the story about Yun Ge, Liu Fu Ling, and Meng Jue isn’t meant to be loved. It is meant to imprint on your heart so that you have a hard time forgetting it. There are so many amazing written sequences in this novel I can’t even find one that would fully capture the beauty of the writing. But let me start with this. I might translate Tong Hua’s letters as well, because her thoughts are so touching to read.

……………………………………………………………….

It’s already the dead of night, silence all around. Yun Ge suddenly sat up on the pallet and deftly put on her clothes. She looked around the room to make sure nothing belonged to her. As she was moving to leave, she suddenly turned around and took the notebook from the table, the one that Liu Fu Ling would fill out for her.

Yun Ge left the room by flipping through the window. She ran a short distance, running and running, but then she stopped and looked back towards his residence. It was dark there, the lights having been turned off. He’s likely deep in his sleep.

All these years in her mind, the Ling gege she was looking for so long, he turned out to be exactly like she remembered and imagined he would be. She doesn’t need to say anything, and he already knows everything she’s thinking. But then why is he the Emperor? If he’s the Emperor, does that make him not her Ling gege anymore?

She held onto “His heart understood my heart.” But she wasn’t able to do “She shall never forsake his wishes”

Yun Ge didn’t want to answer her own question. Call her cowardly, call her selfish, but right now she just wanted to escape from it all. Since she was injured, it felt like her mind was never fully clear. Before one shock was absorbed, another shock arrived. Right now she just wanted to be far away from the people and the things that were happening.

She finally made up her mind and turned to leave. She didn’t know when, but Liu Fu Ling was silently standing behind her. In the dark night, his eyes are also dark, unable to show what he’s thinking. Yun Ge stared numbly at Liu Fu Ling, and after some time, she abruptly lowered her head and tried to walk past him.

“Yun Ge” Liu Fu Ling was holding something which he handed to her. In that moment, Yun Ge’s heart thumped and she couldn’t take another step. A tiny leek green embroidered shoe rested in Liu Fu Ling’s palm, on top of the shoe was a pearl the size of a thumb. It was glittering a soft light under the stars.

Yun Ge slowly reached out and took it, the warmth still remaining, likely he kept it against his body always.

…………………………………………………….

“Okay, I’ll wait for you in Chang An.”

“Pinky swear, promise, one hundred years, it won’t change.”

“Do you know what it means when a girl gives an embroidered shoe to a man?”

“I accept it. Yun Ge, you also must remember!”

“With the stars as witness, no regrets or change.”

………………………………………………………

That night was also like tonight, the sky full of stars. Under the same star-filled sky, the same person standing there. Such stars, such a night, wasn’t this what she had imagined countless times. But why, why was it so bittersweet.

Liu Fu Ling’s eyes landed on the embroidered shoe in Yun Ge’s hand “Yun Ge, I just want one year’s time. I’ve waited for nine years, please at least give me time to hear your stories. In these nine years you must’ve been to even more places. I just want to know and understand the things you’ve done. And give me a chance, to tell you what I’ve been doing here for the past nine years. Don’t you care?”

“I……”

Yun Ge couldn’t finish. How could she not care? Countless night she laid on the roof looking at the stars, thinking of what Ling gege was doing. She even purposely kept track of what she was doing on specific hours of specific days of specific years, so when she reunited with Ling gege, she would ask him what he was doing at the exact same time. And whether he was thinking of her? There were so many words accumulated over the years she wanted to say to him……

Liu Fu Ling took the embroidered shoe back from Yun Ge “Just one year. If you still want to leave after one year, I will return this pearl embroidered shoe to you. At that time you and I will no longer have any promise to each other. But right now, I want you to fulfill the promise you made years ago.”

Yun Ge suddenly laughed “Ling gege, you are so smart. It’s my fault for being such a dummy years ago, and now that I’m all grown I’m still a dummy. Fine! One year’s promise.” She turned towards her residence “One year from now when I leave, you don’t need to send me off.”

Liu Fu Ling stood there, with his hands tightly gripping the embroidered shoe, staring as Yun Ge’s figure slowly disappeared into her room. Long after she had entered her room, he was still standing in place. He raised his head and looked at the night sky. The darkness was low and it was dotted with stars, an everlasting type of beauty. Such stars, such a night.

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Comments

Introduction to the Soul Searing Yun Zhong Ge by Tong Hua — 82 Comments

  1. OMGolly wow!!! *squirms till my eyes pop out* another Tong Hua novel!!! Your spoiling us to the max.

    Eucalyptus for msK!!!!

  2. i’m in awe at your love for DMY and YZG… it takes immense dedication and craft to do what you’ve been doing…. i’ve done my fair share of translations back in the day of fangirling over certain TW-dramas.. and that was a shit-load of work with just news articles.. i can’t imagine what it would take to translate pages and pages of a novel… with language as lyrical as TH’s at that… you’re my hero!

    i just had to laugh at “every little mention of Huo Yao, who manages to make me squeal harder than his daddy made me squeal”…. now THAT line is enough to make me curious enough to want to pick up YZG despite all that i’ve heard about how “nue” it is… a character more squeal-worthy that HQB… now how is that possible…. but all that will have to wait till i’m done with this sucker of a thesis paper… however tempting it is…

  3. Thanks for the write up.. Yun Zhong Ge is one depressing book… I am half way through book 3 and can’t seem to be able to continue… why Tong Hua like sad ending so much.. actually DMY is not as sad… only to certain charactor.

    dear ms koala, are you going to translate Yun Zhong Ge as well? If yes…. i will be jumping up and down with joy….

    so is there a drama version of Yun Zhong Ge to be made?

    I think you are right that there are so many main charactor in Yun Zhong Ge and my fav has to be the third brother.. most sweet and awesone…

    looking forward to seeing more post on Yun Zhong Ge.

  4. Gawd….I was so glad to finish reading DMY, because I was sacrificing sleep and precious time when I should be studying…but then you introduce YZG…how can I not read when you gave such a glowing recommendation….3 volumes? bye2 sleep…

    btw, thanks for this

  5. Just stab me now….

    You are giving me a new obsession. I learned Korean to watch dramas without subtitles. Mandarin scares me because it’s so difficult but I am now sure I will learn mandarin just to be able to read these books. I may be 70 years old before I can read mandarin but I will learn it just for these books.

    Ahhh motivation for my addictions. I blame Ms. koala.

  6. Thanks for the spoiler. I will definitely not read this book. Literacy genius or no, there are enough things to get busy with in real life, and being put through an emotional wringer (even if it is fiction) is likely to have real-life repercussions.

    The proses sounded wonderful and doing theme-related recaps like BBJX sounds more appropriate for YZG. Thanks again for giving us a glimpse of the wonderful world of chinese literature!! And take care of your own health.

  7. Ockoala, Just wanted to know, if there is third brother, second brother and Yun Ge (supposedly only daughter?) where is Da Ger (eldest brother) – the one that Yu Er managed to save from being sent to the palace and hidden away by Meng Jiu? Just love DMY and wanted to know more about happily after for Yu Er and Huo Qu Bing. Bought the books (DMY) after your write up and your translations are AAA – ARTICULATE, AMAZING, AWE-INSPIRING ! Thanks!

    • yeah, was just wondering d same.. so how many kids do they have coz you mentioned 2nd & 3rd brother & YG being d youngest girl. did d eldest brother survive?

      thanks koala! xp

    • Second bro was the son Meng jiu helped to save from the emperor. Yu er and hqb honored the child that was swooped in place of their real son by giving him the placing of being their “eldest” son.

      • Thanks for the clarification about “eldest brother”. Yu Er and Huo Qu Bing are truly good people for honouring and giving recognition to their “adopted son” in the palace too. Really wanted to know but not too keen to read YZG to find out for the heart wrenching, no happily ever after endings.

  8. Thank you, Ms Koala. I love reading your thoughts and previews – you are so eloquent. I am pretty excited to read another excellent translation of a Tong Hua novel.

  9. question: I live in Thailand and I can read Chinese…but I’ve got a problem…anyone knows which is a good online site/shop to but Tong Hua’s books?

    • Amazon China has all her books if they’re in print. If you can use Taobao, they may have second-handed or cheaper books. Also, you can find some of the online version, but TH always makes some changes in her printed books.

  10. Totally lookin forward to it! O how much i wish i knew chinese! Thru u i’ve got to know lot more bout these gr8 novel. Why don’t u do it, i mean publish these books in english? Sorry if i’m being rude! Just my thoughts…always lookin for ur translation recaps. Thanku.

  11. Dear Ms Koala
    Thank you SO much for your translations! It makes me so happy to be able to read your DMY translations and now YZG!!? You have incredible talent for writing and even greater generosity for sharing it with us. *mwah*!

  12. Ms. K, you should get a cut of the proceeds from the sales for Tong Hua’s novels. Really, if I had the ability to read chinese (mandarin?) I would have purchased TH’s trilogy in a heart beat thanks to your blog. Somehow, “thank you” is just not adequate to express my gratitude to you for sharing your love (and sweat and tears) of these beautiful novel with us.

  13. I love reading a really good book more than watching dramas. I wish all of Tong Hua’s novels were available in English. I would read all of them in a heart beat!
    Thanks to you Koala, I got to know TH’s two great books–BBJX and DMY.
    YZG sounds so GOOD! I wish I can read YZG also. All the pictures posted above are so beautiful. Much appreciated!!

  14. Thanks so much for sharing Ms Koala! 🙂
    I really enjoy reading your thoughts on YZG & appreciate all the effort that you spent analysing & translating TH’s works. I have nothing but utmost respect for your linguistic prowess evident through your translations! Eventhough I’m native chinese fluent in the language, there’s no way I could have translated the novels the way you did with the poignancy & soul of the characters emoting from the words. Gosh you make me feel ashamed of my own uselessness being Chinese at times!

    Anyways back to YZG.. Ahhh sigh where to begin… Firstly, I have to admit that Yun Ge is also my least fav TH character. In fact I rank her behind all the male characters in YZG (and there are many many) for being qt simply a pain in the ass. Sometimes I even wonder why do both Ling Ge Ge & Meng Jue even like her so much? The plot of YZG while beautifully written is also the most heart/gut-wrenching story I have read in a while. I can’t mention the plot devices w/o being spoilery so I shall just end by saying that while I love bk 1 & 2 of YZG, I can’t say the same for bk 3 as I was reading it with dread and was really fearful to proceed as the chapter progresses!

    P.S. I wonder whether you’ve officially become the president of the TH book club ever since you began your first introduction to Da Mo Yao. And judging from the comments I’ve read so far, I reckon you already are! 😉

    • @sy,

      You should try re-reading book 3 without dread. Read it simply for the narrative and really absorb what TH was trying to say about how things change. I did that and came away the second time around with some profound thoughts about all the characters I wasn’t about to absorb fully the first time I read it.

      Yun Ge’s strength lies with the fact that she’s painted so ephemerally in the beginning but then her life shapes her into a reflection of what happens around her. The dislike is really rooted in the fact that her presence appears to set, accelerate, and then solidify the tragedy all around. But then we learn that it was always meant to be, and she brought the only happiness some of those people would have never experienced without her. Her plight was because she loved too much, not because she loved too little.

  15. *HUG* I just wanna give my deardeardearest Koala a big hugz.

    I was told I’m too wimpy and this book will get me angry when I was asking my cousin for the copy after finishing DMY a few months back. She refused to send me and I somehow just took her words and forgot to easily leech a copy online.

    Now I must read next read. I’ll forgo sleep and catch up because I miss going through lovely emotions with you!

  16. Wow! So fast. I don’t know how you do it, but THANK YOU.

    This novel seems right up my alley, love the tragic and gut-wrenching types. Although I must admit that the sadness does tend to spill over in real life and sometimes its also not good. I felt that way with Damo, Bali, and BBJX where I was literally a walking mess for a couple of days. Yikes.

    Anyways, looking forward to read more about YZG. Ganbatte, Koala! 🙂

  17. Hi Koala, thank you for writing the introduction to Yun Zhong Ge. I’ve read about one and a half volumes of the book. After that I saw some comments about the ending of the characters and I couldn’t continue reading it. I’m not even sure I can watch the drama.

    Actually I thought I was the only one who didn’t like Yun Ge’s character. When I was reading the first few chapters, I already felt a sense of irritation towards her character. I was thinking how come she isn’t as awesome as her mom. “When I read YZG for the first time, I felt like Yun Ge was such a passive character, despite her outgoing personality, because shit was always happening to her. But if I take Yun Ge as not the lead of the novel but merely a side character, then she is the catalyst for Liu Fu Ling and Meng Jue’s lives, and for that she serves a monumental purpose.” After reading the sentences you wrote, I am coming to understand why Tong Hua wrote her in such a manner.

    I love reading your literary discussions and hope to hear more thoughts on the characters especially Meng Jue. It’s a pity he couldn’t have avoided the same fate as his adoptive father, in fact, his life seems even worse. I read a comment that why is it the Meng family men don’t seem to have good endings in Tong Hua stories. (The commenter went on to joke that maybe Tong Hua has a grudge against people with surename Meng).

    • I actually think TH must secretly love her Meng boys more than the men who she wrote the books for. She wrote DMY for HQB, she wrote YZG for Liu Fu Ling. But then Meng Xi Mo and Meng Jue are fully her creations. I think she loves all her leading men equally, and I don’t blame her. All of them are pretty magnificent creations, and who you like more is simply a matter of personal preference.

  18. Oh my goodness! Thank you for the intro to YZG! (sigh) Tong Hua is a great novelist but dang, she sure like sad ending. I much would prefer happy ending… Don’t even know if I’ll watch the drama when it comes out sometime in the future.

  19. Koalas-
    “One is a tenacious Emperor, who as a child watched his father order his mother executed. (Liu Fu Ling)”

    so does that means Li Yan was executed? sorry, im just a bit confused. and how come HBQ’s brother thought he was dead? I’m so glad you are continuing to translate! thanks a trillionnnnnnnnn!

    • Liu Fu Ling is not Consort Li’s son. Liu Fu Ling’s mother was Consort Zhao, and Liu Che did not have Liu Fu Ling until he was in his 60s.

      Liu He is the grandson of Consort Li, and Liu Bing Yi (real name Liu Ju) is the great-grandson of Empress Wei.

  20. “At the right time, meeting the right person, is a lifetime of happiness.
    At the right time, meeting the wrong person, is an experience in heartbreak.
    At the wrong time, meeting the right person, is a life full of hopelessness.
    At the wrong time, meeting the wrong person, is a path full of torment.”

    How true.

    Thank you for your labours of love 🙂

  21. ‘excited squeal’

    Koala, you spoil us too much. =D =D =D

    I read Yun Zhong Ge after finishing BBJX. Googled for a sypnosis of YZG and mis-read it, and so plunged head in to read YZG thinking the ending was the bloody complete opposite of wat it actually is. And I emerged so trumatised that for a good three months afterwards, I couldnt read any other Chinese novel. It took Meng Hui Da Qing to soothe the wound that YZG opened. Till today, I still have the scars of YZG, which is probably the aftereffects like you said of a very good masterpiece.

    Her 3rd brother is just so awesome personified isnt he?!….. he’s like HQB version 2, much improved. sigh…. i hope hope hope her 3rd book is about him… it doesnt make sense for TH to leave so much ‘clues’ abt him and just forget him like this….right right right?!?!?!?!

    I am now going to google for the open letter that TH wrote to her 2 main leads…… =D

    • I wub wub WUB Third Brother!!! *drooling*

      He’s like daddy, but minus the jock tendencies. I seriously would buy, translate, and then laminate a book written about him. Sobs, someone write me some Huo Yao fanfiction~

      • Koala,

        if her 3rd book in the trilogy isnt about Huo Yao, why not you write one, as a fanfiction?…. i think you have the literary skills to flesh him out and the imagination to give him an epic love story. And then the additional advantage is that we all can read it too….. =D =D =D

  22. Dear Ms Koala. I loved this post because all your hints to this book has driven me nuts.

    However after reading your post and the comments- I commend your balls of steel. Something tells me I ain’t never going to go near this novel.
    How do all of you stand this torture you subject yourselves to?

    • It’s torture, but then I somehow feel empowered by it. I dunno, I cry and then I feel more fulfilled by having read the story. It’s not easy, but I walk away feeling enriched. Just my personal takeaway, though my gut reaction is just to say “I hate this! It’s so sad.” And I do that all the time.

  23. Just reading your introduction to this made me break out in goosebumps o.O I would love to read this novel, never mind the “torture” (for I so love happy endings) afterwards. Too bad I can’t read nor understand Chinese. Are there any translations available?

  24. The novel already sounded so beautiful jusy based on what what you have described so far. I feel so sad that I couldn’t read Chinese. Just how tragic is the ending? Is there anywhere or anyway I can find out? I’m dying to know. Thanks!

    • Knowing the ending of the story doesn’t add any value. I’m not being facetious. The beauty in YZG is the journey. Unlike BBJX (about the inevitable) or DMY (about the choice), YZG is ultimately about the journey. The only way to understand the power of the story is to take the journey with the characters. It’s a daunting undertaking, as the novel is much longer than BBJX or DMY.

  25. I just want to say, this is so beautifully written, and you’ve done a wonderful job conveying the poetic lyricism of the original. I know translation is a lot harder than it seems.

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful story, and your lovely words, with us. 🙂

    • Thank you for such lovely words of appreciation. In truth Tong Hua’s writing is so lyrical I’ve barely capture a tenth of her verbal beauty. I’m happy to know that I’ve not been butchering her work left and right. One can hope her English readership will know that I am but a conduit and the real genius remains in her fertile imagination. 😀

  26. I have been wanting to lay my hands on a copy of YZG! Thanks for the short synopsis of YZG, it sounds like a magnificent tragedy. Have you read “Promise me a forever” by her as well? 🙂 It doesn’t sound like it’s going to hit YZG mania, but remains a lovely story nonetheless.

  27. Ms Koala, thanks very much for a wonderful introduction. I have read the “auto translation” of the book and could not understand but thank to this beautifully written post that I have now understood roughly 80% of the story. I have followed your posts regularly since “Lie To Me” and I am in awe of your dedication, knowledge, and language etc. I am more a sucker for stories than the acting hence for some dramas, I just read your recap to know the stories. THANKS SO MUCH, Ms Koala. Just a question, the translated version of YZG that I had, I thought volume 3 chapter 19 was the ending one (i.e. where someone was leaving Chang An on a boat…try not to give our spoiler) but then there was another chapter after that about HCJ asking her father not to ask the emperor to look for YG (???). I am a bit confused. Hope you can shed some lights. Thanks again.

  28. I yelled out happily when I read this:

    “And Yun Ge is no ordinary girl – she’s the daughter and youngest child of Huo Qu Bing and Jin Yu. So after all that craziness in Da Mo Yao, Yun Ge ends up involved in the most unforgettable love story with the sons of two men who were inextricably tied to her parents. Talk about fated to be…..and yet fated not to be.”

  29. OMG~ After reading this beautiful introduction from you, I am totally going to read this one too! Even though it promised heart ache, but I am totally on it.
    Thank you so much, Koala-chan..

  30. At the moment, I am physically and mentally hitting myself for not being able to read Chinese. Your description and POV really incites me to want to have a go at the book. Believe it is as great as you have mentioned

  31. I’m so into DMY and YZG..
    I use all my free time, including my sleep time and also secretly read it at my office, because I’m so curious about it..
    Too bad i can’t read chinese, so i really appreciate your work..
    Thank u so much..

  32. idk why but i feel that its gonna be a REALLY SUPER SAD STORY.
    honestly, if my sister isnt in the room right now i would not try really hard to hold in my tears.
    🙁

    lOl i know that life isnt fair, but i never thought it would be so cruel too. 🙁

    i swear after da ma yao drama comes out im NEVER GONNA WATCH another CHINESE HISTORICAL DRAMA!!!!
    BECAUSE ALL the ones i saw are ALL TRAGDIC ENDINGS!!!!!

    hmp

  33. I don’t get it. Call be a big wet wet blanket but come on guys….. YG was what, 8 year old? And LGG was 12? How on earth can 2 children meet one time in their lives and fall so deeply in love?? I mean I look at my nieces and nephews who are aged thereabouts and I think “Nah……no way”

    • Sorry Joooon, this reply is like 5 years late…I can understand your thoughts but have you ever imagine a 8 years old boy becoming king and being knelt to by men with white hair? History said there were such cases and people. Modern people will never ever understand those periods just as we are not able to understand how people can go to the moon.

  34. Dear Ms Koala

    I have discovered your site this year and have been following since. I am really grateful for all your thoughts, comments that you so readily share with all of us. Because of your comments, I watched BBJX. Read DMY and am waiting for the drama to come out.
    I am also now in the middle of reading YZG. However, I have been searching for the hard copy of the book as well as. the one online. In my country, Malaysia – they have not imported the book yet. Currently, the highly recommended book by TH is YZG. I have been reading the book online via Sina but they have a VIP session where I can’t figure out how to be a VIP member and continue reading. My Mandarin isn’t that good! I wonder if anyone can help me out here?

    I am so amazed at your translation work. I read DMY in English translated by you and also the Chinese version in the book I managed to buy here in Malaysia. You did so well, the translation did not loose any of the flavour of the book, the emotion and sense of where things were. Reading your English translation is just as good as reading the original Chinese version. Thank you so much for your very hard work!

    As for this article on YZG, the drawings are very, very beautiful. Thank you for putting them up for all of us.

    I will reserve my comments on your writings on Korean drama another time – a totally different topic altogether. It will suffice to say for now that I really like your word on the Korean dramas as well.

    Thank you once again Ms Koala!

    • Hi,

      I can’t read Mandarin and YZG in english version was a great help but unfortunately I am only getting certain segments of the story. Where can I read the full version of the story in English. Can someone out there help!

  35. How many books is yun zhong ge? Yesasia.com has like 5 books for yun zhong ge all with a different sub-title after yun zhong ge. Since I can only read Traditional Chinese characters, I need to get it from yesasia.com but was confused about the order of the books since there was no number at yesasia. I suppose I can buy all the the books, but at $15 per book, that is too expensive to buy at one time.

  36. Hi Does anyone know where I can fine the original picture of the first posted picture? I use to have it until my computer crashed and I really want to find the original, please if any one know where I can find it really appriciate it! THANKS IN ADVANCE 🙂

  37. You said it very well. I was having hard time to finish YZG which I eventually did. It was’t because I disliked the story. As I continued reading, I was afraid of the moment of Liu Fu Ling’s death. I was just a heartbreaking moment and couldn’t help myself from crying (tissues were needed). In Da Mo Yao, Tong Hua spared Huo Qi Bing, then why couldn’t she spare my Ling ge’ge? Many have said that Liu Fu Ling is much more fortunate than Meng Jue because he has Yun Ge’s lifelong love and he has her by his side in the last days of his life and dies in her arm and I agree that’s true. Meng Jue, on the other hand, has nothing in end. However, looking at what he has done whether it’s intentional or unintentional, cannot be an excuse for him to justify his actions. To be honest, I’m glad that Yun Ge still continues to live well and fulfills the dream that she and Ling ge’ge want to do. Liu Fu Ling’s selflessness, caring and love for Yun Ge and his people has touched deeply in my heart.

    Liu Fu Ling “The most happiest thing is be able to marry a good wife.”
    “What wanted to do the most is be able to stay by her side everyday until we grow old.”

    Yun Ge “In this lifetime, I cannot forget Ling ge’ge.”

    • I am crazy to reply after almost 4 years, don’t dare to imagine you’ll read this reply but maybe for someone else who happen to read it after reading YZG after it was published like 10 years ago. I reply because i know you are like me, a supporter of Liu FuLing. I like so much what said about him in page 293/Vol3 or chpt 16 of vol 3…like you, i cried heaps and there were times, tears cannot come and i’ve problem breathing. It was so painful to read this story. Though I love TongHua a lot, going to her next story will surely take me lots of courage.

  38. I’m confused. I was juuust about to start YZG, but there are large breaks between certain chapters (like 22 suddenly jumps to 33). Will these ever be translated, and if not, how important are those chapters? If YZG is anything like DMY, each chapter holds a lot of information that is vital to move on. If I read this, will I feel like I’m missing a lot of information and become totally lost? (I cannot read Mandarin, unfortunately.)

    Hopefully someone can respond soon, because I’d love to read this while DMY is still fresh in my mind.

  39. Hi Koala,I wondered if there is another person like me to be writing a comment on a book published some 10 years ago…I dislike tragic stories, love fantasies, comedies, and love stories. BBJX was sad but down-to-earth fantasy love story, DMY was great. So YZG and me is having a love-hate relationship. I cannot avoid YZG because it is sequel to DMY. I agreed to most of what you’ve written except I don’t understand why you dislike YunGe. Don’t you think that TongHua was really harsh towards her? She was a wonderful person to me. Cannot blame her to be naive at the beginning as she was a pampered child. She was cheerful, loving, faithful, trustworthy, trusting, hardworking and intelligent…just to mention a few. TongHua smashed her to pulp at the end….she went to ChangAn a beautiful child and left it with scars all over her and inside as well. All she had at the end were loads of memories, a eunuch and an invisible lover.
    I don’t know how I can write to TongHua so I take this opportunity to thank her for all the tears I poured out and the pain that cut like mad. I love the way she introduces all these historical figures to her readers. Through her pen, I learnt to be wiser and look at things from different perspectives.
    I think there is going to be a part 3 to DamoQingyuan, I am on the look out for it….hope no need to wait too long.

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