C-writer Tong Hua has carved out a nice niche for herself writing romance novels mixed with Chinese history, but that doesn’t always go over well with readers that find her twists and distortions to events in historical texts to be nothing short of blasphemy. Some readers with their panties in a wad are still ripping apart Da Mo Yao, which was just a totally farcical take on certain historical figures which hardly merits a yawn much less a detail critique of why it’s so inaccurate. I’m far from that opinion and quite enjoy her take on Han and Qing dynasty historical lore mixed with some fanciful twists and turns. If anyone takes it seriously then clearly a Chinese primary school education has failed for said person. Her last two novels have jumped to a mythological foundation and with it goes most of what her naysayers can complain about her storytelling since the very premise of the famed Chinese mythological text The Classic of the Mountains and the Seas is a collection of supernatural and fantastical stories of gods and demons and beasts that all roamed from the earliest dawn of time through the ancient Chinese eras before the dynastic ascension of human rule.
It’s a dense and meaty book that has no known author but the historians believe to be a collection of oral legends that were written down over time by various writers and later collected in the Warring States through the early Han dynasty era into the anthology known as The Classic of the Mountain and the Seas. In Tong Hua’s first novel in her series based on this Classic, Once Promised interspersed the storytelling with a lot more background information about the mythology behind the world of the three Godly kingdoms and it’s political conflicts. Once the story gets to the sequel Lost You Forever, Tong Hua doesn’t bother repeating the same exposition and instead delves right into the story of Xiao Yao and occasionally provides some explanations as it arises. I’ve seen people asking for more backstory and it’s really hard to go into it since Tong Hua drops it through each chapter of Once Promised rather than in a section that is easy to translate. She did, however, write a prologue to Once Promised that provides a very top down summary of the formation of the world of the Gods leading until the three Godly kingdoms period. Hopefully this will provide a nice clarity to understanding how the conflicts have continued from Once Promised into Lost You Forever.
Prologue to Once Promised:
At the dawn of time, when the universe was just formless chaos, the world had only one ruler. That was the Great Emperor Pan Gu, who opened the Heavens and created the world itself.
At that time, the distance between Heaven and Earth was much closer. Humans lived on Earth and the Gods lived on the Heavenly Mountains. Humans could travel on a sky stair to reach the Gods. The Humans, the Gods, and the Demons all co-existed together in the world.
The Great Emperor Pan Gu had three subordinates that he was as close as siblings with. The one with the greatest spiritual power was a woman, but the time was so long ago that her name no longer can be found. Only known is that she created the Hua Xu Kingdom, so the people called her Hua Xu. The other two subordinates were men, one was named Sheng Nong and was stationed in the Middle Plains to ensure peace from all four reaches, and the other was named Gao Xing and was stationed to the East to protect where the sun rose the Holy Yang Valley and the Eye of the East Gui Xu.
After the Great Emperor Pan Gu passed, the world descended into fiery conflict and endless warfare. Hua Xu tired of the endless battle and left for the far reaches to create the peaceful and harmonious Hua Xu Kingdom. But what made her live on through the legends was not her Hua Xu Kingdom, but her two children – her son Fu Yi and her daughter Nü Wa.
Fu Yi and Nü Wa were brave and just, subduing all the heroes of the world willingly and ending the warfare. They were crowned Emperor Fu Yi and Empress Nü Wa.
They brought peace to the bruised and battered vast wilderness, and gradually life began anew again.
After thousands of years, Emperor Fu Yi passed and Empress Nü Wa was devastated. She left for the Hua Xu Kingdom and was never seen again. What happened to her remained a mystery and the Fu Yi and Nü Wa tribes slowly lost prominence.
With the downturn of the Fu Yi tribe, the Sheng Nong tribe in the Middle Plains and the Gao Xing tribe in the Southeast rose to be the two great powers. On the surface both abided by the pacted signed before Emperor Fu Yi and Empress Nü Wa to never attack each other, but deep down each was bursting with ambition to devour the other.
In the Northwest area of the vast wilderness, there was a unassuming mountain called Xuan Yuan Mountain. Living at the base of the mountain was a small God tribe that the powerful Gods never took notice of – the Xuan Yuan tribe. After a great ceremony, the tribal elders of the Xuan Yuan tribe chose the bravest, smartest strapping young man in the tribe to be their leader. But even the tribal elders could not have foreseen what great feats and accomplishments this young man would one day accomplish.
In another few thousand short years time, the young man expanded the formerly small Xuan Yuan tribe until by the time Gao Xing and Sheng Nong became aware of its rival existence in might, the time had passed to eliminate Xuan Yuan easily. They could only watch wearily as Xuan Yuan vaulted to join them and become one of the top three greatest God tribes in existence.
The three great God tribes. The head was Sheng Nong, the tribe that received the direct order from the Great Emperor Pan Gu to watch over the Middle Plains, and each leader of the Sheng Nong Kingdom was called the Flame Emperor. The Flame Emperor ruled by beneficence. The second was Gao Xing, under orders to watch over the Southeast, and each successive ruler was called the Grand Emperor. The Grand Emperor ruled by protocol. The last was the upstart Xuan Yuan based in the Northwest, its ruler was called the Yellow Emperor, and he ruled by law.
From then on, Sheng Nong in the Middle Plains, Xuan Yuan in the Northwest, and Gao Xing in the Southeast – the three powers co-existed warily for thousands of years in a seemingly stable balance and division of power.