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.
Thanks for the background info. Its really helpful.
Thanks for the prologue Koala! =) There is such an unbalance of power now that the Sheng Nong Kingdom is gone. There’s still so much more about the stories about demons, humans, gods, and how animals become gods?? I wonder if Xiang Liu was born from a creature or was he born from nature as a demon. That’s probably not important. But I find this mythology interesting. I never know much about Chinese mythology. Can’t wait for your next chapter! (=
Oh thank you for the additional background
Thanks for the prologue translation and adding more background to the story!
I’m just confused what does ruling by beneficence, protocol and law exactly mean? Is that important?
I hope this answers your question! Ruling by beneficence, from what I understand, is simply to rule with compassion and wisdom. Conversely, Gao Xing’s kingdom heavily emphasises on protocol or custom, which means that they take their social norms very seriously. The country thus takes violations of social class norms very seriously. Lastly, ruling by law simply means that social norms are more relaxed (so thus class divisions are more relaxed).
I think these distinctions are not really important in understanding LYF, but more for the setting of Once Promised, because in LYF Shen Nong’s already destroyed and Gao Xing has been largely reformed by Shao Hao. Rather, these distinctions are more important in understanding the motivations of the characters in Once Promised!
Sorry for the long explanation!
Thank you!! It really helps to get a little background introduction to the story.
Been waiting for LYF chapter for awhile, hope to read them soon….I believe onesecondspring done some work on Once Promised
so sheng nong kingdom was actually the original and was even given direct order by pangu, so sad it was exterminated. I support xiang demon or general’s cause then to fight and get back their kingdom!
Thanks Ms K!
Ms Koala….omg I could kiss you!!!!
Thank You Thank You Thank You!!! 😉
Thanks Ockoala! I was not clear about the motivations of some characters.
Just finished reading Lost You Forever, thanks for the inspiration & recommendation Ms Koala! I just couldn’t put the book down, it’s so soooo good!! This is by far my fav tong hua book, as epic as Da mo Yao but with much more happiness and I love all the fantastical elements!
Do you recommend going back to read Once Promised?
You know, the comments are supposed to be spoiler-free.
thank you 🙂
Became interested in ancient mythologies after the Xuan Yuan Jian/Xian Jian dramas, and am glad to find yet another fiction based on those myths!!
Koala recently posted the last chapter and I’m stoked. Rereading from prologue to epilogue and be lost in fantasy. Thank you sooo much Captain K.
Omg, thank you so much for translating this book. Definitely one of the best book I’ve read so far! The Story is sweet but also so heart wrenching, totally Tong Hua’s style. After done reading, I could barely open my eyes from all the crying, dunno how to move on from this feeling….but soo worth it!
Hello! I am back for my n-th time rereading this awesome book! Thankyou very much for translating this book and introducing me to a bunch of loveable characters ❤
Hi! I’d like to know if I should read Once promised or this prologue is. Are they related somehow or just the setting?
Thank you soooo so so much for translating this. I really appreciate how much time and effort you put into it. One of my favorite part of reading this was your thoughts before each chapter. I had glanced at the dates as I read each chapter and I don’t know how you did it so quickly at first and when it was near the end I saw it was years in between so I’m really grateful I didn’t find your site until now after it was all completed. And feel even more appreciation if possible for your translation. Thank you again. I think more people will come read in the next year after the new drama and Im excited for them. I would have never been able to read such a beautiful story otherwise. I know this one will stay with me forever.