Tumpik
#xiao ce'an
qqgk · 2 months
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like each of these covers (3, 4, and 5 of the thai ver)... just all so so gorgeous and atmospheric to each couple 
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3702iz · 4 months
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cezhou rkgk
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mdzspring · 11 months
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QIANG JIN JIU PACK (ICONS + HEADER)
# Cezhou
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like or reblog if you save/use :)
cr: weiyingsz
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t110n · 7 months
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hamliet · 1 year
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I Am My Own Nightmare
Rereading Qiang Jin Jiu and getting so. much. more. out of it the second time around caused me to notice a recurring motif throughout the story. Actually, several motifs, like that it is way more based in alchemy than I first thought--
But anyways. The motif I want to talk about is that of Xiao Chiye and Shen Zechuan rescuing each other (and themselves) from their worst nightmares. 
Chapter 96: Leaving Qudu
Xiao Chiye flipping over a city wall to rescue Shen Zechuan, who is trapped inside and probably about to get himself killed in a futile attempt to save his Teacher Qi Huilian is literally Xiao Chiye facing his own nightmare of being stuck forever in Qudu. At this point, Xiao Chiye’s been trapped in Qudu for years as a glorified hostage to keep his own father and brother in line, and it was all futile anyways. In the end, Xiao Jiming still got poisoned and defeated and injured, and Xiao Fangxu still had to return to the battlefield. Li Jianheng got killed too. 
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(art by Jianyachi on Twitter, who has given permission for use)
So, Xiao Chiye rescues Shen Zechuan from Xiao Chiye’s nightmare... only to symbolically see that Xiao Chiye is not facing just his own trauma, but the trauma Xiao Chiye inflicted. Everything about the confrontation between Shen Zechuan and Han Cheng is a callback to the start of the novel, from Qi Huilian being dragged before the city gate in chains just like Shen Zechuan was to Han Cheng’s demand that Shen Zechuan humiliate himself to save his Teacher. 
A disheveled Qi Huilian was dragged out. He fell into the rainwater and cursed, “Treacherous traitor!”
Yanking at the chain, Han Cheng spurred the horse forward and dragged Qi Huilian through the streets. He pointed at Qi Huilian and said to Shen Zechuan, “Haven’t you been looking for him for a long time? He’s here! Shen Zechuan, come and get him!”
“Traitor, traitor!” Qi Huilian was boiling with fury as the dragging smeared his face with muddy water.
Han Cheng looked at Shen Zechuan’s pale face, then at the dark expression in his eyes. He said, “Your eldest brother is the Hereditary Prince of Jianxing, I remember that the Biansha Cavalry dragged him to his death alive. But there is no love lost between you both, so you weren’t hurt by it at all. Are you hurting now that it’s your teacher’s turn today?”
Han Cheng mistakes whom it is he’s symbolically giving a “turn” to. It’s not reminding Shen Zechuan of Shen Zhouji, whom he didn’t even know, but Shen Zechuan’s own being dragged before the city gate to be kicked to death by Xiao Chiye that he’s alluding to. Learn to read, Han Cheng! (this is a joke, but also shows how Han Cheng misunderstands whom Shen Zechuan is loyal to; his filial piety has nothing to do with his blood family, nor should it).
Han Cheng then asks Shen Zechuan to do this:
“...If you still want him to live, then kowtow to me and admit your mistakes! Kneel and call me ‘father’ loudly three times, and I’ll spare him, and you as well!”
Shen Zechuan strode a big step forward and said, “Deal!”
Which of course calls to mind Xiao Chiye’s request in front of the temple years ago:
Xiao Chiye retracted the whip and said, “You can say anything, but who knows whether or not they are true. How about this? Bark a few times like a dog. Once I’m satisfied, I’ll let you off tonight.”
Shen Zechuan said nothing.
The Squad Commander was scared witless by Xiao Chiye’s eyes and shoved Shen Zechuan a few times.  
The color drained from Shen Zechuan’s face as he said timidly, “… At least let me do it before you alone.”
Xiao Chiye then flips back over the wall, descending into his own nightmare to pluck Shen Zechuan out, and has to face his previous self: selfishly making cruel demands of a boy he knew nothing about, willing to kick a battered and beaten man while he’s already chained. He sends Meng, a symbol of Xiao Chiye’s free nature, to claw Han Cheng’s eye out. To leave Qudu, Xiao Chiye’s nightmare, and find freedom, Xiao Chiye has to first face the worst parts of himself--face the fact that his cruelty and aggressiveness can imprison not only others, but the best parts of Xiao Chiye. It’s pretty telling that after this rescue, Xiao Chiye promises Shen Zechuan that he should never have to be in pain again, and tells Shen Zechuan he loves him. 
Chapter 174: Burning Tower
Of course, we have to talk about the chapter where Shen Zechuan declares that he is his own nightmare. 
“Regardless of who my parents are,” Shen Zechuan turned his head to the side and whispered into his ear, “I am Shen Zechuan. Whether your word is the truth or a lie is of no significance to me at all. I am my own nightmare.”
...
Shen Wei, Bai Cha.  
He did not care for them at all.
Is this true? Well, ish. I’ll write more about this another time. Shen Zechuan is not exactly a reliable narrator. It may be somewhat true in how he regards himself, for sure, but it isn’t true at all in how the world regards him, and how the world regards him does affect him whether he wants it to or not. 
The symbolism of this scene is that Shen Wei’s legacy is a burning tower trapping Shen Zechuan with seemingly no escape. Lei Jingzhe then tells Shen Zechuan something that should make him look twice at himself:
“You’re really the world’s most pitiful child. Do you know how Bai Cha died? Shen Wei found out her real identity, then strangled her to death with his very own hands. You were born of abhorrence. Why did Shen Wei raise you? Did you think you were regaining lost grounds when you crawled your way out of the Chashi Sinkhole and returned to Zhongbo after experiencing all that hatred and sorrows?” He let out a dreary laugh and said cruelly, “You made it all out to be so incredibly touching, but you didn’t expect it, did you? No one will accept you for how you are. If Libei were to find out who Bai Cha is, Xiao Chiye’s blade would turn on you.” 
He challenges Shen Zechuan’s identity at its core, asking if he really is Shen Wei’s son, asking if he really is born of love or of assault, asking if he is part Biansha, the army that traumatized Shen Zechuan at the Chashi Sinkhole and took away Ji Mu and Hua Pingting. He tells him that no matter, once Xiao Chiye finds out, he will turn against Shen Zechuan. The truth is muddled here, some parts honest and some parts lies, all cruel: symbolic of Shen Zechuan’s relationship with the Shen legacy.
But here’s where Lei Jingzhe is wrong: even if he had been telling the truth about Bai Cha (and he wasn’t), Xiao Chiye would not have turned against Shen Zechuan. Their loyalty to one another is not born out of some sense of filial piety or tradition or even bloodline: it’s out of love. If Shen Zechuan were to find out everything he thought he knew about his family was a lie that went up in flames, if he fell from that pyre, Xiao Chiye would still catch him. Which is exactly what Xiao Chiye does. 
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(art also by Jianyachi on Twitter; please support them!) 
This scene also challenges Shen Zechuan, though, to face what his parents might be and to actually consider what he wants and why. If he wants to reunite and lead Zhongbo, he can’t do it just because he’s Shen Wei’s blood, and he can’t do it without facing Shen Wei’s legacy. Lei Jingzhe calls out Shen Zechuan’s own hypocrisy here: he needs to face his legacy and the worst possibilities of who he is and what he could become in order to move forward. If he wants to move forward, he has to look back and ask himself to what extent these legacies matter. With Xiao Chiye to catch him, he’s able to leap off the worst possibilities of what his past might be and to let it burn.
There’s another similarity with Shen Wei that Shen Zechuan has to face during this confrontation with Lei Jingzhe. Shen Zechuan had considered himself a weapon rather than a person for so long (which infuriates Xiao Chiye off to no end; hence why he was so angry after Shen Zechuan risked his safety atop the burning tower). He uses his own body as a weapon, and risks himself carelessly. And this is directly compared what Shen Wei did:
When Shen Wei was once again faced with the choices presented to him as he stood before the fork in the road in front of him, he hesitated for only a moment before ending her.    
He was a blade.
Who eventually stabbed himself bloody.
It of course also calls back to Xiao Chiye’s own mentor, Zuo Qianqiu’s, decision to shoot an arrow through his wife to defeat his enemy. Zuo Qianqiu considers himself to have died when he shot that arrow, after all, and the message is clear: fear and love do not coexist, and if you live in a place where the worst parts of yourself remove what you love, then... you might know yourself, but you also might be afraid of yourself. 
Choosing duty over loved ones is not always the best answer (Shen Wei, Zuo Qianqiu--Shen Zechuan’s father; Xiao Chiye’s mentor, though of course Zuo Qianqiu is able to then learn to love his students and come back to the effort for them). Choosing love over duty is also not always the right answer (see, Mu Ru and Li Jianheng). Yet, sometimes love is the right choice (Xiao Fangxu, Ji Gang; Xiao Chiye’s father and Shen Zechuan’s mentor) especially when tempered with wisdom. It’s a complex theme that is more question than answer, and this scene forces Shen Zechuan to ask who he is, but the fear can be soothed by love. The nightmares might not cease, but you can walk through them with others.
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And that’s precisely what Shen Zechuan does, and finds himself in Xiao Chiye. The parts of him that are a blade, a weapon, are tempered by Xiao Chiye, and the parts of Xiao Chiye that want to imprison others as he himself was once imprisoned are challenged and tempered by Shen Zechuan. These traits of theirs are both flaws and strengths, and they compliment each other perfectly. 
With the case of the Zhongbo troops’ defeat unraveled, the primary issue Shen Zechuan faced was not only the threat of the cavalry from the east, but also how he should naturally progress to stand on his own feet under the stain of Shen Wei’s name...
“During my time in Duanzhou, I thought that if there ever came a day when I grew up, I would change my family name and take on shifu’s family name to become a Ji. Then I’d be a squad commander in Duanzhou, just like my big brother.” Shen Zechuan glided his fingers along gently; he was like the imprisoned moonlight as he lay here in Xiao Chiye’s arms. “But then, while at Zhao Zui Temple, I came to the realization that I would still be Shen Wei’s son even if I were to change my family name.”
With a face that bore a striking resemblance to Bai Cha, all traces of Shen Wei seemed to have been erased by his mother. But those traces lay concealed deep within him, manifesting into a different kind of insanity... 
Xiao Chiye could succeed in keeping Shen Zechuan under lock and become Shen Zechuan’s sheath.
... 
“They all say that I resemble my old man.” Xiao Chiye looked at Shen Zechuan, “When I was sent to Qudu, I thought it was a punishment, because I had once been complacent over it. There in Qudu, I wanted to strip off the part of me that belonged to Libei...”
That was a sort of restless torture. Xiao Chiye did not even know who he should hate during that period of time. He knew that his father and brother were not at fault—he could only hate himself...
“You may be Shen Wei’s son,” Xiao Chiye whispered, “but you’re mine.”
Through this encounter, Shen Zechuan has to face his hypocrisy: like Lei Jingzhe, he can betray and manipulate and use others, and he is Shen Wei’s son. But, Xiao Chiye protects him from himself (as a sheath protects a blade’s owner from stabbing themselves).
Chapter 208: Chashi Round 2 
In one of the latest released chapters, Xiao Chiye tricks the Biansha troops to arriving at the Chashi Sinkhole and defeats them there. Ish. (For a moment the novel scared me and made me think something happened to Lang Tao Xue Jin, which is utterly unacceptable, but fortunately the horse is fine.)
Of course, throughout the novel Shen Zechuan has been having actual nightmares of the massacre at the Chashi Sinkhole. Waking to find Xiao Chiye with him is of course symbolic itself (especially because they first have sex after Shen Zechuan wakes up from just such a nightmare). 
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Just as the scene in Qudu to end volume 1 puts Shen Zechuan in Xiao Chiye’s waking nightmare, this scene puts Xiao Chiye in Shen Zechuan’s nightmare. Now Xiao Chiye is the one trapped in the Chashi Sinkhole, the place Shen Zechuan lost his older brother, his freedom, his name, and where Biansha then slaughtered so many in Zhongbo. 
...the moment he entered the vicinity of Chashi Sinkhole, that nightmare came surging to the surface like a tidal wave, and the familiar stench of blood choked his nose and throat. Shen Zechuan gasped for air, unable to see Xiao Chiye in the bloodshed.
Shen Zechuan shouted in a grim voice. “Xiao Ce’an—!”
Fei Sheng... jumped up and down, waving his blade as he shouted. “The sinkhole, in the sinkhole, Second Master is in the sinkhole!”
In that instant, Shen Zechuan’s face turned a shade of ghastly white. With icy-cold limbs, he rolled off the horse; even his hands that were holding onto Yang Shan Xue were trembling. Blood seeped through his white robe, wetting it as he stepped over the corpses. All he could see was the sinkhole that appeared in his nightmares millions of times...
Nightmare and reality overlapped. Shen Zechuan had seen his own body strewn among the corpses here before, but he had never imagined that Xiao Chiye would be among those lying here.  
But, some things are different. This time, Biansha is the one who ended up there by mistake, which shows Xiao Chiye and Shen Zechuan have grown from their traumas and defeats and can reverse their worst nightmares into nightmares  for their enemies--which is exactly what they need to do: face the worst parts of themselves and overcome them, together. Xiao Chiye gets to be the one enacting a trap. Shen Zechuan can pull him out of it, even if Xiao Chiye ends up trapped by his own traps. 
And the worst part of Shen Zechuan’s nightmares he gets to reenact:
Over the course of seven years in which he was plagued by nightmares, Ji Mu turned into a grotesque skeleton. Shen Zechuan forgot what his elder brother looked like; he could not even remember their last conversation.
Why didn’t he pull Ji Mu up?
Shen Zechuan crawled his way out, then fell back in again. In the first few years, he would still lie within and cry inconsolably. And so, “Shen Zechuan” was left behind here.
This time, he is able to pull Xiao Chiye up and out of the sinkhole, and to see his face: 
He dug up the body before Lang Tao Xue Jin among the bloodied mountain of corpses, raking so hard with his hands that they both turned slick with blood. The ‘corpse’ suddenly raised a hand, and grabbed hold of Shen Zechuan’s wrist with speed and accuracy.
“Lanzhou,” Xiao Chiye felt suffocated under the helmet. “Lan…”
Shen Zechuan had already pushed off Xiao Chiye’s helmet. In that whirling snow, he got a clear look at Xiao Chiye’s face, and with no regard for the bloodstains, he hugged Xiao Chiye’s head tightly in his embrace.  
Here, Xiao Chiye is not only a symbolic reflection of Ji Mu, but also of Shen Zechuan himself. He’s pulling Xiao Chiye out of the nightmare, just as Xiao Chiye is pulling him away from his worst self. Xiao Chiye is experiencing what Shen Zechuan experienced before he gave Shen Zechuan that kick years ago. The bloodstains are also symbolic: it doesn’t matter if Xiao Chiye stains him, if Shen Zechuan stains Xiao Chiye. They’ll bear it, together. 
Who Xiao Chiye and Shen Zechuan have to defeat are not Hasen and the Biansha Calvary, nor are they the Empress Dowager, Xue Xuizhou, and/or the rotten Dazhou Empire. They have to defeat themselves, first, and learn to turn these losses into victory. 
Future Chapter ? Hasen
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Just a theory: there’s one nightmare that Xiao Chiye is noted to have that Shen Zechuan is depicting comforting him from within the story that hasn’t been reenacted yet: 
He heard Hasen, Hasen—this name being shouted everywhere.
This word was a shadow haunting him relentlessly.
At night, Shen Zechuan could not sleep well. He had to wake up every now and then to make sure Xiao Chiye was still there, but when he awoke this night, Xiao Chiye was not inside....
Shen Zechuan watched Xiao Chiye’s tears slide down slowly. He understood everything; to this day, Xiao Chiye was still lost in his memory of that blizzard. The wolf pup that had run alone for dozens of li had not returned at all.    
Shen Zechuan embraced Xiao Chiye hard and stood on tiptoe to cover the back of Xiao Chiye’s head, as if he was a barrier, taking the physically and emotionally battered Xiao Chiye completely into the protective shelter of his arms.
Xiao Chiye rescued his father’s head from Hasen, but it was just a head. It wasn’t really his father. Considering the ongoing motif of nightmares and reenactments, one metaphorical and one literal for Shen Zechuan and one metaphorical for Xiao Chiye, and here we have one literal one for Xiao Chiye that hasn’t been addressed yet... I’d bet anything Hasen is going to get his hands on Shen Zechuan at some point, but this time Xiao Chiye will save Shen Zechuan’s life. 
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yuziyou · 11 months
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Qiang Jin Jiu Vol. 1, KR Version! (by B Lab)
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khunsimp · 1 year
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I found! I found qiang jin jiu extra chapters! There are 11! The 10 one is cezhou wedding! I will put the link below! Someone can send it to novel updates translators? Because this isnt in mtl and such, and is very hard to find.
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http://www.jjwxc.net/onebook.php?novelid=5054436
https://m.jjwxc.net/book2/5054436
Edit: already send to novel updates. They will translate after they finish all the chapters😍🙏.
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owlmaya · 5 days
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you may call it hate sex, they also call it hate sex (it’s love)
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cezhousbaby · 3 months
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shen lanzhou is like.... he is a cute kitten. he is a mad dog. he is a sly fox. he is ce'an's white bird. he is ruthless and scheming. he is flirtatious. he kills his enemies without batting an eye. he loves being spoiled and pampered to death by his husband. he is naughty. he is a devastating beauty. he is delicate like a flower. he is strong. he likes fish. he eats them until only bones are left. he's picky with his medicines because they are bitter; xiao chiye has to feed him candies or honeyed water. he nuzzles on xiao chiye and sleeps in his arms like a cat. this man means the world to xiao ce'an.
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whisperarctic · 1 day
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Redraw Xiao Chiye.
This new version looks much better and closer to my imagination of Xiao Chiye. The previous just doesn’t seem right to me and doesn’t look suitable to my sketch of Shen Lanzhou.
Love this new version so much. (especially that falcon)
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eleann · 3 months
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xiao chiye giving shen zechuan earrings :
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mo-baobei · 1 year
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Cezhou Pack
▪︎Please like and reblog if you use!
▪︎Don't repost
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danmeiexcerpt · 6 months
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Pressing against Shen Zechuan like this made Shen Zechuan remember the debauchery of the last time they rode the horse on a rainy night. His smooth neck no longer had those love bites, yet it had already learned to blush when Xiao Chiye whispered into his ears.
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mdzspring · 1 year
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QIANG JIN JIU (QJJ) BIOS
# SHEN ZECHUAN
⠀ ❄️ ⠀沈 𝑳𝒂𝒏𝒛𝒉𝒐𝒖⠀𓍼⠀𝑚𝑦 𝑎𝑛𝑔𝑒𝑙
𓍢 ✉️ 𓂃 to:: 𝑺𝘩𝘦𝘯 𝑳𝘢𝘯𝘻𝘩𝘰𝘶⠀— 我的心是你的⠀ 🖋
沈 𝘇𝗲𝗰𝗵𝘂𝗮𝗻⠀ ࣪𑁍 ⠀𝘴𝘸𝘦𝘦𝘵𝘭𝘺 𝘥𝘢𝘯𝘨𝘦𝘳𝘰𝘶𝘴⠀ 🎐
# XIAO CHIYE
萧𝒄𝒆’𝒂𝒏 ⠀ 𓏲ꪆ ⠀𝑚𝑦 𝑠𝑢𝑛, 𝑚𝑦 𝑚𝑜𝑜𝑛, 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑚𝑦 𝑠𝑡𝑎𝑟𝑠
𝐱𝐢𝐚𝐨 策安 ⠀ ➷ ⠀𝐦𝐲 𝐛𝐨𝐲⠀ 𓊿
𝐗𝐈𝐀𝐎 𝐂𝐄’𝐀𝐍⠀:: ⠀你永远在我心中⠀ 🐺
# CEZHOU
𝐗.𝘾𝙝𝙞𝙮𝙚 ⠀𖥻♥︎ ⠀𝑺.𝙇𝙖𝙣𝙯𝙝𝙤𝙪⠀ ˒˒ ⠀永远
𝐂𝐞’𝐚𝐧 愛 𝐋𝐚𝐧𝐳𝐡𝐨𝐮⠀ 🍁 ⠀𝑠𝑜𝑢𝑙𝑚𝑎𝑡𝑒𝑠⠀ ◑
# 萧策安 to # 沈兰舟 :: — 𝘐 𝘸𝘢𝘯𝘵 𝘵𝘰 𝘩𝘢𝘯𝘨 𝘢𝘯 𝘦𝘢𝘳𝘳𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘢𝘴 𝘴𝘰𝘰𝘯 𝘢𝘴 𝘱𝘰𝘴𝘴𝘪𝘣𝘭𝘦 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘦𝘯𝘨𝘳𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘮𝘺 𝘯𝘢𝘮𝘦, 𝘟𝘪𝘢𝘰 𝘊𝘦’𝘢𝘯, 𝘰𝘯 𝘪𝘵.
𝗫𝗶𝗮𝗼 𝗰𝗲’𝗮𝗻: 𝗀𝗈 𝖿𝗎𝖼𝗄 𝗒𝗈𝗎𝗋𝗌𝖾𝗅𝖿
𝗦𝗵𝗲𝗻 𝗟𝗮𝗻𝘇𝗵𝗼𝘂: 𝖿𝗎𝖼𝗄 𝗆𝖾 𝗒𝗈𝗎𝗋𝗌𝖾𝗅𝖿, 𝗒𝗈𝗎 𝖼𝗈𝗐𝖺𝗋𝖽 !
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like or reblog if you save/use :)
cr: weiyingsz
⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀ ⠀
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t110n · 10 months
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hamliet · 1 year
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A Game of Thrones: Ming Dynasty Edition
Or, Hamliet received a recommendation for Qiang Jin Jiu (thanks @khunsimp​)  saw the premise of enemies-to-lovers, disgraced sons, and sins of the father themes, was like “that’s my jam,” and read 164 chapters in a single weekend. (There’s still like. ~120 to go that aren’t yet translated #fun). 
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It is indeed my jam and is essentially the love story of Mulan’s Shang and 2ha’s Shi Mei. I’m kidding, the leads are their own characters (very much so!) but that’s whom I kept comparing them to in my mind. 
Shen Zechuan is a particularly compelling character. He’s introduced as a somewhat pathetic figure, a PTSD-stricken teenager who’s lost everyone he ever loved, was never really treated as a son by his father, and yet is being tortured and sentenced to die for the sheer fact that he is his father’s only surviving son. His father supposedly committed treason, for which Shen Zechuan pays the price. But then the story switches, and you see Shen Zechuan’s cunning nature, which is in many senses just as pitiful but dangerous. I mean the guy’s skinning people alive by chapter 30 so. 
Xiao Chiye at first was, to me, likely to be less interesting as a character because I’m not usually into the physically driven characters--but I was wrong. He’s equally as well-developed and complex as Shen Zechuan, and his continual struggles with duty, his love for his family, and his internal struggles are compelling. His relationships with his family is particularly heartwarming. The scene where he tells his father he’s fallen in love with a man, essentially coming out to him, was deeply touching and wholesome--which stands out all the more because of the story’s extremely dark tone (which I’ll talk about later).
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The plot is highly complex. It's also very political, which I enjoy, although I will admit that not having the conclusions yet definitely means some parts feel fragmented at this stage--but they probably won’t feel this way by the end. I’m highly intrigued by the mysteries surrounding Bai Cha, Shen Zechuan’s mother, and by the premise of Qi Zhuyin and Hua Xiangyi’s relationship (also, canon lesbian couple! Who are complex characters! It’s like the characters from Female General and Eldest Princess ended up in a good story!) 
The story’s tone is quite dark--I literally have no expectations for any character besides, I’m told, the main pairing and the lesbians to get a happy ending. It’s very tragic and violent, dark and exploring the worst of humanity more so than the best. Hence, why I compare it tonally to A Song of Ice and Fire. However, that doesn’t mean the story is nihilistic--for the most part, it’s really not. That dark tone is its strength as much as it is also my largest critique. 
For the latter element, there are chapters where the story can almost feel as if it is wallowing in that darkness--I’m not sure, for example, I needed the scene of a pregnant concubine being drowned, nor the told-to-us backstory of Mu Ru if she was never going to be properly explored before dying. Nor Li Jianheng’s tragic childhood, which was almost too much to bear especially with the ending he got. A lot of the unnecessary elements also seem to concern violence against women, and while it does have really nice female characters with arcs, this was... a lot. 
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However, as hinted above, the darkness does make the beautiful, loving, heartwarming, and yes, funny (the novel has a great sense of humor) moments shine more brightly. The way Xiao Chiye is clearly light to Shen Zechuan, and his own redemption might pave the way for Shen Zechuan’s growth. The story hinted early on that Shen Zechuan might have to choose between his hatred and his will to live, and recently picked up those threads again with Xiao Chiye’s father’s wariness of Shen Zechuan’s demeanor. I think this is a worthy theme and really hope it’s further developed through his character.
But this idea--that hatred helps him live--ties into two other strong themes of the novel: wanting to live no matter what it costs, and the cost of victory/defeat. Whether on a physical battlefield or a political chess game, trade negotiations, torturing a prisoner, a marriage, the story is constantly asking the characters what the cost of victory is, and when it is worth it and when it is not--when a defeat can truly be a victory in some sense. I’m very interested to see how these ideas continue to develop. 
Anyways, I quite enjoy this novel, especially the main characters, and am interested to see where it goes! Personally, the writing is less my taste than MXTX’s works (which are very, very character driven in a personal way, and have a distinct kindness to their tone), but it is extremely well written and the two leads are excellent characters. The themes are worthy questions, and it’s truly moving and enjoyable. I definitely recommend it! 
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