Archive for the ‘Three Kingdoms’ Category

The Super Adorable Liu Ba (translation)

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009 by Mei and Lara

This translation is based on an essay found on many Chinese 3 Kingdoms sites. Unfortunately I couldn’t track down the name of the original author. The characters and events in this essay are based on historical records, not based on the novel. Read on to find out why it’s a popular little piece on characters from the 3 Kingdoms period.

Liu Bei once said that winning Zhuge Liang’s service was like a “fish winning his water.” It was an emperor-minister relationship that’s been the envy of hundreds of later generations.

The three visits to the straw cottage has to be our best-known legend. But if you think getting Zhuge Liang was Liu Bei’s most arduous recruiting task, you’d be wrong. (more…)

Little Mighty got his lunch, and Stephen Chow left his mark on the Chinese language

Sunday, March 9th, 2008 by Mei

“Has Little Mighty picked up his lunch yet?” (小强领便当了吗?)

This was a question posted on a Baidu forum on The Ravages of Time, a Chinese comics series marginally based on the events in Three Kingdoms. Twenty years ago this question would have been incomprehensible. Then Stephen Chow movies happened, and these words now make perfect sense to many young (and some old) Chinese speakers.

Dong Zhuo meets Dracula?

Thursday, February 7th, 2008 by Lara

In Chapter 8 of the novel of Three Kingdoms the bad guy Dong Zhuo makes a habit of throwing banquets with sinister intent – either to threaten ministers into compying with his plans to usurp the throne, or to intimidate anyone who disagrees with him. In one open-air banquet in this chapter, he eats happily while having various horrible things done to prisoners of war in front of him and his guests – eye-gouging, cutting off of hands, feets, tongues, etc. The other ministers lose their appetites, but his is undisturbed.

This reminds me of one of the stories about Vlad the Impaler, a Transylvanian nobleman whose exploits were so nasty he became known to history as Dracula. Vlad enjoyed impaling his enemies on stakes through their rear ends, then hoisting them off the ground and watching while they struggled to get their feet on solid earth, which of course only drove the stakes further into their vitals. Vlad is particularly notorious for an outdoor feast he held, surrounded by hundreds of his struggling, groaning bleeding victims on their stakes.

Vlad lived in the fifteenth century, so too late to be an influence on the composition of Three Kingdoms, but perhaps some version of the Chinese tale had filtered down to him? Or do ghastly evil cruel tyrants tend to think alike?

Three visits to rule them all (Part I)

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008 by Mei

The appeal of Luo’s Three Kingdoms, to me, is its insistence on telling the story as an outsider. Battles, ploys, and occasional moments of sincerity, are all “seemingly so”. The book keeps us mere observers, shut out of the intimate thoughts and emotions of all characters, much like our daily encounters with colleagues at a workplace. We are provided with efficient paragraphs of vivid details and quick evolution of events, yet denied explanations of motivations and intentions that our curiosities so crave for. As in real life, we cope with such abundance of evidence and shortage of confessions with that ever-useful life skill: gossiping. Generations of Three Kingdoms readers get together to debate the people and events in it, to offer our own speculation of why and our own imagination of what-ifs. The book is similar to life itself in so many ways — each time we re-visit the pages, we see a bit more, perceive it a bit differently, love it all the same, and cannot suppress the urge to grab the first available friend and gossip about it. (more…)

A Tale of Three Translations

Sunday, May 13th, 2007 by Lara and Mei

Here are three different ways to translate the same Chinese text from the opening paragraph of the “Story of Three Kingdoms”. The first version is a direct, close translation by Mei. The second version is reworked by Lara. The third version is a looser translation by Moss Roberts, a sinologist who published a translation of the whole book. Vote on your favourite approach (poll at the end):